The time has come for college basketball/European football doppelgangers. And this isn’t the first time that we’ve done the soccer/football/futbol synergies with college basketball, or with teams in other sports as well.
Be sure to check out our 2014 World Cup Round of 16 nations-college basketball program doppelgangers.
Tottenham Hotspur = Illinois Fighting Illini
Yes, there are currently two sporting competitions, in tournament format that captivate us unlike any other this time of year: college basketball’s NCAA Tournament, also known as “March Madness,” and the UEFA Champions League.
In late winter to early spring, sports fans all across the globe are transfixed by both tourneys.
These two programs/clubs/franchises are probably as big it gets among teams that have never won the tournament, with only that one single runner-up appearance to really hang their hats on.
Tottenham lost to Liverpool 2-0 in the 2019 UCL final while Illinois fell just six points shy of beating North Carolina in the 2005 NCAA Tournament title game. Tottenham typically finish in the top four in the Premier League, or just shy of it while the Illini are one of the best regular season programs in college basketball history.
Illinois has earned three #1 seeds since March Madness expanded to its current format in 1985, but couldn’t close the deal in any of those seasons: 1989, 2005, 2021.
Tottenham were the last team standing between the eventual Premier League champions and their trophy in a couple of different seasons during the late 2010s, but just couldn’t get over the hump.
But if you know what the term “Spursy” means, well it is probably the best way to describe what being an Illini basketball fan feels like. Illinois always finds the banana peel to slip on.
It’s why their fans live in a natural state of paranoid.
Drought is the other commonality here.
Spurs haven’t a trophy of any sort since 2008 while Illinois hasn’t even advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
How They’re Doing This Season
What’s really interesting about pairing these two up is how both their histories and their present align. Both Head Coaches have given a press conference rant this season saying his players aren’t motivated enough to help the team.
And you know what I always say whenever a coach does the “my players are simply not motivated and ambitious enough right now this season” routine.
Yes, if only you knew somebody- perhaps, you know, someone paid millions of dollars per year, whose job it was to get your team focused and motivated! If only you had connections to someone like that!
By the time you read this, Antonio Conte could be “former” Tottenham manager, as he gave a “I’m trying to get fired” kind of press conference on Sunday.
A lot of Illini basketball fans want current coach Brad Underwood out, as his woes in both March tournaments continues.
Despite the tendency of his teams to crash out early, he won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
For both Underwood’s Illini and Conte’s Spurs, the team just did not really bother fully showing up to play, on quite a few nights this season.
The Illini season ended with a tourney one-and-done on Friday while Spurs having nothing left to play for but top four this season. They’re currently in fourth, but don’t be shocked if they fall out.
March Madness and Champions League Doppelgangers Series
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.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.