The obvious story line was Hunter Dickinson versus Illinois.
It’s tricky to perpetuate this line with a straight face, because Hunter made plain that he likes Kofi Cockburn and feels no personal animosity toward the Illini team.
On the other hand, you could take offense at Juwan Howard’s refusal to acknowledge Illinois as a rival, because it tends to diminish the Illinois brand. Since Howard rebuffed his home state’s school for the Maize & Blue, way back in 1991 (in the midst of Bruce Pearl-induced sanctions), some Illini fans have correctly felt jilted, even disrespected.
In fact, Illinois is a second-tier B1G school. University of Michigan is better than University of Illinois, by almost every conceivable metric.
Ann Arbor has a cooler downtown. It’s closer to major metropolitan attractions. The academic programs are equal or better. Their airport will get you to Munich or Tokyo and Chicago and Dallas.
Michigan’s football success allows the school to field 29 varsity sports teams. Illinois has just 21. (Ohio State has a whopping 36, including a rifle team. Penn State funds 31.)
So it must be at least slightly infuriating that Howard’s team hasn’t defeated Brad Underwood yet. But Howard, in his #B1GMediaDays availability, couldn’t have praised Underwood more effusively. His refusal to acknowledge Illinois as a rival was also a refusal to disrespect any B1G team.
Yesterday afternoon on the Conseco Banker’s Gainbridge hardwood, Greg Gard bantered with Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic & Eric Hunter — his theoretical enemies.
The day before, it was Maryland’s Donta Scott and Eric Ayala yucking it up with Rutgers’s Ron Harper, Geo Baker and Caleb McConnell. These meetings occurred on the same 20′ square of court, certainly visible to anyone watching BTN while Mike Hall interviewed coaches and players from the xx-chromosome half of B1G hoops.
They’re all friends, whether you hate them or not.
We/Them is a dichotomy that exists only in minds. But it’s an important distinction. Among the B1G, all players, coaches and staff is a We. You are a Them. So am I.
I know I’m a Them because I was on the other side of the stanchions & ropes that protected players & coaches from media. They’re all vaccinated. Are we?
I brought my vaccination card, because the emailed event instructions said someone from the conference might ask, at any time, to see it (or a negative PCR test result from the previous 72 hours). I don’t think that actually happened. The B1G staff was extraordinarily helpful and attentive. Competent and friendly.
Legacy media gained a huge advantage through Covid protocols. It wasn’t hard to hear the coaches and players, who sat fifteen feet away from us. But smartphone mics can’t capture worthwhile audio from that distance. The guys who transcribe words to text, and the guys who plug XLR cables into a mult box (multiple audio jacks, that is), had no problems with the set up. So newspapers and TV stations got the materials they needed.
It was worth going, for me and probably every attendee. Because it was a gathering of friends, and it was nice to see them after a long, lonely winter.
But for you, the fan … well, I hope you got some good coverage from TV and newspapers.