Illini Need to Resolve Conference Season Road Issues- Tonight!

ready for the dance illini

It would help if the Illinois basketball senior class started living up to their potential, but it was a sophomore, Brandon Paul, who gave the media a soundbite Illini Nation would like to hear.

“It’s tough, we keep talking about the same thing, and people get
mad, people talk about it, but actions speak louder than words, we got
to do something about it,” Paul said following yet another disappointing road loss at Northwestern.

Very true. It’s Groundhog Day, just like Weber said last Saturday, as
the team keeps repeating the same mistakes all over again. Had they
bothered to show up for the first 5 minutes of the games at Penn State,
Indiana and Northwestern, they easily would have won all three. The
final margin of defeat was so small that had Illinois not utterly
sleep-walked out of the gate they could be 8-2 instead of 5-5 in Big Ten play right now. As is stands, they’re 1-4 in the league on the road.

groundhog-day

This road loss was especially troublesome for Illinois, as it came
just outside Chicago (the biggest non-Champaign stronghold in Illini
Nation) in front of a crowd that was mostly supporting them.

“We tried to treat this one like a home game. We had a lot of fans
come out here and support us, so we tried to tell ourselves we’re
playing at Assembly Hall- don’t worry about the other people in the
crowd,” BP said.

But the mentality didn’t work, as the Illini choked at Welsh-Ryan
Arena, a place where they were 9-2 in their last 11 heading in.

This article from SB Nation’s Hail to the Orange chronicles the specifics of the road woes quite well:

The Illini have lost every road game since Iowa, and have been
held below their season scoring average in every game. Its no
coincidence we have also caught every team in absolute desperation mode,
where the teams have absolutely needed a win to keep their season from
going completely off the rails, we have caught teams on their biggest
promoted home games of the year, and are viewed as a big enough name to
rush the court on, but a vulnerable enough opponent to have it happen to
us three times…

…knowing the Illini and their road opponents, the Northwestern
zone, which was shredded to ribbons just a few weeks ago, will have some
new wrinkle that completely perplexes the team, and the Illini will
struggle to put ball through hoop for the first five minutes or so of
the game, allowing the Wildcats uncanny three point shooting to heat up
and take an early 7 to 12 point lead.

We will all be “surprised” at an Illini road upset, when the
Illini lose a 60-56 game, which at many points in the game could have
been a win for Illinois, but were wasted by costly turnovers and poorly
executed offensive sets.

This is a worst case scenario that has taken place three times
already this season. I am tired of watching this game. This team needs
to break the cycle.

It’s rather frightening when you consider what the Illini have
in front of them tonight. A team in a desperate state on their home
floor? Sounds EXACTLY like what they’ll have Thursday in Minnesota. The Gophers
have lost three in a row and are missing their top two ball-handlers.
They’ve fallen to 5-6 in conference, and need a win to stop from coming
apart at the seams.

This Illini team doesn’t take
weak (or perceived to be weak) teams seriously. They don’t try hard
versus the league’s second division, so maybe their extremely tough
remaining road schedule favors them?

They still have to go to Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State
(the one team in the conference with more effort issues than Illinois)
so maybe they’ll get fired up for that. Maybe the idea of perceived
challenge will keep them from getting complacent?

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He doesn’t have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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