Illini basketball

There’s a basketball game tomorrow

It’s #SocialMediaDay tomorrow at the #StateFarmCenter. The promotion is already sold out, so I guess it’s useless to tell you that buyers got four tickets plus a screen printed #Illini shirt with their own social media handle on the back. Traditional media were given their own version of the shirt, even old man #Tatelines.

Also on social media, @IlliniAthletics is encouraging fans to download #IlliniLights from their preferred app store.
It’s the same tool I raved about after the Purdue game. It seemed neat in Mackey Arena, perhaps because I mistakenly believed it to be original.

Then I saw it at the Crisler Center, and the thrill was gone. Now it’s just depressing. Illinois probably isn’t even third in introducing this gimmick. It’s just that I haven’t seen it elsewhere.
Illinois will also host the Cubs’ 2016 World Series Trophy on Saturday, allowing fans to come and be near it, two hours before tip-off. On Sunday, the first 250 WBB fans will get free pizza. One raffle winner will take a 40″ TV home.
In other words, anything to keep fans’ minds off of basketball.
Actually, Matt Bollant says his team is a lot better, so in WBB’s case, there’s basketball too.

The men face a Minnesota team that’s down on its luck and in need of a boost.
For some reason, The Minnesota game always represents a significant moment in any Illini season. I usually link to Tracy’s dagger three when writing about Minnesota games in the Groce era, but today I’m recalling the late winter of 2012, when Illinois played an offensive masterpiece for the first time in ages, and still ost at The Barn.
By that point, everybody knew Bruce Weber was toast.
As Illinois preps for another offensive explosion (more like the Iowa game than, say, any other game) most of the chatter surrounding the program has nothing to do with contest on the court, but rather who’ll be coaching the team next year.
Meanwhile, John Groce has updated the dates on the Illini Inspirational Ladder.

The perception of this program improves the farther you get away from it. In State College,  I met a lovely young couple who’d returned to campus specifically because they thought a match-up between the Nittany Lions and Illini would be a “good game.” Max had been an undergrad when Illinois was relevant. Melanie went to Va Tech so she probably still thinks of Illinois as a tournament team (albeit an overrated/ choke job tournament team).
It’s hard to say whether the players have thrown in the towel. They’d certainly tell you they haven’t, but these guys aren’t stupid.
Asked about it this afternoon, both Jalen Coleman-Lands and Malcolm Hill were somber in responding. But neither seemed depressed overall. Malcolm was his cheerful self, except when asked if he’s contemplating the end. To that, he demurred.

Anyway, there’s a game tomorrow. And although it might be too depressing to think about Illini basketball at the moment, I’d like to offer my experience in State College as a motivational tool.
Max and Melanie still think of Illini sports as good. Their own program has already recovered from the most horrific scandal imaginable. Things do get better, even when they seem completely broken.
After a couple drinks with them at the Allen Street Grill, I moseyed down to the basement bar, Zeno’s. I watched a band called Pure Cane Sugar while sass-talking barkeep Dave Staab told me what to drink, and refused to serve crap that I ordered just because it was local.  Fuck Yuengling’s.
This might seem irrelevant to Illini basketball, but it’s part of the experience. You visit college towns and drink with the locals.
And when your team is going nowhere, it’s nice to  know that beer is still looking out for you.