Last night was a magical night for Illinois Fighting Illini basketball. The upset over the #1 Hoosiers gave Illinois a 3-20 record versus #1 teams and 1-5 versus #1 IU squads. Don’t be mislead by those numbers, almost every team has a terrible record versus the top of the food chain. Enjoy last night, as it gave us an iconic moment/photo of Illinois Coach John Groce and his son.
Now it’s time to focus again, there’s eight games left in conference play and then the Big Ten Tournament. Before last night, this Fighting Illini basketball season was like the NBC series “The Office”- it was great and exciting once, but things quickly jumped the shark and we’re all like, “let’s just get this thing over.” With the Hoosiers win, it’s like the NBC sitcom “Community” reinvigorated and full of potential. The Illini started 12-0 often shooting hotter than Alison Brie in a bikini. Then the team went 4-8 and everyone’s FG% went cold; cold like a January breeze off the shores of Lake Superior. It all adds up to a weird, bizarre NCAA Tournament profile. And the results of the Illinois schedule look as erratic and bi-polar as Lindsay Lohan on….whatever Lindsay Lohan is taking these days.
At 16-8, 3-7 in conference Illinois basketball has a real NIT/#11 seed in NCAA Tournament resume right now. Most bracketologies (projection of the NCAA Tournament field) have them among the first four out before the big win last night. So now you can say that they’re in. But that will change a bunch of times up and down between now and Selection Sunday because the Illini have played like a schizophrenic team.
WHAT WORKS: RPI 33, SOS 6 They have four big signature wins over #1 Indiana Hoosiers at #Gonzaga Bulldogs #10 Ohio State Buckeyes #14 Butler Bulldogs (neutral court). UI is the only team to win at the Kennel
Illinois faces really tough road games at the Gophers, Wolverines and Buckeyes. A win over any of these three teams would further cement Illinois into the tournament. The team also needs to take care of business against Purdue, Northwestern, Penn State, the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes. If the team can beat one of the three tough opponents and win four of the easier five, an 8-10 record in the Big Ten and an overall 21-11 should be enough; but only because the tournament expanded to 68. Anything less than that requires at least one, and probably 2 victories in the BTT.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar, published author and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.