As confetti streamed downward from Honored Jerseys to Lou Henson Court, priority recruits joined (their future fellow?) students at the center I, jamming together in a mass of humanity that constituted by far the best super-spreader event of the COVID years, as far as Illini basketball is concerned.
Stoic, taciturn Adam Fletcher, known to you all as “Fletch,” literally danced on the baseline and smiled while doing it. Brad Underwood found Fran McCaffery through the crowd, and congratulated him on a game well fought.
Chester Frazier ran around the entire crowd, along the edge of the SFC bowl, navigating the least obstructed path to Sarah, his wife. He called to her over the crowd. Somehow, she heard him. And despite carrying a toddler on her hip, she too navigated the crowd to meet him at the final balustrade/cattle fence.
It’s a good lesson: Remember what’s important. Prioritize. Accentuate the positive.
Illini basketball had just frustrated all its fans en route to an incredibly lucky, mathematically improbable #B1G championship.
Now, five days later, Illini fans will sweat through morning coffee until the ’22 Illini tip off against the B1G’s least predictable team. OR, if you’re in Indianapolis and connected to the DIA, perhaps you’ll be drunk by tip time.
The B1G’s hottest team, Iowa, continued its offensive romp on Thursday, dropping 112 points on Chris Collins’s purty good Northwestern defense.
Iowa had won five in a row before stubbing its toe on Coleman Hawkins, a seven-footer guarding the perimeter, a crazy Puerto Rican whose passes seemed wild as his defense was sound.
When not playing Illinois, Iowa is pretty great. They were pretty great against Illinois, too. At the end, Illinois had more points. Despite everything.
Defense wins championships. On Sunday last, defense won a championship. It certainly wasn’t Belo’s passing or ‘Monte’s free-throws. But those two were instrumental in the lockdown, and ‘Monte again saved the game with an offensive rebound that drove the Hawkeyes Radio Network crew crazy.
Friday morning, Illinois will play a team that lacks confidence. As Trayce Jackson-Davis said after Indiana overcame an error-prone Michigan team, he’s never played on the #B1GTourney Friday before.
Indiana could win, and it wouldn’t matter. Brad would like “back-to-back on something,” and #B1GTourney championships are his best opportunity. We’d all prefer it.
But the pressure is off here. Winning any games in Indianapolis is unlikely to affect Illinois’s seed in the dance. Losing won’t help or hurt in that regard.
The team can play for the enjoyment of the game, and to work on coverages, and to implement sets that haven’t been scouted.
It’s a great opportunity. So enjoy it.