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2012-13 Big Ten Basketball Review: Illinois Fighting Illini

If you've been following along with us all season long then you know that we tend to do things that aren't always done by other outlets and one of those things is taking a look back – back to what they said when previewing a season – and frankly we find that a bit odd. 

I mean, you are brazen enough to go out on a limb and predict the season, but aren't willing to tell your viewers just how good, bad, or mediocre you were in your predictions? Well, that doesn't fly here at The B1G Time. So, strap yourself in as we bring you a look back at each team and how their season faired and give you the lowdown on how we did in predicting things for each team. 

Up first is a team that saw transition in 2012-13 as John Groce came from Ohio to the Land of Lincoln in hopes of getting the program back to elite status and stop with the "sleeping giant" moniker that's hung around the program for so long.  How did Groce and his players do in his 1st year at the helm? Let's explore an interesting year in the life of the Illini program, shall we? 

How We Predicted Things:

Regular Season Record: 16-16
B1G Record: 6-12 (9th place finish after losing 8th place tiebreaker)
Postseason: N/A

How it Actually Turned Out:

Regular Season Record: 21-11
B1G Record: 8-10 (7th place, won tiebreaker for 7th seed)
Postseason: NCAA Tournament 3rd Round – Loss to 2nd seeded Miami

- Oh so close on this one, or something of that sort. Not too shabby on the Big Ten record being only two games off the actual one and being just two places off the mark for conference finish after the tiebreaker scenario. However, you can say we weren't as close as we'd like to be on the actual record – being 5 games off in the win column and all.

What Went Right?

Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tracy Abrams were all big time players and all three ended the season averaging in double figures. That's exactly what this team needed as they were adjusting to life without a big time post presence thanks to Myers Leonard being gone. 

Brandon Paul made our 2nd team all-Big Ten list and was a 3rd team pick by both the media and coaches. The coaches also selected Richardson to the 3rd team and the media had him as an honorable mention selection. 

This team really ran through the non-conference season and had it not been for a bad loss to Missouri the Illini may have entered the Big Ten portion of the schedule undefeated. 

What Went Wrong?

However, in a "where have we seen this before" moment this team had the wheels virtually fall off as they went from beating highly ranked Ohio State to losing three straight to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and GASP…. Northwestern! So, what went wrong? 

Try being the 10th ranked scoring defense in the Big Ten and only having a scoring margin of +3.7 points per game on the year. Their defensive effort lacked at times and really led to their inconsistency on the year. Well, that and shooting just 41.2% from the field and 32.1% from deep – ranking 9th and 8th respectively. Can you say ouch?

Biggest Surprise?

Winning the Maui Invitational was a massive surprise. I had them winning the opening game against USC and then bowing into the losers bracket to play for 3rd place after that in my preseason predictions, however there's also a little bit of a caveat to winning this tournament because it wasn't like their road was paved with tough competition until the final against Butler. After all it was USC and then upset minded DII Chaminade standing in their way, not exactly two programs in 2012-13 that left the Illini or anyone quaking in their boots. 

Biggest Disappointment?

Try starting the Big Ten season 3-7 in their first ten games of conference play. It was especially disappointing after taking down Ohio State in the second game of the conference slate and then proceeding to drop six of the next 7 games. 

The Illini were ranked inside the Top 15 after the win against the Buckeyes but that quickly evaporated and if it wasn't for a crazy win against Indiana on a back door buzzer beater than we may not have been talking about a team playing in the NCAA tournament, as they would've had just three good wins over Butler, Gonzaga, and OSU to hang their entire resume on.

Looking Forward:

This team will lose it's heart and soul in Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson along with big man Tyler Griffey and rotation player Sam McLaurin – luckily for Illini fans Groce also is bringing in a heck of a talented class littered with Top 100 talent. We'll really get to see what Groce is made of next season without a ton of proven talent to lean on.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college football for nearly half a decade. He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadgers.com and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com

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