So, you say that you're having trouble dealing with the current basketball season at the University of Illinois? Well, let me tell you, things aren't as bad as they seem. Yes, the Fighting Illini are encountering a down year, but then again, all teams sooner or later go through this. Despite what people keep telling me, Illinois fans are spoiled, because they have been used to cheering on winning teams for nearly a decade now, and the first sign of trouble in paradise, they want to run the head coach out of town. 2005 seems like a long time ago when the Illini went on that magical run to the National Championship game, but let's remember that there were 5 legitimate pro prospects on that team, and this year's crop is nowhere close to that caliber. So, with that being said, here are 5 steps that you, the Fighting Illini fan can do to keep the faith.
1. Support the team anyway- I know it is hard to support a team that keeps going down to defeat game in and game out, but fans are fans for several reasons, and this is one of them. In looking at the Assembly Hall on game night the past couple of outings, there have been a lot of people disguised as empty seats. Believe it or not, the team needs your support and if you are not there cheering them on, then they will think that you have given up hope. I realize that people are busy, and this year especially people are finding things to do rather than go to the Assembly Hall. If you have tickets that you are not going to use, why not give them to a friend, so they can experience the ambience that is Assembly Hall. A full house speaks volumes, and it also looks good when the games are broadcast on the Big Ten Network!
2. Wear your colors proud- Okay, so the Chief is no longer dancing at halftime, but that doesn't stop many of the faithful from going through the motions of the 'Three In One'. It really is a sight to behold, and if the story isn't conveyed to the younger generation, I'm afraid in 20 years or so if it is still being done, many will wonder what is happening. Of course, many Illini fans still proudly wear their Chief Illiniwek attire to sporting events, but I've heard grumblings from people that say that they don't feel right wearing it anymore. I guess to each their own, but until the "thought police" outlaw such behavior, it still should be done.
3. Look to the future- I know this one may be tough for people on the anti-Bruce Weber bandwagon, but the next couple of years should be very exciting. We may not win the Big Ten title next year, but at least we will have a couple of pure shooters that will be back with the club. Transfer Alex Legion will be eligible after the fall semester, and Jamar Smith should be cleared to play following redshirting this past season. Then, the news gets even better for 2009, when several players are set to join the Illini. Guys like Brandon Paul, D. J. Richardson, Joseph Bertrand, Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head will undoubtedly bring the Illini back up to where they were a few years ago. Just look what it did to Ron Zook's football team. Also, Bruce informed us today that he has been looking at a seventh grader. A SEVENTH GRADER!! That might be a bit much, but I guess you have to start somewhere. Weber goes on to say that the kid actually looked pretty good, but wouldn't even consider a commitment from anybody like that until they at least get into high school. At any rate, the future looks very bright, so if Illini Nation can get past this year and possible next year as well, then things will improve.
There, that ought to about cover it. Remember, this is just a basketball game, and there is certainly more worth fretting over than how the Illini are doing. This little bump in the road will pass along soon enough, and if the future holds true, the Illini will be back to battling for Big Ten Championships rather than sweating over making the "Big Dance".