|CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)--John Groce's timing could have been better. The new Illinois head coach is taking over in a year in which the Big Ten opens with five AP Top 25 teams.
His Illini won't be one of them. Illinois is coming off a 17-15 campaign that ended with 12 losses in 14 games and cost Bruce Weber the job Groce now holds.
And the team Groce will coach is essentially the same one that collapsed under Weber. Only its most talented player, center Meyers Leonard, is now in the NBA.
But Groce says his team is hungry heading into the Nov. 9 opener against Colgate.
Illinois will count on Tracy Abrams and Brandon Paul to be the primary ball handlers. And a committee that includes sophomore Nnanna Egwu and transfer Sam McLaurin will try to fill in for Leonard.