The Fighting Illini Are So Fucking Back Part 2
One more time for my guys in the back:
I shouldn't say I'm surprised. I've been pounding the 2020 Illini drum going back to Big Ten Media day after Eddie and I sat down with Brad Underwood. Of course I had high hopes just looking at the roster and using basic common sense, but talking to Coach Underwood face to face took it a different level.
Fast forward a few weeks into the season and there's major dissent amongst Illini fans. Objectively speaking, December 2nd -January 2nd was a soul crushing stretch of basketball for the Illini
Miami didn't miss a shot for 30 minutes. Maryland was literally given the game as time expired. Michigan woke us back up, but not long enough to offset a junior varsity effort against Missouri and
Benedict Arnold Mark Smith. The absolute DRUBBING in East Lansing to close things out was the cherry on top. It seemed that any hope of reclaiming glory(1) would have to wait at least another year, and potentially even another Head Coach depending on what message board you want to get emotionally invested in. Point is there was a varying degree of gloom hanging over the program, possibly to the extent that it would compromise the momentum gained by the football program towards our overall The Illini Are So Fucking Back campaign.
* Insert Brad Underwood's leadership *
Listen I don't want to make a big deal about this mid-January - I want to make a HUGE deal out of this. Brad Underwood is working wonders in Champaign right now and people need to know about it:
Since getting pulverized by Michigan State, the Illini have bulldozed Purdue by a combined 43 points. They won a close game in the historically-impossible-to-win Kohl Center. There's a tough home win against ranked Rutgers (22nd in Ken Pomeroy's) and probably most impressive - not getting trapped in the Northwestern home game that Illinois normally loses in front of a lackluster crowd.
There's plenty of credit to go around. Again, Underwood is showing why college basketball enthusiasts LOVED the hire. Kofi looks like a top-10 pick. Ayo won't be far behind if he keeps playing so aggressive. You're getting leadership from Feliz, athleticism and heart from Griffin. And probably most exciting is that Giorgi still hasn't really gotten going this year when last season he went for double digits 15 times in 20 conference games.
There's admittedly so much season left so we probably shouldn't get too ahead of ourselves. Especially with the next 6 games - objectively the hardest of the season coming up.
And while on topic, yes it's bullshit that CBS is still at least a year away from carrying a Saturday morning Illini game. Then and only then will we entirely be back as a national wrecking-ball program.
For now, I'll take the 1st-place and ensuing postseason implications each game carries. As we near the mid-point of the conference schedule, I think it's fair to check the "Exceeds Expectations" with respect to the 2020 Illinois basketball survey. So however long it lasts, let us fucking enjoy this moment. We've earned it.
Elsewhere, and because there's never a better time to overreact to Fighting Illini news, we hosted a real-life 5-star football recruit yesterday.
I don't care if he's committed to Georgia. I don't care if that's the closest we get to a 5-star next year and all that bullshit. The fact we have a reason to care about amateur teenage athletes again is one of the greatest gifts God can bestow upon an American sports fan. And here we are caring so go ahead and sue me for giving a fuck. The Illini are back and it's time everybody else wakes up on it.
Hit the (15-year old) tape:
(1) Reclaiming Glory: A lot of people seem to forget that Illinois was once the class of the Big Ten. For me, that was throughout my teenage years when the bond of Your Team really becomes established. Of course I became brainwashed. This was a very real powerhouse program: