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B1G All-Decade Grades: Illinois

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The first team-by-team grading overview of the Big Ten over the past decade starts with Illinois.

Redbox Bowl - California v Illinois Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

While 2020 has come out the gates in relatively crummy fashion, the decade leading up to it were some of the Big Ten’s best. Huge TV deals, and overall success highlighted the 10 year span in the conference.

In an attempt to reflect upon the good times — the period of time from 2010 to 2019 — we at B5Q have set out to grade each football and basketball program over that time span.

First up, we turn our attention to the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Wisconsin v Illinois
A.J. Jenkins (2012) is the last offensive skill position player drafted from Illinois.

Football grade: D+

The Illinois football program has gone through some serious changes since 2010. The team really struggled to find an identity throughout the time span, as they had four different head coaches (five if you include interim coach Vic Koenning).

Lovie Smith helped the Fighting Illini regain their footing last year with their first bowl berth since 2014. The problem is that the team only played in four bowl games last decade, winning two of them. The two bowl wins each came at the beginning of the decade under Ron Zook who was let go after back-to-back 7-6 seasons aka the two best winning seasons in recent memory.

Overall for the decade the football program won only 37% of their games with a 46-78 record, one of the worst marks in the entire Power-5.

Illinois played much better last season, but 2010 to 2018 was not great, and the team had too many missteps in coaching decisions and overall sloppiness on the field, especially on offense. The Fighting Illini have not had an offensive skill player drafted since 2012, which is not great, and indicative of the ineptitude that the program displayed during this window of time. The future appears to be brighter in the 2020s, but only time will tell.

BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
Brandon Paul is one of the better basketball players to come out of Illinois over the past 10 years.
Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Basketball grade: C+

Success on the hardwood for Illinois basketball has waxed and waned over the past decade. While the Illini only finished in the top four in the conference standings twice over the past 10 years, they also managed to make the Sweet 16 third round (which is actually the second round) twice.

Sporting a 181 to 154 win to loss ratio, Illinois won 54% of their games played since 2010, and missed the NCAA Tournament seven times.

Bruce Weber, John Groce and Brad Underwood were the three head coaches that piloted the Illini through decade, with each leading the team to an NCAA Tournament appearance (Illinois was projected to make the field this season).

Overall the basketball team was occasionally formidable, and were able to cycle up a couples times during the brief stanza in question. If Illinois wants to continue to improve their grade on the court over the course of the next 10 years, they will need to be more consistent than they were from 2010 to 2019.

Some solid pieces will return to Illinois next year from a team that was in contention for a conference championship for most of the season in 2019-2020, so potentially this grade will rise in the coming decade.

Poll

Illinois football grade for the last decade

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    B
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    C
    (6 votes)
  • 42%
    D
    (31 votes)
  • 46%
    F
    (34 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Illinois basketball grade for the last decade

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A
    (1 vote)
  • 5%
    B
    (4 votes)
  • 50%
    C
    (38 votes)
  • 36%
    D
    (27 votes)
  • 6%
    F
    (5 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now