The Illini basketball team has one path to the NCAA Tournament; winning the Big Ten Tournament and receiving the automatic bid. A win over Michigan tomorrow morning would be great for their postseason resume, and give them higher seeding in the NIT. Winning in the semi-finals on Saturday would further show that this Illini basketball team is finishing the season strong (currently 5-1 in their last six road/neutral court games), but that still would not be enough to go dancing.
It's run the table or else.
So essentially this conference tournament is like a qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. If Illinois beats Michigan tomorrow (tip at 11 AM) and wins Saturday, then Sunday literally becomes a March Madness play-in game...
Yesterday was college football's National Signing Day and with it Illinois Football Coach Tim Beckman unveiled his latest recruiting class. Here to break down it with me is Illini recruiting expert Taylor Rooks of Fox Sports Next. We're going to find the bright side in Illini football recruiting. Yes, Rooks is talented enough to pull of such an accomplishment. Finding the silver lining in an otherwise bleak situation.
During Beckman's Signing Day press conference he said something rather unintelligent about the city of Chicago. It was self-aggrandizing and took a direct shot at Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald. This ended up overshadowing the other news on signing day as I received a very high volume of messages (texts, tweets, direct, emails etc) that all said essentially the same thing. Those messages derided the intelligence and vocational competency of Tim Beckman. And most of the messages said very little beyond that.
It's understandable as Beckman's boastful Chicagoland comment deriding NU seems rather non-sensical. Recruiting service 24/7 has Colorado, Purdue, Illinois and Washington State as the lowest-rated 2014 classes from the power five leagues...
I love it when my two press corps get together! Illini basketball vs Northwestern.
It's going down...I'm yelling Timber. You better move, you better dance. Sorry, couldn't pass that up.
It's just that NU and Illini basketball, and football are the two programs, along with the Chicago Bulls, that I cover regularly. Therefore, the once a year that they play each other is special to me as I "belong" to both press corps. The media room at this one is always a lot of fun for me. I even do a weekly segment on KOZN, 1620 The Zone Omaha, talking about Illinois and Northwestern.
(UPDATE: NU to unveil new publicity-grabbing uniforms for this game)
Sunday night, 6:30 PM at Welsh-Ryan Arena will mark the one time they meet this year in hoops. There might be a round two at the Big Ten Tournament in Indy. If it were up to me, I'd keep them meeting just once a year, and have it at the United Center each time...
While games played at the United Center count as a "neutral site" in the Illinois basketball media guide, for the Illinois basketball program the UC is a home away from home. Saturday's contest against UIC marks the 47th game the Illini will play there, dating back '94-'95. Illinois basketball owns an all-time record of 34-12 (.739) at the home of the Chicago Bulls.
This is a homecoming game for many Illinois basketball players, as half of the UI roster features players from Chicagoland in Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, (all from Chicago), along with walk-on Mike LaTulip (Arlington Heights) and transfers (who are currently sitting out) Darius Paul (Gurnee, little brother of Brandon Paul) and Ahmad Starks (Chicago).
The Illini played three games at the United Center last season, barely squeaking by a very terrible Auburn team in December and Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament opening round on a Brandon Paul buzzer beater, before falling to No. 3 Indiana in the conference tournament quarterfinals.
Here is the complete list of Illinois basketball games at the United Center, in chronological order. For ten of the most memorable games in Illinois basketball history at the UC (in no particular order, and these are most memorable, not "best," it doesn't have to be a Illinois basketball win to make the list...
Junior point guard Tracy Abrams is a very big reason that Illini basketball has held each of its first seven opponents to 63 points or fewer this season, something an Illini team hasn’t done since the 2006-07 season. Abrams, from Chicago's Mt. Carmel high school, is a gritty defender and tough leader, reminiscent of another Illini basketball player who manned the same position-- Chester Frazier.
UI is now 15-0 in November under head coach John Groce. Overall, the Illini basketball program has won their last 26 games in the month of November.
“Without Tracy Abrams we probably don’t get it done. He willed us to a win. He’s a big part of what we do,” Groce said after the last Illini basketball game, a very ugly home win over Low-Major IPFW.
