The Illinois Fighting Illini have been one of the more successful basketball programs in college history. Illinois ranks in the top 15 all-time in winning percentage along with wins in college basketball which puts them in elite company. The Fighting Illini have also had their share of success in the NCAA Tournament. With over 29 tournament appearances and over 35 wins all-time in March, Illinois has established themselves as a top echelon program. The Fighting Illini is still searching for their first national title, but they have advanced to more than 4 Final Fours in history and nearly 10 Elite Eight games as well.
Illinois success dates back to the late 1940s under head coach Harry Combes. Combes was hired in 1947 and in his first five seasons, he led the Fighting Illini to three Final Four appearances including back-to-back years in 1951 and 1952. Illinois returned to national prominence in the 1980s under Lou Henson’s watch. Henson led the Fighting Illini to over 420 wins in his 21-year stint including a Final Four appearance in 1989 and numerous trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Illinois reached their highest peak as a program during the NCAA Tournament in 2005. Under head coach Bruce Weber, the Fighting Illini entered the tournament as the number one seed and with only one loss to date. Illinois coasted through the first three rounds until squaring off against the Arizona Wildcats in the Elite Eight. The Fighting Illini trailed for most of the game and garnered a 15-point comeback with under five minutes to go behind point guard Deron Williams. The game eventually went to overtime and Illinois came out on top to advance to the Final Four. The Fighting Illini defeated the Lousville Cardinals in the Final Four to advance to their first national championship game against North Carolina. Unfortunately, the magical season ended as Illinois lost to the Tar Heels 75-70 to finish the season with only two losses.
Illinois Fighting Illini Recent NCAA Tourament History
The Fighting Illini entered the 2013 NCAA Tournament as the number 7 seed after finishing with over 20 wins in the regular season. Illinois won their first game to advance to the second round against the Miami Hurricanes. Despite 18 points from guard Brandon Paul, the Fighting Illini lost to the Hurricanes 63-59 to end their season.