A little over a month ago, the Illini were riding high, on top of the conference standings, and sporting a 15-3 overall record after just defeating Ohio State, who was ranked in the top 10 at the time. Since that time, the Illini have gone just 1-9, the only win coming against Michigan State, who ironically, was also a top 10 team when the Illini beat them. Now, the Illini are 16-12 overall, and near the bottom of the Big Ten at 5-10. Coming into this season, it was unfathomable to think that the basketball team could trump the disastrous slide that the football team achieved, but it has happened. Playing their way off the proverbial NCAA "bubble", and now fighting for a NIT bid, the "Slidin' Illini" have 3 games left in the regular season to salvage something before the Big Ten Tournament. Believe it or not, if the Illini win their last 2 games at home, and somehow, some way, find their game at Wisconsin in the final game of the season, they will STILL have an outside chance to make the Big Dance. This scenario is very unlikely given the recent struggles of this team, but if the players decide to finally put it together, anything is possible. The first chance comes on Sunday when Iowa comes to the Assembly Hall (5:00 pm, BTN). I'm not saying that this is even a possibility, it is just food for thought. It is hard to fathom a team that lost as bad as they did at Nebraska even having a remote chance to redeem themselves, but first things first, they need to beat Iowa. However, it is probably too late for Weber, regardless.
The Illini women's basketball team wraps up the regular season this weekend when they travel to Madison, Wisconsin to battle the Badgers. Even though their record is not good (11-17 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten), they have at least been respectable recently, unlike their male counterparts. Given the past history for the women, they tend to play their best basketball at the end of the season, and with their Big Ten Tournament next weekend at Bankers' Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, they could make some noise. However, it is probably too late for Law, as the record has not indicated that she should stay around. Athletic Director Mike Thomas has repeatedly stated that he will evaluate all coaches at the end of the season and look at "the full body of work", and the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances may be all he needs to see. Hmmm. Sounds like a familiar trend to me.
Finally, even though it feels like football weather outside, Tim Beckman won't have his team take the field for nearly 5 months, but ticket prices for the upcoming season were announced on Wednesday, and the prices have actually come down since last season. Sideline season seats average about $33 per ticket, while single-game tickets for Big Ten games will be $50 (non-conference games are half of that at $25). Seems like the athletic department wants fans to come out to games, and are afraid that a lackluster home schedule will prevent them from doing so. Spring practices begin in March, so it is not that far off.