Illinois’ basketball season came to a halt on Thursday night in Chicago. After a thrilling overtime win over Northwestern in the first round of the B1G Tournament on Wednesday, the Illini got smacked around by a superior Iowa club, falling 83-62.
The Illini finished the season 12-21, finishing with a second-straight losing season under head coach Brad Underwood. A rebuilding process that many hoped would be ahead of the curve is requiring a little patience.
Over the last two years, the results haven’t been exactly where Illinois had hoped, but Underwood understands that growing pains come with the territory. After Thursday’s loss to the Hawkeyes, the head coach believes the program is headed in the right direction.
“I don’t want good teams, I want a great program. And there’s a big difference,” Underwood said after the game. “Illinois is one of the top 10 programs in the country, and we’re well on our way to making those strides to get there.”
Take a quick glance at Illinois’ record and it would be easy to say the program still has quite a ways to go. But the Illini to pull off some significant wins this season. They defeated a ranked Maryland team at Madison Square Garden in late January. A few weeks later, they stunned a top 10 Michigan State team in Champaign, part of a four-game winning streak.
Signs that this program is elevating are there. Youth, experience and some issues with depth and talent hindered Illinois throughout the year, but Underwood is dedicated to fixing those problems.
It sounds like he’s focused on re-establishing Illinois as one of the top basketball programs in the conference, too.