SPRINGFIELD (WCIA) — After the season abruptly ended for Illinois basketball in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the team was still honored at the state capitol for their accomplishments this season.
“Anytime you’re recognized by the leaders of the state for something that a group of guys accomplished is very, very special,” head coach Brad Underwood said.
The Illini didn’t make it out of the first weekend of March Madness, losing to Houston. A tough blow for a team with goals to make it to the final four.
“Heading into the NCAA Tournament, we were disappointed with the lost to Houston, but again we’d accomplished so much,” Underwood said. “We were not healthy, we can’t control that.”
“Obviously the post season didn’t go as well as we wanted to,” freshman Luke Goode said. “We lost to two great teams, Indiana in the Big Ten tournament and then Houston in the NCAA tournament, but I think next year we’ll just keep fighting and get back to the tournament and see what we can do again.”
Underwood hopes to continue to build off this recent run of success after finishing with the most Big Ten wins over the last three years. He hopes that leads to a longer stay in the tournament next season.
“We had a great year,” Underwood said. “We accomplished so much. We dealt with so much adversity and I’m really proud of our group for staying together through all of that and bringing home the Big Ten championship.”
Andre Curbelo and Omar Payne have both since entered the transfer portal. With their departures, the team now will focus on adding from the portal as well..
“They were integral parts of us winning this year and we wish them nothing but the best,” Underwood said. “We’ll go out, and we got a great staff, and we’re going to go out and find guys that will fill those roles and we’ll move forward.”
The big question still left this offseason is if Kofi Cockburn will test the pro waters again, or return for a fourth season with the Illini.