Two of the guys I thought were living in a warmed environment coming into the year met in C/U with Minnesota getting a relatively easy win. The Gophers are 4-6/16-7 and with 4 home games left, I’m betting they get to around 7 league wins before it’s over and probably end up an NIT worthy team. Given that they only play one senior in their rotation, there’s a decent argument to give Ricky The P another year, I think.
OTOH, I’m beginning to wonder about Illinois and John Groce. In October, I had these situations flipped, because I didn’t think Minnesota would have much reason for optimism going forward (they clearly do) whereas Groce has a pretty nice recruiting class coming on board. However, the Illini are now 3-8/13-11. Their schedule from here lightens up a little bit but still, is any game for that team “easy” at this stage? If they don’t somehow find a way to a major turnaround down the stretch, this will be four straight years without a bid and in that program, that isn’t likely to be tolerated. I think anytime you land a “good” class there’s a desire to let that coach get a shot at coaching them, but things may be going too far for that.
So, if Groce were to be let go, there are a couple of immediate thoughts.
1. Who would Illinois hire? I think the last time the Illini had to hire a coach, they found out the esteem the job is held in by coaches wasn’t quite where they thought it was. They ended up with Groce, who was a reasonable hire in terms of resume, but not the headline name I think they believed they’d be able to get (there was a ton of Shaka Smart talk at that time, plus other totally unrealistic names). I think it’s probably degraded a bit further still since then. However, at the same time, you are the state school in a major talent producing state and are adjacent to other great talent producing states. The school has tradition and recently upgraded facilities. It’s still a good job, a place the right guy could be a regular Tournament participant at and could build a Big Ten and even national contender (on occasion, at least).
I’ve heard it mentioned that (surprise, surprise) Cuonzo Martin might be looking to get on the move again. Not sure how much accuracy there is to that, but it’s out there. He’s a Big Ten guy, from East ST. Louis, etc. He’d be a very good hire if they could get him, save for the “Travelin’ Man” act.
I don’t think they could get the usual names you hear for open jobs…Chris Mack, Archie Miller, Gregg Marshall…those guys seem to be waiting for more sure thing opportunities than Illinois.
Could a Fred Hoiberg maybe be looking to get back in the college game if he gets let go in Chicago? I could see that sort of thing.
Other than that, I think it’s going to be Mid Major DuJour.
2. What happens to their recruits? All four guys signed LOIs in November, so they’d have to be released if they wanted to go elsewhere, but standard practice in this kind of deal is to release them. At least two, the point guard Frazier from Florida and the big man Tilmon from St. Louis would be very hot commodities if available. Remember that MSU had interest in Tilmon and even got an unofficial before he committed IIRC.