Another sour year for college basketball in Illinois.

It’s starting to become a regular thing around these parts. Year in and year out, the men’s college basketball teams in the state of Illinois are dissapointments {Well at least at the Division 1 level anyway.}. Starting with the Northwestern Wildcats. They complained about not getting into the NCAA Tournament {Something they have never done in school history.} but let’s be honest they don’t deserve it.

After a hot start at the beginning of the season, things cooled off once conference play began.

The Problem: Northwestern lost way too many games that they should have won. They lost against teams that were weaker than them.

What caused the problem: The Cats depended way too much on the outside jump shot, not enough presence in the paint, lack of big men, too much pressure on the defense.

How can the problem be fixed: I’ve been saying this for a few years now, FIRE BILL CARMODY! His “Princeton” offense just has not worked in the Big Ten. He’s not a great recruiter, he starts three guards against teams that start players 6’5″ and taller. And he just can’t motivate this team. He needs to go and has been needing to go for quite some time now.

The Solution: Get a coach who understands the Big Ten game, can recruit top level players, and bring in some desperately needed big men. Preferibly guys who are taller than 6’8″. Why do I emphisize this? Jared Sullinger’s game winning layup in the Cats final home game of the season. He jumped over EVERYBODY and Northwestern was powerless to stop it.

Good luck in the NIT guys, your gonna need all the help you can get.

The Illinois Fighting Illini:

They started the season 10-0 and just collapsed from there. Now Bruce Weber is out of a job, and as a result the Illini turned down an invite to the College Basketball Invitational {The NIT’s redheaded step child.}.

The Problem: No motivation what so ever! Bruce Weber’s early success at Illinois was simply because he still had Bill Self’s recruits. He had no problem keeping them in line and getting them to win and make strides in the game of basketball. Once Self’s recruits were gone, the Illini struggled from there. They’ve only been in 2 NCAA Tourney’s and 1 NIT since Weber starting bringing in his own recruits.

This lack of motivation and direction has cost the Illini dearly this season. Blown leads in the 2nd half, foul trouble, laziness on defense, and just looking dead out there on the court. Plus it doesn’t help when the coach becomes the prophet of his own demise.

How the problem can be fixed: Get a new head coach to start. VCU’s Shaka Smart and Indiana’s Tom Crean are a couple names being thrown out there. Smart however is on everybody’s wish list. He’s only been a head coach for three seasons but he’s been a winner every time. During the 2009-2010 season, he coached Virginia Commonwealth to a 27-9 record and the 2010 CBI Championship.

Last season, the Rams made that historic run to the Final Four. Even though they were eliminated by Butler {UIC and Loyola’s arch enemy}, Smart proved that he can coach winners with lower level recruits. And this season, VCU is back in the tournament and many have them going to at least the Sweet 16. They also managed to win the CAA conference tournament championship as well.

The Solution: Whoever the coach is, they need to restore the identity of the Fighting Illini program. They need to make Illinois one of the top schools again. Someone who can either recruit, or turn no namers into winners. Someone who can keep the team motivated and focused. It’s going to be an interesting spring in Urbana.

The DePaul Blue Demons:

They went 9-3 in non conference play. Then when they won their Big East opener against Pittsburgh it looked like DePaul was finally turning the curve. But then just like that, the Demons went on three huge losing streaks of 2, 5, and 9 games the remainder of the season. They finished the 2011-2012 season 12-19 and only 3-15 in Big East and again being the 16th seed in the Big East tournament.

This year they were eliminated by UConn.

The problem: Holding onto 2nd half leads. Out of the 19 games that the Demons lost this year, 14 of those losses were games in which their defense can not hold up in the 2nd half. And in those games, turnovers and missed shots also screwed things up for them. And out of those 14 games, in 10 of those games the Blue Demons pissed away double digit leads.

How to fix the problem: Play fundamental basketball, put more focus on the defense, maybe start two forwards and a center instead of three guards, and have a bigger presence in the paint.

The Solution: Replace Krys Faber and Jeremiah Kelly with players who are just as good if not better. They were the heart and soul of this Demon’s team. Give Jaime Crockett the ball and let him run with it. And bring a few more big buys on board as well.

The Southern Illinois Salukis:

I don’t know what happened to that program. They used to be one of the more competitive teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. But now they have just completed their 4th straight losing season. Perhaps maybe both a coaching and administrative change are an order.

The Eastern Illinois Panthers:

After finishing 19-12 two years ago, they have had two straight losing seasons since then. Hopefully better recruiting can help them out.

Loyola, UIC, Chicago State, Northern Illinois, and Bradley:

ALL five of these teams have been in the gutter for quite some time now and nothing seems to be changing. These programs needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, changes need to be made from top to bottom. Both coaching and administrative changes need to be made because these programs have been terrible for far too long.

The only programs have accomplished anything of significance this year are Western Illinois and Illinois State. WIU only missed the big dance by one game, but they did get into this years CBI. It’s not the big time but it’s a start. And ISU also missed the dance by one game. They took mighy Creighton in overtime in the Missouri Valley tournament title game.

They lost but they proved that they can play with the rest. And my beautiful wife who is a proud ISU alum, is glad that they made it into the NIT. It is their first post-season bid in two years. But overall, I’m really praying for a new day in Illinois Division 1 college hoops.

You can follow me on Twitter: @GabeSalgado82 Hastag: #Q101Sports


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