After a pair of demoralizing losses before Christmas, Bruce Weber's Fighting Illini men's basketball team have righted the ship, and are out to a perfect 3-0 start in Big Ten play, including a big win over a top 25 team in Wisconsin. After starting out conference play at Iowa on the same night as the football team's bowl win against Baylor, the Illini got much needed wins against the Badgers and Northwestern. In the game against the Wildcats, the Illini couldn't do much wrong at all and finally played the way everyone expected them to play for much of the season. It may have been that Weber gave them a wake-up call after the losses to UIC and Missouri, or simply the fact that the players felt embarrassed and wanted to make a statement. Well, they did against Northwestern, shooting a blistering 70.5% from the field for the game, which was an Illinois record for field goal shooting in a game. The first half alone the Illini only missed 4 shots, enroute to a lead that they would never relinquish. However, the next stretch of games will be a tell-tale sign as to how good this Illinois team is. With games on the road at Penn State (Tuesday, 8:00 pm, Big Ten Network) and then a rematch with Wisconsin next Saturday, followed by home games with Michigan State and Ohio State, the possibility of remaining undefeated in conference play seems a stretch at best. Currently the Illini are 13-3 overall and still perfect in the Big 10 at 3-0. Penn State will be coming in on a high note after upsetting Michigan State at home over the weekend. We shall see how it transpires.
Finally, what in the world is going on with the women's basketball program at Illinois? It seems like the program is going in reverse after their latest setback, an overtime heartbreaker to Northwestern 69-66 on Sunday afternoon at the Assembly Hall. They still are not drawing very big crowds, so not a lot of people are seeing this destruction occur. Jolette Law means well, but with all of the suspensions and eventual transfers from the program, you wonder if she is just Theresa Grentz lite. I seriously think that athletic director Ron Guenther missed the boat badly on this hire, because in order to build this program back up to respectability, you first need to put a team on the floor that is going to put people in the seats. At this rate, they wouldn't fill up one side of Huff Gym with the crowds they have been seeing. Plus, at 6-10 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, a trip to a postseason tournament seems very unlikely at this point. Maybe things will improve, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.