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Illini basketball

The Hottest Team

Illinois won an improbable championship on the last day of the B11 season in 2002.

It’s hard to see how Illinois wins on Senior Night ’22.

Iowa’s win streak is the best in the B1G (equaling Wisconsin). The Hawkeyes can’t miss from three. They’ve got the best pro prospect in the league* and they’ve finally, in Fran’s 12th season, learned how to play defense.

Andre Curbelo has a lot of untested theories about breaking Iowa’s press.

But if Illinois does win, you couldn’t have a better launch to the postseason. It would be like 2020, when Illinois pulled off an impossible win over Iowa, on Senior Day, against the odds.

The reason it might happen is explained in Life, the Universe and Everything: Distraction.

Illini players, maybe even their coach, will be so overwhelmed by their emotions that their basketball game won’t get overthought. They’ll be on autopilot.

That’s good. They know what to do instinctively, so at this point, thinking would counterproductive.

Just sayin’ is all.

Is it foolhardy to suggest #EveryDayGuys will be distracted by their emotions? Brad Underwood was pretty adamant after the Penn State game that, yes, he gets nervous in those last minute situations. Were you expecting that answer, or the conviction and forthrightness with which he proclaimed it? (If no, how great is it to be surprised by your head coach after all these years?)

Underwood’s pre-Iowa presser continued in that direction: “I wear my emotions on my sleeve, as you guys know,” said Brad. And yeah, I’d say we (the dozen-ish people who spend half an hour with him 4x/week during the season) do know it.

He cries on Senior Day. We’ve seen it.

Everybody was loose during Saturday’s media availability. Yes, we talked about Iowa, but mostly the focus was on culture and growth and vomiting and gaining maturity and learning from experience, including vomiting.

Life lessons.

Brad opened his presser eating an apple, which he didn’t bring into camera view on the direction of DIA media handlers. They also seem to have turned off his microphone while he talked about the Harry & David fruit box he receives every month from a friend at Stephen F. Austin, whom he described as a business partner with whom he still does business.

Hence the 50 seconds of silence right after he walked within mic range , here:

Was it the “business partner” aspect that spooked them? Do they not like pears? Piper and Doug also captured videos, but I already checked: The Harry & David portion isn’t there.

Well, we can form conspiracy theories if we want to. The important point is that the team was loose, and its coach was relating at a personal level. Just like human beings.

At this point of the season, @IlliniMBB knows everything about basketball that #EveryDayGuys can be taught. They’ll need to bring a defensive intensity if they want to win against the B1G’s hottest team. Maybe that’s innate now, too. Who knows.

What we do know is that defense wins championships, until said mantra is properly rejected as horseshit. It’s actually the team that scores the most points. Iowa is good at scoring points.

First one to 90 wins.

*This accolade varies depending on Illinois’s opponent. The best player in the Big Ten on Sunday, March 6, is Iowa’s Keegan Murray; because Illinois plays Iowa on Sunday.