John Groce will return as Illinois’ head coach next season, athletics director Josh Whitman announced Saturday.
The Illini have not made the NCAA Tournament since the 2012-13 season, Groce’s first year with the program. They will likely miss the Big Dance for the third straight year with a 13-17 record, needing to win five games in five days at the Big Ten Tournament to earn a bid.
While many Illinois fans have called for Groce’s firing, others have supported Groce and his staff because the program has faced some bad luck the last two seasons with injuries.
This season, impact Charlotte transfer Mike Thorne Jr. missed nearly the entire season. Senior point guard Tracy Abrams never played after tearing his Achilles tendon. Last year, Abrams missed the whole season after tearing his ACL.
Star guard Kendrick Nunn missed six games this season. Promising forward Leron Black missed 23 games.
When it comes to simply talent, Illinois is in good shape next season if it can maintain a healthy roster. The Illini return six former top-100 recruits.