University of Illinois Basketball

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This article is an overview of University of Illinois Basketball: its history, player accomplishments, and current level of success. One thing a number of Best Sports Blog users have asked for is biographies on major NCAA basketball programs-Illinois among them-so this is one of a series of articles designed to meet that need. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the history of Fighting Illini basketball:

The Fighting Illini have been the basketball team of the University of Illinois for almost a century. Indeed, some of the school’s basketball glory days come from almost one hundred years ago: the team won the NCAA championship in 1915 during the pre-tournament era and battled with Purdue for Big Ten supremacy for much of the first half of the 20th century. University of Illinois basketball even remained dominant for the first part of the NCAA tournament era and the program went to the final four in 1949, 1951, and 1952.

However, after the 1950s, the Fighting Illini went through a period of serious decline. No University of Illinois basketball team even reached the round of 32 between 1960 and 1980 and only one team, the 1963 Illini, even made the tournament. However, the Fighting Illini again became national relevant under coach Lou Henson beginning in the early 1980s and continuing to the present day. With star Bruce Douglas-still the school’s all time assists and steals leader, the Illini reached the NCAA Elite Eight in 1984. In 1989, Illinois made it all the way to the Final Four for the first time since 1952.

Illinois Junior Guard Demetri McCamey.
Thanks to Thomas from for this great picture of Illinois Junior Guard #32 Demetri McCamey.

Nonetheless, despite regular NCAA tournament appearances and sporadic tournament success, the Fighting Illini did not challenge for the national title anytime during the 1990s. However, under new coach Bruce Webber, the Illini recruiting phenomenon point guard Deron Williams and Williams led the team to the NCAA title game in 2005 for the first time in school history. Despite an impressive performance by Williams, the Illini fell short against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Since then, coach Webber has led the school to regular tournament appearances but the Illini have not yet been back to the Sweet Sixteen and Williams (now an NBA star) remains the best player ever recruited into the program.

The University of Illinois basketball is the school’s pride and joy and Illini fans turn out in force for rivalry games. The Fighting Illini have positive records over rivals Michigan (84-71), Michigan State (55-54), Ohio State (102-67), and Wisconsin (109-75) but have losing records against hated rival Purdue (84-91) and Indiana (82-83). The Fighting Illini will look to improve on those records and to contend again at a national level in the future.

Illinois' head coach Bruce Weber.
Thanks to Joshua from for this great picture of Illinois' head coach Bruce Weber directs his
players in front of the Illini bench at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010.

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