Illinois went 15-19 in 2015-16, and after an unlikely upset of Iowa at the Big Ten Tournament, the Illini managed to squander nearly all of the good feeling from that win by getting washed by 31 by Purdue one day later.
It was par for the course for Illinois this year and this season, and — fairly or not — in the Jim Groce era. A long list of season-ending injuries wrecked what looked like a promising 2014-15 roster. From almost the moment the offseason prior to this year began, the Illini have been beset by bad luck and poor judgment — both so spectacular as to almost defy belief.
First, in July 2015, star guard Tracy Abrams, who missed the entire 2014-15 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in a preseason workout, tore an Achilles tendon in a practice, prematurely ending a second consecutive season.
But it would get much worse in August, when forward Darius Paul was arrested in France for vandalism and public intoxication. Paul, who had already been arrested once after transferring from Western Michigan, and spent the 2014-15 season at a junior college instead of serving a season-long suspension, would be dismissed a week later.
Injuries struck back once the season began: Top 100 recruit and sophomore forward Leron Black required surgery for an torn meniscus sustained in preseason practices, and struggled when he returned, eventually being shut down for the year. Charlotte transfer Mike Thorne, Jr. also required surgery for a torn meniscus, though the injury bug waited until the season began to bite him, and he never returned.
Then Black compounded the ways in which he was not useful to Illinois with an arrest for pullinterriblg a knife on a security guard in a nightclub, which earned him an indefinite suspension.
Without Paul, Thorne, and Black, an emaciated Illinois frontcourt led to a reliance on guards Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, and Jalen Coleman-Lands. In just the past five days, two of those three guards have been arrested for domestic battery, with Tate being arrested on Saturday and Nunn just getting popped on Wednesday.
If it seems like a lot of Illinois players have been arrested, that's because they have.
For those keeping track at home, 31% of Illini basketball scholarship players were arrested in the past year.— U-God (@SBN_UGod) March 17, 2016
On his first official day on the job in early March, new Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman gave Groce a vote of confidence that most interpreted as an assurance that he'll coach the Illini in 2016-17 — but that was before either Tate or Nunn had been arrested.
On the bright side for Illinois this year? The Illini did beat new NCAA Tournament darling Yale way back in December.
And that's it.