The pregame highlights on the video board at Value City Arena on Tuesday showed one of the lowlights from a season filled with memories. Ohio State's Matt Sylvester hit the game winner to hand top-ranked Illinois its only regular-season loss seven years ago. Otherwise, Illinois coach Bruce Weber presided over a magical season to the school's only appearance in the NCAA title game.

CHAMPAIGN -- The pregame highlights on the video board at Value City Arena on Tuesday showed one of the lowlights from a season filled with memories.


Ohio State's Matt Sylvester hit the game winner to hand top-ranked Illinois its only regular-season loss seven years ago. Otherwise, Illinois coach Bruce Weber presided over a magical season to the school's only appearance in the NCAA title game.


The run is unmatched in school history.


Now Weber's directs the sliding Illini, and this finish could also be one for the ages. After losing nine of 10 games, the Illini have left everyone wondering: Will they win another game?


"Absolutely,'' said center Meyers Leonard.


Unfortunately, no one outside the locker room is convinced. Illinois (16-12 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten) hosts Iowa on Sunday (5 p.m., BTN). With three games remaining, plus an appearance in the Big Ten Tournament, the Illini could drop no worse than .500, thus remaining eligible for the NIT.


Although Leonard said the Illini were searching for their niche, it's apparent Illinois lost its confidence but also its heart.


"I hope as a team we find it and find a way to win,'' Leonard said.


This hasn't been the best year to be an Illinois fan, after the football team won its first six games, only to lose its last six in the regular season. Illini basketball is usually the cure for a bad football season, but they could play before 5,000 empty seats against the Hawkeyes this weekend.


The Illini haven't suffered this kind of slide in basketball since 1979, when Illinois lost 11 of its last 15 games after beating No. 1 Michigan State. The Illini were poised to climb to the nation's top spot but dropped the following game to Ohio State two days later.


When point guard Steve Lanter suffered a season-ending knee injury the following week, the Illini couldn't recover.


This season's slide began after the Illini assumed first place in the Big Ten standings after a 79-74 win over Ohio State on Jan. 10. The two teams were headed in different directions Tuesday. The Illini allowed 70 points or more for the fifth time in the six-game losing skid during the 83-67 loss at No. 8 Ohio State. The only thing left to do is point fingers.


While Illinois was in the midst of a tailspin, athletic director Mike Thomas went on the radio to discuss what he expects out of a program.


If anyone tried to read between the lines, it sounded like he was passing judgment on Weber. During an interview on Comcast Sports Net, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo felt Thomas' comments were untimely. There's a normal process, Izzo said, and Thomas didn't follow the usual guidelines.


"If you are going to get rid of a guy, do it at the end of the year," Izzo said. "I think (the Thomas radio interview) hurt him Saturday. You could tell by his players. I'm not an AD, but I mean put it this way, when an AD does what happened, it affects your team and recruiting.


"I just hope they realize that they got a guy who doesn't cheat, who works his tail off, he represents the university well and wins a hell of a lot of games. He has had a little bit of a tough year, but they've got a lot of people coming back and I think he will bounce back."


The last two losses came by a combined 39 points, and there's no telling when -- or if -- this slide will end.


NOTE: Illinois' regular-season finale at Wisconsin on March 4 was set for a noon tipoff on BTN.


John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.