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Illinois’ Brad Underwood asked about Wildcats vacancy

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Illinois coach Brad Underwood quickly offered strong words Sunday regarding the opening at Kansas State. Asked following the Illini bid to March Madness, Underwood put speculation on the pay-no-mind list.

“I don’t,” Underwood said. “I would never discuss anything professionally with you guys like that, but man, I love Illinois. We’ve got the best fans. We’ve got a great boss. We’ve got a top-10 program. We’re winning Big Ten championships, we’re winning championships. I’m very singular as you guys know, and I can’t control what people say and people think, but I’m not worried about that.”

Bruce Weber resigned at Kansas State last week after 10 seasons on the job. Coincidentally, Weber arrived at Kansas State after just being fired by Illinois. Over the last three seasons, Weber was in charge of some of the worst seasons in school history. Kansas State has a combined overall record of 34-57 and 13-41 in Big 12 play over the last three seasons. Weber ended his tenure at Kansas State with a record of 184-147.

In five seasons at Illinois, the 58-year-old Underwood is 93-65 (.589) and a 55-43 (.561) mark in Big Ten play. He arrived after one season at Oklahoma State, where he went 20-13 overall. That followed three seasons at Stephen F. Austin, where he was 89-14.

Underwood started his playing career at Hardin-Simmons from 1982-83 before heading to Independence Community College from 1983-84. He then played two seasons at Kansas State from 1984-86. Illinois earned a four seed in the South Region and will play 13th-seeded Chattanooga in the first round of the tournament Friday in Pittsburgh.

“It’s definitely a business thing,” center Kofi Cockburn said. “We’ve been to the tournament last year. We know how that feeling was. We’re not trying to get too high right now. We’re prepared to go out there and play our hardest and go out there and compete at the highest level. We’re more focused on not celebrating right now but celebrating in the long run when we complete the task.”

Underwood saw his team’s business-like approach. He’s seen it before. When the Illini traveled to Ann Arbor (Mich.) for their final true road game of the season, the team flew in suits for a game against the Wolverines. It’s a loose tie between the two, but that worked out pretty well for Illinois, which left Ann Arbor with a 93-85 victory.

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“I didn’t make too much out of it. I think they were excited,” Underwood said. “This team has always been at their best when it’s very business-like. … That’s who this team is. They’re still a lot of fun, but that’s what this team is.”

IlliniInquirer’s Joey Wagner contributed to this report.





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