Illinois Basketball: 5 greatest seasons in Illini history

Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini
Indiana Hoosiers v Illinois Fighting Illini / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
5 of 5

1. 2004-05 season

  • 37-2 Overall
  • 15-1 Big Ten
  • National Championship Runner-Up
  • AP Final Ranking: 1st

There are innumerable aspects of this team to cover. First off, the 2004-05 Illini finished the season with 37 wins and didn't lose a game until the regular season finale at Value City Arena versus the Ohio State Buckeyes. At the time, the Orange and Blue tied the record for most victories in a season. 

Above all else, the team was noted for its impeccable ball movement on offense and led the nation in assists. A constant flow of passes allowed for open looks from the three-point line on every play. Led by a three-guard starting lineup, Illinois did not rely upon sheer size and height like many other teams in order to dominate, but rather skill and teamwork. 

Illinois averaged 77.0 points per game while allowing 61.1 points per game, for an average point differential of nearly 16 points. 

As mentioned in an earlier slide, Arizona bested the Illini in the 2001 Elite 8. In the same round four years later, the Wildcats were trouncing the No. 1 seed Illini by as many as 15 points late in the second half. Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head fueled an improbable comeback to take down Arizona in overtime. 

Despite the University celebrating its 100th season of basketball, the Illini fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the national championship game, 75-70. UNC's Sean May managed to get James Augustine and Jack Ingram in foul trouble early in the second half. 

Augustine was named the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Brown's awards included Consensus All-American First-Team, Sporting News National Player of the Year, Big Ten Player of the Year and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Bruce Weber was named National Coach of the Year by nine organizations. 

Head and Williams were all selected in the 2005 NBA Draft while Brown and Augustine were selected the following year in 2006.

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