They take on Georgia Tech in an important road contest in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in a couple hours. Illinois are slight underdogs to slight favorites, depending on who you talk to...
Illini basketball Media Day was Wednesday which means it’s time to preview the season. The great thing about Media Days are the ability to bring up just about any topic and talk about anything. The bad side of Media Days are the press conferences are more cliche and predictable than at any point of the entire season.
Everyone is “just excited to get going” with a “great group of guys.” Everyone is undefeated on Media Day. That said Illini basketball tips-off with a scrimmage in six days, an exhibition in 13 days and the season opener versus Alabama State on Friday November 9th.
So here are five takeaways from Illini basketball media day, to help you preview the season. Aided by the help of two in-depth team season previews. My own and that of David Kmiecik, college basketball nerd and the man with the most accurate NBA Mock Draft on the planet. Enjoy...
ESPN College Gameday set up shop this morning at Lakeside Field on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston.
Tonight at Ryan Field, not be confused with the Fox Sports 1 anchor named Ryan Field, the #4 Ohio StateBuckeyes, favored by a touchdown, will take on the #16 Wildcats. Kickoff at 7pm on ABC with OSU alum Kirk Herbstreit and NU alum Brent Musburger on the call. Heather Cox will be on the sidelines.
I love College Gameday, but the best part of it, in my opinion, would be the signs.
I’ve led this post with a great sign about Kain Colter. And posted a few in gallery. You can see a few more signs here.
NU will look to upset the Red Menace tonight, and have a much better outing than the last time College Gameday was on site for a NW home game. That was the infamous “we conveniently forgot about the lack of space in Wrigley Field, so we’ll have both teams go one way/the same way the whole time” game.
The Illini shredded NU 48-22 at the Friendly Confines as Mikel Leshoure ran for an Illinois record 330 yards rushing. Here's to hoping the Cats don't have a repeat of that performance tonight; and cut shut down Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde.
-From Crain’s, Northwestern sells the naming rights to their Athletic Director position. They've come such a long way in Evanston. Three decades ago, they were considering abandoning big time sports entirely to join the Ivy League. According to the Wall Street Journal....
"Our presence in Chicago is important to us, we are the state team, we need to bring ourselves closer to them for marketing purposes," said Illini Wide Receivers Coach Mike Bellamy- a former Chicago Bears player, native of the SouthSide (prepped at Kenwood Academy) and Illini wideout who played with Jeff George in Champaign.
"And we have a large alumni base in Chicago and sometimes they can't make it down, so why not bring the game to them?" Bellamy continued.
On Saturday, the Illini were competing for sports fan interest against the White Sox, NASCAR Nationwide, Northwestern, a Fire match and the BMW Classic. And they still drew 47,312 fans to the lakefront in Chicago. That attendance is higher than what Illinois drew at home for their first two games this season; and a solid figure when you consider how very low expectations were heading into this year...
Chicago Tribune Fighting Illini reporter Vaughn McClure is leaving the paper for ESPN Atlanta. McClure, who was previously a Chicago Bears beat reporter, will be covering the NFL again; this time he’ll handle the Atlanta Falcons.
Before taking the ATL job, McClure was to handle the Chicago Bulls beat once the NBA season started...
This Saturday I’ll be “the doing the double.” The term comes from auto racing, but I’m applying it to college football. Illinois is playing Washington at the home of the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field at 5pm Saturday. After I’m done, I’m headed to Evanston for Northwestern vs Western Michigan with a 8pm kickoff.
Any other local Chicago sports media doing the doubleheader? If my good friend Lindsey Willhite, PR Director for the Chicago Wolves, was still working for the Daily Herald I know he’d be right there with me.
Anyway, the auto racing version of doing the double is the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 and the IRL Indianapolis 500 on the same day.
Tony Stewart has done it three times. And keeping with this theme of doubling up…
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and ChicagoNow.
He's been a featured guest in dozens of media outlets including The History Channel. His work has been cited in hundreds of publications including the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.