CHICAGO – Their “March to the Arch” was at times “Madness,” but it only made their run to the national championship game more special.
An exciting, fast-paced, intelligent group of basketball players in Champaign brought Illinois what was their first and so far only opportunity to play one game for a Division I men’s basketball championship.
Bruce Weber was in charge of the Illini men’s basketball team in the 2004-2005 season which not only captivated fans in their own base but also those around the country that admired the way they played.
They went through the regular season with just one loss, which came in their final game before the Big Ten Tournament. The charismatic group led by dynamic guards Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams would win the conference tournament in Chicago before a memorable NCAA Tournament run.
Two victories in Indianapolis were followed by two in Rosemont, including arguably the greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history in the Chicago Regional final. Down by 15 with under four minutes left against Arizona, the Illini made a stunning rally to force overtime before winning it 90-89 to clinch a spot in the Final Four.
That rally has lived for nearly two decades, sometimes even overshadowing what happened in St. Louis the following weekend. After a dominating win over Louisville put Illinois in their first national title game in school history, the magic would run out against North Carolina in a title game loss.
Yet the 37-2 Illini live on in the memories of fans, including Weber, who shared his memories of that year with Josh Frydman as part of “WGN at 75.”
You can watch the entire segment in the video above.