Issues ahead for Weber, Illini basketball
Let's say Illinois lived up to its potential throughout the season.
Let's say it didn't lose to UIC and Indiana. Let's say it didn't go the season's final TEN WEEKS (!!!) without a two-game winning streak.
The Illini, ranked No. 13 in the preseason Associated Press poll, still would have been in the 4-seed range in the NCAA Tournament. That merely postpones Sunday's 73-59 loss to top-seeded Kansas by one round.
While earning the school's first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2005 would have looked better on a resume, it wouldn't have done a thing to prevent a million questions and rumors from pockmarking Illinois' off-season.
1. Will athletic director Ron Guenther retire when his contract ends in July?
Because Guenther declared in February that he won't be making a change in the head coach's chair, Bruce Weber's status remains quo at least until a new AD takes charge.
2. At the same time Guenther declared Weber to be in good stead, he said it would be up to him to adjust his staff.
Translation: Bruce, you're big on loyalty, but you're going to have to think seriously about sacrificing somebody who has been by your side for eight years in order to solidify your spot.
That has to make things a little tense in the coaches' offices as they prepare to hit the recruiting road, no?
3. With Jereme Richmond suspended (in so many words) for the two NCAA Tournament games, what does the talented freshman do next?
The rumor mill says the McDonald's All-American came up wanting in multiple areas during his first season -- teammate relations, classroom duties, etc. -- and there's no guarantee he will play at Illinois next season.
It's a touchy situation that's essentially a no-win for Weber.
4. Even if all seven possible scholarship players return next year, Illinois surrounds them with five freshmen and one senior transfer (Bradley point guard Sam Maniscalco).
That would mean nine underclassmen to go with just two guys (guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul) who know what it's like to play in the Big Ten on a regular basis.
That all but ensures the questions will continue the whole season through.