The bad news started early. Quentin Snider changed his mind again, deciding to spurn Illinois and going back to his original verbal pledge to Louisville. This news snowballed on at about 3:15 PM when Cliff Alexander, a potential one-and-done type that could lead a team to the Final Four, decided to leave his home state and go to Kansas instead of the Illini. In a few short hours, Illinois went from having a top five class to one with only one ESPN top 100 recruit (Leron Black). So what I’m advising all the Illini fans out there to do is as follows: Take a deep breath, count to 10, and then hear me out when I say that everything is going to be fine. I’m not just patronizing, I really believe the Illini are a program on the rise with or without Alexander in the fold next season. Here’s why.
If people watched the announcement live on ESPNU like I did, you could see someone who appeared torn up by the decision he was about to make. If Illinois was as close as it was rumored to be, then it shows that Groce is almost ready to kick in the door and end the long trend of top 30 Chicago talents playing elsewhere. He made a distinct impact on Alexander, and for the Illini to get that close when in the past he might not have even considered them, shows Groce is going to get more Chicago elite recruits to stay in state. It’s only a matter of time. He already got a commitment from 2015 wing D.J. Williams from Chicago Simeon High School, and has a chance to add two more from in Jalen Brunson and Charles Matthews. What a miss on Alexander means is that it might be a little bit more of a baby-step progression as opposed to the huge leap that would have happened with Alexander on board. Regardless of today’s results, the program is still in great shape for next year and beyond.