Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball Becoming Major Force Again

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The beginning of the 2012-13 college basketball season has seen a few surprises including the Illinois Fighting Illini, who sit at No. 10 in the country and at 10-0 for the season heading into Tuesday night’s play. This team is a far cry from the struggling crew that finished last season under former coach Bruce Weber. The Illini brought in Ohio Bobcats coach John Groce in the off-season who led the Bobcats to the Sweet 16 last season and has got Illinois on the right track.

Groce has a team led by former Illinois prep star Brandon Paul that is making a mockery of their non-conference schedule and just beat the top-10 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on the road Saturday night. Paul, who starred at Warren High School in Gurnee, IL has shown he is the real deal this season. Paul could easily be the second-best player in the Big Ten Conference behind the Indiana Hoosiers’ Cody Zeller. Paul will help Illinois challenge Indiana for the conference title and those two games will be must-see TV for any college basketball fan.

The fans and alumni of Illinois have to be happy with what Groce has done with their team and what Paul is doing now. It’s going to be a great season in Champaign if things continue going the way they are presently. I could easily see Illinois making the Sweet 16 when the NCAA Tournament gets here in March. If you get a chance to see this team in action, I would do it. It is great to see the Illini getting back to their glory days.

Andy Schmidt is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ASchmidtSports or like his Facebook page.