WCIA — A short-lived March has become a trend over the past three seasons for Illinois basketball, as a loss to Arkansas in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament put a period on a 2022-23 season that ends with three straight losses.

It is the bow on top of what was a roller coaster of a season, from the highs of beating two Sweet Sixteen teams in UCLA and Texas, to the lows of the end of the season. Injuries were a constant, as the team was never fully healthy.

Luke Goode was the biggest missing link, as he missed the first 23 games of the season recovering from a broken left foot. He averaged eight points per game over the final three games, but the Illini could not get all the puzzle pieces to fit together.

“I don’t regret it at all, it was worth it,” Goode said after the loss to the Razorbacks. “I loved playing with [Matthew Mayer] and Coleman [Hawkins], and one of the biggest things was you can’t take stuff for granted. When I was able to come back we were in position to make this tournament and that’s the goal. You got guys out there that play four years in college at a high major school and never make the tournament. When we had a position, an opportunity to do this, and I knew I could help the team, it was a no-brainer.”

The Big Ten came out relatively clean in the First Round, despite No. 1 seed Purdue becoming the second top seed in history to fall to a No. 16 seed. After going 5-3 over the Thursday and Friday games, Michigan State is the only conference team moving on to the Sweet Sixteen. Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland, and Penn State all lost over the weekend.