Merry Christmas, Illini fans!
By Jeff Mayfield
Send a link to a friend
Going into this 2013-2014
basketball season, I tried to warn you faithful fans that this
year's edition of the Fighting Illini was young, inexperienced and
would likely take its lumps. For crying out loud, this team lost
five seniors, most of its scoring and rebounding punch, and a lot of
its veteran savvy. Anytime you're working multiple freshmen into any
lineup, the possibility for meltdowns exists. I just wanted to
temper the expectations as much as I could because usually our fans
think we will never lose a game.
But after Saturday night's wild and woolly 65-64 nail-biting win
over the No. 23 Missouri Tigers, maybe I undersold this team a bit.
You have to like the way this team fights and competes. And when you
think about it, they've never really been out of any game yet this
season. In fact, it's not a stretch to think that maybe those goofy
fans are correct: This team could be 13-0!
So, where do they go
from here? Well, one thing is for sure: This team can't take
anything for granted. You saw what can happen when Illinois lets
down for even a couple of possessions. The losses at Georgia Tech
and at Oregon, in games that I believe were winnable, hopefully have
taught these guys some valuable lessons. So, I'm not going to say
that any game is a given. However, if they do win Saturday versus
UIC at the United Center, they will take an 11-2 record into
conference play, which is not too shabby when you consider how young
they really are.
[to top of second column]
League play is gonna be an altogether different animal. I believe
that this season is shaping up to be major trench warfare. And
Illinois will have to survive and muster a decent start in spite of
a brutal early Big Ten schedule. They play Wisconsin, Indiana,
Michigan State and Ohio State in the first seven games... How do you
like that to start your league tilts? Merry Christmas, Illini fans!
We'll be on the scene for some of the early league action, and we
will give you an early report on how things will be shaping up.
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
Respond to the writer at