What a special night for #17 Illini Fighting Illini basketball! Down double digits, midway through the second half, they looked left for dead against #2 Texas tonight in the Jimmy V. Classic.
But the Illinois battled back, forced overtime, and then emerged victorious 85-78. The Illini basketball program improved to 8-40 all-time against teams ranked in the top 2 of the AP poll, with this just the second win, in this category, away from Champaign.
While yes, college hoops take a back seat to several other sports, and pop culture/entertainment offerings this time of year (especially so with a World Cup taking place at an unnatural time), what happens now does indeed matter. Actually, it matters a lot, despite what Jim Boeheim says or thinks.
This time of year, is critical for padding your resume, especially is your league ends up being down. Again, a lot of the good work that Illini basketball has done, so far, has gone overlooked.
At least this year, with all the excitement surrounding Illini football, an entity that very rarely excites. Illinois only has two losses on the season, and they are away from home to currently undefeated teams. That would be 7-0 Virginia in the Las Vegas tournament the week before Thanksgiving and at 8-0 Maryland.
Guess they are don’t fare so well against the Mid-Atlantic! But the Illini had a lead on UVA in the last three minutes, and they were in a position to take the lead at the Terps in the closing minutes.
Thus, there is no shame in those results.
The Longhorns were Illinois’ fourth ranked opponent in their first nine games to open the season, and the third opposition ranked in the top-10 of kenpom.
AP KenPom Net
Texas 2 3 10
UCLA 19 7 14
Not Bad Losses
AP KenPom Net
Virginia 3 8 8
Maryland 13 19 6
Blowing out Syracuse really didn’t do anything for the Illini basketball resume. Despite the big blue blood brand name, Boeheim’s program is just such a total dumpster fire right now that beating them, and beating them bad, doesn’t count for much.
Next Chance for Signature Victories
The Illini will next take on Penn State, at home on Dec 10. The Nittany Lions are a top 50 Net team. Then you have the Braggin’ Rights, against Missouri, who are #34 in the Net, #48 in KenPom on December 22.
Conference Season Resume Builders
The Illini will take on #4 Purdue on March 5 in their only meeting this season. The two clashes with #14 Indiana are Jan 19 and Feb 18 mean while #25 Ohio State takes on Illinois Jan 23 and Feb 26.
Iowa (Feb 4) and Rutgers (Feb 11) may not be nationally ranked, but they are also Net top 50.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”