After grabbing a huge road win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday night, the Illinois Fighting Illini sit at 10-0 and hold a No. 10 ranking in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Poll. The 10-0 record is a familiar feeling for many of the Illini players, as Illinois started last season 10-0 before collapsing down the stretch and getting Bruce Weber fired.
Despite the similarities between the two starts, new coach John Groce said this year's team is not focusing on what happened last season (via ESPN Chicago):
"I haven't heard them talking about it," Groce said of comparing the two seasons. "I haven't certainly talked to them about it at this juncture and maybe in large part of it is I wasn't here last year and don't have relevance to that.
"We've tried the best we can to just kind of focus on the 2012-2013 season and leave all of that in the rear view mirror as something we can't control. I haven't heard them talking about it and I haven't."
Illinois is one of just 14 undefeated teams left in the country. While Groce does not want to focus much on the past, he realizes just how important this fast start is for a rabid fan base that became extremely frustrated with the previous regime.
Groce knows his team is far from perfect, even if its record is spotless so far. Before the Gonzaga win, Illinois barely got by Western Carolina on Wednesday. The Illini have also won two games this season thanks to last-second shots.
Groce and Illinois will look to avoid a letdown when Norfolk State visits Assembly Hall on Tuesday night.