Big Ten Morning Five: 03.29.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 29th, 2012

  1. Could this nightmare of a coaching search finally be coming to an end for Illinois? According to the Chicago Tribune‘s Shannon Ryan, the hire of Ohio’s John Groce as the next Fighting Illini coach is “imminent.” Donors and alumni at Ohio have been scrambling over the last few days to find ways to offer Groce a pay bump to stay in Athens, but it seems that it’s only a matter of his contract at Illinois that is keeping Groce from officially donning a new school’s colors.
  2. So what does this whole circus say about Illinois, the state of its basketball program, and the coaching job itself? The Tribune‘s David Haugh doesn’t sugarcoat it when he writes that it just goes to show that Illinois is not the prestigious program perhaps it thought it was. It wasn’t so much the number of mid-major (and even power conference) coaches who turned the job down, but the way in which Groce was able to negotiate the terms of his pending contract. It’s humbling for Illinois fans but surely the next coach will be looking to restore that luster.
  3. Minnesota was left out of the NCAA Tournament, but Tubby Smith’s club is making the most of its postseason. The Golden Gophers have worked their way into the NIT championship game tonight in New York, where they’ll take on Stanford. Coincidentally, that’s the same program that Minnesota freshman point guard Andre Hollins nearly played for. Thursday, Hollins — who had 20 points and five assists in Tuesday’s 68-67 overtime win over Washington — will have the chance to show Stanford what it missed out on.
  4. With all the attention paid toward All-American Jared Sullinger, X-factor Deshaun Thomas, and feisty point guard Aaron Craft, senior William Buford has practically fallen by the wayside. The Ohio State veteran has big-time capabilities that we’ve seen before. The problem is, we’ve also seen him go unnoticed. If those former qualities emerge in New Orleans, it could mean big things for Ohio State.
  5. Speaking of Sullinger, Ohio State’s big man has done what he came back to do, taking the Buckeyes to a Final Four with a reasonable shot at a national title. And, as Michael Rosenberg writes, in doing that, he’s silenced some of his critics. But most importantly, the extra year in college has allowed him to mature and prepare himself for a professional basketball life ahead.
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