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

Bill Carmody and Craig Moore: NU’s leaders

By Paul M. Banks

After upsetting the #7 Michigan State Spartans on Wednesday night, the Northwestern Wildcats became the talk of Big Ten College Basketball. Coupled with the 74-65 victory over No. 18 Minnesota on Sunday, Northwestern has defeated ranked opponents in consecutive games for the first time in school history. The MSU win was the Wildcats’ first over a team ranked in the top 10 since it downed No. 8 Michigan in 1994. It’s the program’s first victory over a top 10 opponent on the road since a 71-65 win at No. 4 Minnesota Jan. 3, 1953.

Kevin Coble’s 31 points marked the third-highest scoring game of his career and tie Craig Moore’s effort at Brown on Nov. 22 as the highest output by a Big Ten player this season.

NU’s victory snapped Michigan State’s 28-game home winning streak, the third-longest streak in the nation. The last time the Spartans had lost a game at the Breslin Center was Feb. 3, 2007 to No. 4 Ohio State. It also ended Michigan State’s 85-game home winning streak against unranked opponents.

NU Head Coach Bill Carmody was named “the best offensive mind” in college basketball by Sports Illustrated. Of course, his won-loss record doesn’t exactly reflect that…but

-He needs 5 wins to reach 200 for his collegiate coaching career his ninth season with the Northwestern Wildcats

-His 2005 senior class graduated with 57 victories (more than any other class in the first 102 years of the program)

-The 2006-07 season set a school record with 11 non-conference wins and recorded double-figures in wins before the start of the Big Ten play for the first time in program history.

Wildcats senior shooting guard Craig Moore holds every major three-point record in school history and his currently the team’s second leading scorer behind Coble. He was Named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2006

His comments on beating a ranked opponent in Minnesota after a couple of tough losses with blown leads…

“We knew we were capable and just had to finish it. We played the half and played 35 minutes and blew leads, so we knew we had to step it up in the second half, suck it up, hold onto our guts and play and I think that’s what we did tonight.”

Being “in the zone,” hitting a couple threes “from the parking lot” as the Sun-Times Lacy Banks said…

“Well that’s where I practice from.”

On his gunslinger mentality…

“Where ever I’m open, that’s where I’m going to shoot from. I don’t know where I’m going to end up half the time so I’m oblivious to that type of stuff. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it.”

On the crowd at Welsh-Ryan, how usually half (or more) cheers for the other team during Big Ten season and the Purple Passion from the stands…

“Yeah it was great. I mean, half the time I can’t tell the difference between our fans and the opposing team’s fans so I just take it as they’re cheering for us. Our fans were great tonight and I can’t ask anything else from them. Hopefully, they’ll keep coming.”