Illinois 1, ex-coaches 0 (Bill Self, Kansas next up)
Illinois dispatched one former coach Friday night. Another awaits Sunday. And if the Illini shoot like they did during a 73-62 win over UNLV, it’ll be another victory.
Illinois (20-13) shrugged a late-season swoon by hitting 63 percent of its shots in the first half before putting it into cruise control for the second. It finished 28 for 47 overall and 7 of 13 from deep, its best eFG% since an 88-63 win vs. Northwestern on Jan. 6.
Of course, that was back when the Illini were hitting everything in sight. Doing so against top-seeded Kansas will be a more challenging task.
It’ll undoubtedly provide far more opportunities for distraction, too.
Kansas coach Bill Self left Illinois in 2003. It wasn’t an acrimonious departure, but did leave the Illini feeling like an unwanted step-child. From the Kansas City Star:
“He never said he definitely was going to stay, he didn’t lie about anything,” said Loren Tate, who has covered Illinois athletics for 56 years for The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill., and also serves as a radio and television broadcaster.
“But people had fallen in love with him, and it was kind of like a spurned lover.”
The hurt carried into Weber’s first season. The program was slow to let go of Self.
Not that things were awful for Illinois. It did reach the 2005 national title game. But I’m sure a win on Sunday would make things a bit more palatable.