Illini-Northwestern Sort of a Rivalry


Paul M. Banks

If there’s one game that Northwestern circles on the schedule each year, it’s Illinois. The Illini directly compete with them within the city of Chicago on all levels: for coveted recruits, building a dedicated fan base, and the publicity of coverage from the nation’s third largest media market. While NU fans utterly despise Illinois, Illini Nation abhors Indiana, the only Big 10 program with more tournament appearances and wins than Illinois, the most. Eric Gordon certainly turned that up a notch!

It may not be Duke/North Carolina, but it’s unfortunate that this season sees our in-state rivals meet just once: Thu 8PM at Welsh-Ryan Arena, ESPN2.

Illinois-Northwestern is an exciting rivalry in football, but in basketball it’s EXCEEDINGLY one-sided. UI leads the all-time series 125-34, with a 60-21 advantage in Evanston. Illini Nation also carry a nine-game series winning streak into Thursday’s game.

However, nothing is certain for opponents game-planning against the Wildcats’ unique style on both ends of the court (Princeton set on offense, 1-3-1 zone on defense) Despite the recent records overwhelmingly in Illinois’ favor, Illini senior point guard Chester Frazier expressed caution towards the Wildcats, who enter the game with an 11-2 home record and the nation’s 20th ranked scoring defense. “That’s gonna be one of the roughest games of the year in my opinion. Their style of play is very different, very unorthodox. With the 1-3-1 they cause a lot of turnovers and create a lot of havoc, so we gotta take care of the ball and be ready to play every possession,” Frazier said.

Northwestern senior two-guard Craig Moore is NU’s emotional and scoring leader. He’s also second nationally in 3pt field goal percentage. Moore discussed the Illini’s upcoming visit to the North Shore. “It’s a good rivalry, they’ve handled us a bit the past couple times we’ve played them,” NU’s all-time three point scorer said. Even though Illinois has looked uglier than Michael Phelps’ recent PR on the road, I predict they’ll win 61-59. They have an impressive RPI of 15, according to all 3 (Real Time, ESPN Inside, and Jerry Palm) ratings percentage indices. The Illini slaughtered the Wildcats 70-37 in their only meeting last year and Cats coach Bill Carmody is just 1-14 against the Orange and Blue.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank


  1. Rikki and I will be there tomorrow

  2. Trashtalk Superstar says

    I know that Bruce Weber had a tough time on the recruiting trail for a while, but I’m not sure Illinois’ recruiting ever got so bad that they were battling Northwestern for the same coveted recruits. Jeff Jordan had “preferred walk on” opportunities offered to him at both schools, but he’s really the only guy that I can think of who chose between NU & IL. Then again, Illinois beat out Coll. of Charleston and LaSalle (IIRC) for the services of Chester Frazier … so maybe Illinois’ recruiting was actually that bad (or worse).

    Fortunately for the Illini, Bruce Weber (or Jerrance Howard) found his recruiting legs, and the future looks bright. What’s more, this year’s Illini have exceeded just about everybody’s expectations, and Weber once again looks like the coaching wizard that Illini fans deemed him to be in 2005 & 2006. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that Frazier has finally transformed himself into a Big Ten caliber point guard.

    As for Northwestern, this is probably the best edition of Wildcats basketball since the 1994 team that went to the N.I.T. (or at the very least, since the 1998 team that went to the N.I.T.). But despite their new-found competitiveness, Northwestern basketball is still essentially a non-entity in the world of Chicago sports. Illinois is light years ahead of NU in terms of visibility and popularity in Chicagoland. Anecdotally, I’ve never known anybody who grew up as a Northwestern basketball fan, but Chicago and the suburbs are full of people who either grew up — or are currently growing up — as Illini basketball fans (despite what the downstate fans may say in message boards).

    Personally, I’d love to see Northwestern become a consistently competitive basketball program (as their football program has become). And I’d love to see the Illinois vs. Northwestern rivalry finally become a good college basketball rivalry. But I think that’s a long way off from happening (even though NU is much improved, and Bill Carmody is a good coach).

  3. They should call this match-up the “Paul M. Banks Battle”

  4. It’s a bummer this game, the “Banks Invitational” only occurs once this year, like last season. Better when it’s twice…and maybe another in the b10 tourney

  5. TS, good to have you posting here. welcome! It sounds like you def know your stuff. You’re right about Jerrance Howard saving ILL recruiting which suffered greatly these past couple years. I would also like to see NU rise beyond “afterthought” status and legitimately make a mark on the chi scene…be as competitve as the football team. so there’s a real rivalry…that’s why i titled this a “sort of rivalry” NU wishes they could get the recruits that ILL does, epsecially in this state. Juice Thompson was NU’s first public league signee in like 20 years. I like Carmody as a coach, and I’m glad he’s recruting here in Ill now, not just Eastern Europe

  6. As I posted above- my prediction ILL 61, NU 59

    Final score ILL 60, NU 59………..DAMN I’M GOOD AT WHAT I DO! holla!

Speak Your Mind