It doesn’t matter that this year’s Duke team is overrated because its name is Duke. It doesn’t matter that it’s inexperienced and young.
Illinois is in the middle of a win streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and that streak is heading into its 26th year. That’s the important thing.
Whether it’s Chris Collins or Shaun Livingston or even John Scheyer; some Illinoisans need to be reminded that there’s only one team that’s undefeated in a quarter-century at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s the Illinois Fighting Illini.*
Also important is that any uncertainty following the Baylor loss is now forgotten by the people whose haunted memories matter most: Illini players.
Yes, it’s also nice that AP Top 25 voters will regard the Triumph at Cameron as proving something something undeniable pedigree.
A week after Baylor’s pre-game prep and in-game execution pantsed the Illini for 89 consecutive seconds, Illinois pounded Duke for about 37 minutes, while still committing enough boneheaded errors to provide the coaching staff with talking points, and keep practice interesting.
At most, two or three of those AP voters will remember that Kofi was inconsistent around the rim. Some of them know who Andre Curbelo is, but as long as the Illini narrative begins and ends with Ayo; Belo won’t be praised for igniting the offense, nor blamed for his wild rampages through Duke’s press.
Brad Underwood said Belo’s never faced a press. By the same token, Kofi and Giorgi have rarely battled defenders who combine freakish height with freakish athleticism.
Duke was a great lesson in that sense. The Illini bigs learned they can’t rely on low-post moves that lesser opponents were physically incapable of stopping.
Can one declare a coming out party for a chap as taciturn as Da’Monte Williams? Before a crowd of dozens, with millions more watching on TV, Monte continued his recent Arc Odyssey, swatted & recovered an alley-oop, and perpetrated Little Things on unsuspecting Dukies.
People should start comparing Monte to Lucas Johnson. He gets in people’s heads. And armpits.
Ayo won praise for an all-around effort, and he wasn’t humble about it. He blew off the notion that beating Duke means something, but accepted the suggestion that he played a complete game.
If you’ve seen any references to Bryant Notree, Matt Heldman or Chris Gandy over the last ten days, you can rest assured that Tuesday’s game at Cameron has already cemented itself a place in Illini lore.
It doesn’t matter whether it was a good game. It was A Great Game.
*Even if this statistic is not true, it’s true anyway. You know it in your heart.