We Love No Other 6.4 - Illini Basketball 1998~2002

Jun 27, 2022

You've heard Erik's name before when discussing The Stats. I'll just real quickly show you some of The Stats and then we'll get to the podcast we recorded on Illini Basketball from 1998 to 2002.

I first referenced The Stats here when my friend Erik sent them to me in the early 2010's. We explain this more in the podcast, but when arguing with people about our place in the college basketball world, I'd always go back to Erik's Stats. We dropped in a lot of the categories over the 2010's, but here's where we stand as of 2022:

  • #14 all time in the NCAA in wins (#14 in winning percentage)
  • #20 (tied) all time in NCAA bids (tied for 3nd in the B1G)
  • #21 all time in NCAA Tournament wins (second most wins for a team without a title behind Purdue)
  • #17 (tied) all time in Final Fours (tied for eighth-most number of Final Fours)
  • #11 all time in collective AP poll appearances (including: #16 [tied] in weeks at #1, #18 in the top 5, #13 in the top 10)
  • 2nd all-time in B1G conference wins (4th in winning percentage, though that includes Maryland's much smaller sample size)
  • 5th highest number of B1G conference titles
  • Second most B1G Tournament wins all time (2nd highest [tied] number of championship game appearances, 3rd highest [tied] number of titles)
  • Have winning records against every B1G program except Purdue, Indiana (3 games behind), Michigan State (4 games behind), and Maryland
  • #22 all time in number of McDonald's All-Americans

The Stats were a lot more meaningful 14 years ago when we were #11 all-time in NCAA bids. We then fell to #22 and have rebounded to be 20th. So yes, The Stats both track where we were and then how far we fell at the end of Weber and throughout the Groce era.

But this podcast isn't solely based on The Stats. I asked Erik to join me for this one because this era ('98 to '02) covers his years as an undergrad. And what a time to be a student. We'd win the Big Ten three of these five years (and even won the Big Ten in football in 2001). Erik was in grad school out of state in the fall of 2001, but name a better time to be an Illini fan than November 25, 2001:

Illinois Football - #8 in the AP Poll
Illinois Basketball - #2 in the AP Poll

Be still my beating heart.

I can feel my brain drifting to "how Illinois football can get back to November 25, 2001" so I'd better get to the basketball podcast. If you want to listen on Apple Podcasts you can do so here and if you want to listen on Spotify you can do so here. Or, if you want to listen online (get a comfy chair because it's 2.5 hours long), you can do so right here:


BananaShampoo on June 27, 2022 @ 02:09 PM

I also feel lucky to have been a student from '98 to '02. What a great time to be an Illini, and it set the stage for my enduring hardcore Illinois fandom.

OrangeBlazer on June 27, 2022 @ 09:39 PM

Thanks for having me Robert, I enjoyed every minute. It's impossible to believe after 2.5 of hours of getting into the weeds we could have possibly skipped anything, but here is a short list of other topics I wish we had discussed:

  • the '98 team being so in sync that they were able to switch from zone to man-to-man MID POSSESSION with 10 seconds on the shot clock to confuse opponents;
  • Bob Knight calling the Teddy Valentine game "the single greatest travesty I have ever seen in 36 years as a college head coach";
  • Fess "Stone Hands" Hawkins;
  • The "will he stay or go" angst over Frank going pro in the summer of '01, complete with a Billboard in C-U;
  • Brian Cook's habit of throwing down 25-points in the first half and then disappearing in the second;

But perhaps most egregious: I can't believe we didn't talk in more detail about the Frank Williams Show against Iowa in '02.


  • It was the Marcus Taylor Michigan State team in '02 (not Marcus Carr)
  • And my brother was a sophomore in '02, not a freshman (not that anyone cares)

Vandy on June 29, 2022 @ 08:02 PM

I care what year I was in '02

mark.loula@gmail.com on June 28, 2022 @ 01:22 PM

Thanks, I’m about half way through this and it brings back memories. I was trying to explain to my youngest, who will be a junior this year why I’m nervous about not having a point guard. 98-99 is why and you hit it.

DGMac on July 1, 2022 @ 12:44 AM

I can add an observation from the Bobby Knight / Teddy V. 3 technicals game in '98. I was at that game with my soon to be fiancee -- thanks to tickets from my future sister-in-law who was then an Indiana undergrad. The "bad" Assembly Hall was, as noted, going insane during Bobby's antics. Very ugly things were being screamed at Teddy V. As Bobby was stalking about, the Indiana players were looking around, distracted and directionless. In stark contrast, Lon had the Illinois players in a tight huddle several feet onto the court to create some distance from the raving fans, instructing them and keeping them focused amid the greatest chaos I have witnessed at a basketball game. Once the game resumed, we took care of business very efficiently. I always use that as a prime example of why I think Lon was perhaps the best "coach" (as distinct from "program head) of all of the Illinois coaches I have known in my fandom.

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