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...
The Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis did not disappoint. It lived up to the hype and more. While the ACC title game was a boring blowout, the Pac 12 title game wasn't all that exciting, the Big Ten championship delivered. The SEC Title game was exciting. But no one played defense in it.
Yes Michigan State football is headed to it’s first Rose Bowl in 26 years. Just like I predicted on Tuesday, they won by exactly ten. The Spartans upset the #2 Ohio StateBuckeyes who were 5.5 point favorites in what was a “game of runs,” to put it in college basketball terms. After all, Tom Izzo was there and he brought his MSU hoops team with him.
Michigan State scored the first 17 points of the game, OSU the next 24, and Michigan State football finished it off with the next 17, to prevail 34-24...
The BTN Elite Series showcases the 2004-2005 Illini tonight! The latest episode of the Big Ten Network Elite series - focusing on the 2004-05 Illinois basketball team - makes its TV debut on Wednesday night immediately after the Illinois-Valparaiso game (approximately 8:30 p.m.). The 60-minute program will take fans through the season from beginning to end and features new interviews with Deron Williams, Dee Brown, Roger Powell, and James Augustine among others...
The preseason media hype for Northwestern was tremendous. And it kept growing well into this month.
Just 14 days ago, the local and national football media pundits were buying Northwestern stock in bunches. They weren’t just buying, it was "back up the truck and let's get this bandwagon filled."
Yet today it looks like a lost season for Northwestern.
Two weeks ago, Northwestern was #16 in the nation and undefeated. Today, they’re 4-3 overall, 0-3 in the Big Ten and likely to be underdogs in four of their last five games. On October 5th, Northwestern led unbeaten Ohio State, who currently possess the nation’s longest winning streak, by ten points with just a few minutes remaining. And 7.4 million people were watching that game on television.
Back then, in that far away time and space, Northwestern bowl hopes were New Year’s Day at minimum with very realistic BCS potential. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times had the Wildcats going to the Orange Bowl in the preseason. The Big Ten Network’s website had the purple in Pasadena, even AFTER the loss to the Buckeyes...
The buzz surrounding Northwestern football was certainly quieted today with a 35-6 loss to the WisconsinBadgers. The hype machine surrounding NU hit climax last week with ESPN College Gameday coming to Evanston, and then the ABC primetime showdown with Ohio State. That contest of much ballyhoo ended in a “missed it by that much” and emotional drain of a loss.
Today’s defeat, by contrast, was an utter destruction from the very beginning.
It sort of reminds me of a pivotal scene in the 2000 Roland Emerich film “The Patriot.” In the Revolutionary War movie, Tom Wilkinson plays famous British General Lord Charles Cornwallis. After achieving an advantage, the Officer subordinate to Cornwallis tells him:
“But my Lord, you’ve taken the field!”
“And now we shall take their spirits! Send the entire battalion over the hill and CRUSH THEM!”
“It ends today!”
Cornwallis/Wilkinson says with prodigious bombast, instructing his Commander to make an extremely aggressive maneuver to finish off the American rebellion. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Not in the film’s fictional representation of the Battle of Cowpens nor in your grade school history book)
Today was for Northwestern football, that crush. Wisconsin's defense destroyed them with a force of an entire battalion. Following up a significant setback. Last weekend was a bad loss. What happened in Madison today hurts much more.
And yes, something did “end today.” All that extra media hype and additional buzz surrounding Northwestern football...
"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...
Today, Illinois football ended their nine game losing streak. And they did it on Social Media Day at Memorial Stadium. Well, they just barely survived: winning 42-34 over the SIU Salukis in a game that went down to the wire. Unfortunately for Illinois football, who reside in the Big Ten, a BCS power conference, just escaping versus a FCS squad, and a middle of the road one and that, doesn’t cut it.
Illini Coach Tim Beckman was on the hot seat entering this game. It’s surface of the planet Venus now; after outgaining a FCS opponent at home by just 57 yards and winning by a slim margin. (More on what went down on the field and what it means for Illinois football here)
Let's get to the tweets today (saving my own for the bottom)...
We have real football again! Finally. College football season openers are this Saturday, August 31st. Illini football takes on FCS school Southern Illinois as part of Social Media Day. All Illini fans Liking the official Fighting Illini footballFacebook page and following the @Illini FootballTwitter account will be entered to win a personalized Illinois jersey. Just enter by halftime Saturday.
Also, Facebook fans and Twitter followers can win a pair of tickets to the Sept. 14th Chicago Homecoming versus the Washington Huskies at Soldier Field. The winners will be announced at Memorial Stadium and on Illini football social media pages at the end of the third quarter versus SIU.
Obviously, this match-up would be more intriguing in basketball. Say in a tournament in March. However, Salukis football did produce Bart Scott, the famous former Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets linebacker who now has a newNFL pregame show on CBS Sports. (it debuts September 8th)
Tim Beckman was on conference call today to preview the game on Saturday...
Very few people connected to Illini football are extremely happy right now about the Tim Beckman hire.
Illini football was winless in conference play, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State combined to outscore Illinois 132-29. They went 2-10 despite having four players taken in the NFLDraft. So, we’re not here to write much more negativity about the Illini football program- it’s been done. And deservedly so.
We’re here to talk about how Tim Beckman deals with all that negative energy. Again, having your games decided by halftime- in a bad way- will do that.
“We’re not going to let negativity infiltrate our program. We’re going to be positive with a great passion towards what we want to get accomplished,” Beckman said in his opening statement during Big Ten Media Day...
“We have nothing to hide. We have a great group of young men that practice the right way and love improving fundamentally,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald told the media at Big Ten Media Days.
That's in reference to the fact that he keeps his practices open to the media, one of the very few programs in college football that maintains this policy. Fitzgerald was very glib and entertaining today when discussing his relationship with reporters too.
Not only is Northwestern accessible to the media; Pat Fitzgerald said his program is open to playing anybody in college football, anywhere.
“Our schedule, there’s no question we’re not afraid to play anyone,” Fitz said.
“We went into the season last year playing three BCS teams in the nonconference and had great success.”
"Great success" as Borat would say.
So why keep practices open to reporters when other schools are paranoid about secrecy...
Fulbright scholar in media studies, MBA, small media business owner, Published author, Founder of The Sports Bank.net, a Fox Sports affiliate
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