Illini Outlast Gophers in Never Ending Big Ten Opener

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One of my all time favorite The Simpsons quotes:

“Mr. Simpson, this is the biggest case of false advertising since my suit against the film the Never Ending Story” –Lionel Hutz

The legendary lawyer played by the late, great Phil Hartman refers to a 1984 film with a running time of 94 minutes. Illinois escaping 81-72 in 2 OT over the Minnesota Golden Gophers ran about 2 hours, 40 minutes. It was a game in which no one ever seemed to want to take it, until finally, the Illini dominated the final four minutes of the final OT.

Now that it’s over I still can’t tell you if I just watched two future 7-11 in Big Ten teams slug it out with each other, or two future 11-7 in conference play teams. That’s how unpredictable the Big Ten will be.

Minnesota had a chance to ice it when they were up 64-62 with 15.9 left to play, but Julian Welch (the Gophers leading scorer at 9.9 ppg) missed the front end of a one-in-one and Meyers Leonard made both free throws at the other end to tie it.

And later in the second overtime, Leonard had a spin and score that just screamed…well, if you don’t own any Meyers Leonard NBA Draft stock, as your broker, I advise a STRONG BUY on it. Yes, Leonard is probably as good as gone to the pros after this year, as he put up another double double (20 points, 11 rebounds.)

Pneumonia kept me from watching this game at my usual seat at press row, so I instead watched the game on my Droid Bionic. For smartphone users, this B1G game was available live on Verizon Video, as are three more games tomorrow night: Ohio State vs. Northwestern, Indiana at Michigan State and Purdue at Iowa.

The Illini have looked absolutely vulnerable in their last four home wins (St. Bonaventure, Coppin St., Cornell and this one) but they are 9-0 at Assembly Hall for the third straight year nonetheless. They’re also 28-2 in the last 30 versus Minnesota, and they’ve only lost at home to the Gophers once since 1996.

Maybe Illinois needed Crandall Head in this one? (Well, probably not as he didn’t do much during his Illini career) However, the announcement of his leaving the program today could have been a distraction.

Prior to this game I wondered why MN had a RPI of 17. It seemed absurd given how easy their schedule was, but maybe Minnesota is better than we thought?

Whether they’re better or Illinois is worse I have a feeling every Illini loss will be narrow, and that every win will be ugly and grindy from here on out. If you’re an Illini fan with stress-induced health issues, hypertension, cardiac disease etc. I suggest you consult your doctor before deciding to keep watching this season.

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I have received a Motorola Droid Bionic from Verizon Wireless free of charge, in return for my agreement to blog about my experiences with the Droid Bionic. Although I have a material connection to Verizon Wireless, any publicy stated opinions of Verizon Wireless and their products remain my own.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s 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.

 

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