Realize that we have seen our Illini do this before. In 1999, an 11th-seeded Illini team rode the hot hand of Cory Bradford to an amazing tourney championship game run, before collapsing, exhausted, to Michigan State (who eventually made the Final Four). That run was thrilling, breathtaking; it was a sign that this young Illinois team was more talented than people realized and would be a future force with which to be reckoned. (They made the NCAA tournament the next season and haven't missed it since.) This "run," the one that has them in the Big Ten Championship Game today, isn't quite like that. Like, at all.
Don't get us wrong: We're losing our shit over here. This has been grand, unfathomed fun. But let's be clear: Illinois is not putting on a clinic in the art of basketball, and neither are their opponents. The Penn State game Thursday was hideous to watch, and yesterday, Billy Packer did little to hide his disgust at having to broadcast such an unimportant, unskilled game. (Bob Knight has already earned some Champaign ire — as if he needed more — by refusing to make a prediction on the Illinois-Minnesota game, saying on ESPN, "Who cares?") The Purdue win on Friday was a classic, and probably the best game Illinois has played all year ... and it tells you all you'd want to know about the 2007-08 Illini that the best game they've played all year was in which they committed 21 turnovers.
So no: We don't see much possibility of Illinois beating Wisconsin today. If they somehow pull this off, we're thinking a No. 13 seed ... but seriously, who are we trying to kid? This isn't going to happen; this team is not skilled, and suffers too many mental lapses, to beat a top 10 team like Wisconsin. They're here because the luck that went against them most of the season finally started going their way. And they're not likely to last long. We've enjoyed this little run, and we're pleased to see they had a little fight in them after all. But the NCAA tournament? This Illini team? Please. It's ridiculous to even contemplate. No way.
So relax, Badgers, and all you bubble team fearful the Illini are going to take your spot. Not a chance of it happening. We might not even watch; the chances are too remote.
Illini Are At Least Making Things Interesting [Mark Tupper]
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This in no way was written as a reverse jinx. At all.
I - L - L!!!!)