| Big Ten Conference|
| No. 24|
22–10 (11–7 Big Ten)
The 1996–97 Illinois Fighting Illini men's basketball team represented the University of Illinois.
1996–97 Illinois Fighting Illini men's basketball team Wikipedia
On March 21, 1996, a new era in Illinois basketball began when Director of Athletics Ron Guenther introduced Lon Kruger as the University’s 14th men’s basketball coach. Kruger came to Illinois from the University of Florida and carried a list of impressive credentials, including guiding Florida to the Final Four in 1994. In his first year at Illinois, Kruger guided Illinois to a 22-10 record and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Over the course of the season, Illinois defeated five ranked opponents, including No. 7 Minnesota, 96-90, at the Assembly Hall. Illinois also traveled to Bloomington and handed Indiana a 78-74 loss, the first win for Illinois at Assembly Hall in Bloomington since 1990. During the course of the year, Kiwane Garris etched his name in the Illinois record book with one of the best season performances by any Illini player in history. He finished his career second on the all-time scoring list with 1,948 points and set the single-season record for free throws made and attempted. Garris averaged 19.4 points and missed being the Big Ten’s leading scorer by three one-hundredths of a point.
Illinois 90, Southern Cal 77
Tennessee-Chattanooga 75, Illinois 63
Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention
Team Most Valuable Player