Last February, I felt that the endgame of the Bruce Weber Era at Illinois rolled into motion with an uninspired loss at Northwestern. The body of evidence had officially become overwhelming that whatever was happening with Illinois basketball, it wasn’t resulting in success, and if you were going to make the case the Weber deserved more chances, the table stakes for making that argument were “wishful thinking,” “intellectual dishonesty” or both. Now, after a loss to Northwestern at Assembly Hall – something that has happened just 4 times in the last 49 years (!!) – we’re on the final, irreversible descent. The Germans after Kursk; the Confederates after Gettysburg. The high-water mark of this final phase – the night Brandon Paul channeled NBA Jam Mark Price and the path ahead seemed manageable – now looks to be the outlier we always knew it could be.
It seems futile at this point to discuss the finer points of a nonsensical substitution pattern, a completely broken offense, or that there would seem to be two remaining games that could likely be considered wins. At this point, Illinois fans need to be hoping that back-channel conversations are being had and that Mike Thomas will act as quickly as time allows when the season ends to get someone on board and working on the 2013 and 2014 classes. Any other outcome could damage this program to the point where a return is no longer a matter of “when” but “if.”