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Illinois: Now or Never by Max
The Fighting Illini of Illinois is off to their best start in school history currently sitting at 21-0. This team has a great balance of size, quickness, long range shooting, and experience. This is a rarity in the college hoops climate, where players with any ability get bad advice and usually declare for the NBA if they have any chance of getting drafted. But this team has stayed together and because of that it has reaped the benefits and it is definitely the team to beat in the Big Ten and one of the two best teams in the nation. The following will look into the future of what lies ahead for this team and discus minor flaws that may prevent them from reaching their goal of an NCAA Championship.
The Illini basketball team is one of the most unselfish squads in the country. It seems that a different player leads the team in scoring each game and when a crucial basket is needed they can turn to one of nine players. Nothing is more evident then last Tuesday night when this team was in deep trouble against Wisconsin. With less than eight minutes to play, the Badgers were up eight and seemed to have this game in control. This would have given them their 39th consecutive victory at the Kohl Center. The Illini basketball squad needed a spark; and senior Jack Ingram stepped up and delivered. Ingram hit back-to-back three point shots, with the second one putting his team ahead for good. He finished the game with eight points and kept perfection alive for his team.
But Illinois' goal is to win the Championship; finishing undefeated would just be an added bonus. Making the Final Four appears to a certainty because of the close proximity of their first four games. Assuming this team does not go into the tank and lose more then three games the remainder of the season; they will be the number one seed in the Midwest. That sets up perfectly for them with first round games likely coming in Indianapolis. Two easy wins here and onto the Regional Finals they would go. Here, Illinois would reap a great benefit with these games be played in their backyard at the United Center. The entire arena would be filled with Orange making these two home games for them.
After that, the Final Four is a mere two and a half hour drive down to the Gateway City. Everything seems to favor the Illini basketball team this year with a beautiful draw and that would allow them to travel by bus to every site. Since the trips would all be less then three hours away, the Orange Crush faithful will dominate the stands at every venue. Illinois truly hit the lottery with everything falling into place this season.
The only thing that could plague this team is a three-guard offense with a dominant big man. The Illini are vulnerable inside, but do have enough big men to throw at teams to combat foul trouble. The first exam will come on Feb. 1 when they travel to East Lansing to play the Spartans. Michigan State fits this criteria to a T, and expect the Izzones to be rocking. But as previously stated, Illinois can afford a couple of losses and still maintain the No.1 seed in the Midwest. It truly is now or never for the Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team.