Illinois Basketball: 5 greatest seasons in Illini history

Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini
Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
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4. 2003-04 season

  • 26-7 Overall
  • 13-3 Big Ten
  • Sweet 16
  • AP Final Ranking: 13th

At the conclusion of the 2002-03 season, Bill Self left for Kansas. Shortly after, Bruce Weber was named the 16th head coach in Illini men's basketball history.

To say the least, Weber adjusted well to the Big Ten. He became just the third coach in conference history to win the Big Ten outright in their first season as head coach. 

Although the Illini finished atop the conference when all was said and done, it was no easy feat. The Orange and Blue fired off 10 consecutive wins to take control of the Big Ten. One of those wins was against the No. 12 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers and Illinois would play a final time in 2003-04, with Wisconsin outlasting the Illini at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis during the Big Ten Tournament. 

The Illini were awarded a No. 5 seed for the Big Dance. Weber also guided Illinois to its first NCAA Tournament victory over a higher-seeded team, when the Illini defeated No. 4 Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

The following weekend in Atlanta, the Illini's season came to a close with a 72-62 defeat at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils. Sophomore guard Dee Brown was named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American while guard Deron Williams was awarded the team's MVP. 

Although nothing in particular sticks out with this season, fans had a propensity to believe in the roster, the coaching and the climate of the Big Ten. One season later, great things would arrive in Chambana.