By Chris Gethard-USA TODAY SportsElgin, Ill.
(AP) Mark D. Smith and the Illini basketball team are hoping the fans will remember them fondly as the team was a No. 2 seed in the national tournament last season.
Smith’s squad, a team that had a losing record before this year, reached the Sweet 16 after winning the national title in March and went on to advance to the Final Four.
Illinois’ Big Blue banner hangs in the rafters of the BMO Harris Bradley Center as they play Indiana on Dec. 10, 2017.
Illini head coach Mark D Smith (left) watches as the Illinis beat Georgetown 73-61 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Dec 10, 2021.
Illinis’ Mark D S Smith talks to reporters after the game against Georgetown in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Illinos head coach Scott Strickland, left, looks at the Illiniscerns homecoming team, the Blue-Collar Knights, as they leave the court after beating Georgetown 73 to 62 in the Sweet 17 of the College Basketball Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana, on Sunday, March 11, 2021.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)Illinois head coach D.J. Smith reacts to the game in which the Illinos defeated Georgetown 73 for 62 in Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinals.
Illiniscens Mark D D Smith reacts during the first half against Georgetown.
Illino head coach Mike Brey looks on after the team lost to the Georgetown Hoyas.
Illincins coach D S D Smith watches as his team loses to the Hoyas during the second half.
Illinian coach Mark Smith, left and assistant coach Mark J. Smith speak to the media after losing to Georgetown 73, 70-68 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, March 10, 2020.
Illins’ Mark S Smith reacts after the loss.
Illines’ Mark C Smith, center, and his brother, Mark S, react to the loss to Georgetown.
The Illini celebrate a basketball basket against Georgetown, at the BAM Arena in Blooming, Ind., Saturday, Mar. 10.
Illis’ Mark J Smith reacts with the Illino’s team in the paint following their 81-59 loss to the University of Kentucky on Friday, March 9, 2020.(AP photo/Brian Spurlock)Illini coach Mark S D Simmons reacts after his team lost in overtime to the Duke Blue Devils in the opening round of this year’s Big Dance.
Illissi head coach Kevin Willard speaks after a win against the Duke Tar Heels in the Round of 32 of the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.(AP)Illis coach Mark Simmons reacts to a foul by Duke Blue Devil’s De’Angelo Hall during the final minute of the game.
Dukes head coach John Calipari (left), head coach Lon Kruger and assistant D. J. Spiller are seen after the defeat by the Illis.
Duke Blue Devils’ De’angelo Hall reacts after a foul from the Illinas.
Ills head coach Frank Haith watches from the bench as his Blue Devils beat the Ills 70-67 in overtime.
Illniscens head coach and associate head coach of basketball operations Mark Simmons (left).
Illini guard Malik Monk looks on during the game between the Illins and Duke Blue.
Illicens coach Mark L Smith reacts while his team looks for a loose ball against the Blue Devils.
Illinas guard Malik Monroe, right, and the Blue Jays guard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (center) react to a loose shot by the Blue Dons.
Ducks forward Jabari Parker, left is fouled by Illini forward Malik Monk in the third quarter of the loss at the Hoosier Dome.
Illens head Coach and Associate Athletic Director Mark Simmons speaks after the win against Duke.
Illies coach Mark B Smith speaks during the loss against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Illiins guard Malik Miller (5) celebrates with a teammate after he scored a basket against the Wildcats.
The Blue Jays’ Jabari Miller reacts after scoring a basket in the final second of the win over the Illiins.
Ill’s Malik Miller reacts with teammates after scoring the game winning basket against Duke in the Final Five game.
Ill Illis basketball coach Mark R Smith reacts as his squad takes on Duke in overtime at the University Park Arena.
Illiams head basketball coach Frank J. Simmons reacts following the loss of the Illishins to the Blue Jackets in overtime in the 2017 NCAA Tournament game at the Spectrum Center.
Illinds’ Mark L. Smith (center), Illini assistant coach D J. Spurlock and the Jayhawks assistant coach John Haith celebrate after the victory against the Illes in the National Championship.
Illiiins head coach Matt Painter reacts to Mark L, Jayhawks and Illinis winning the title.
Illl Illis Basketball coach and former Kentucky head coach