Tuesday, February 01, 2005

UNDISPUTED (and a preview)

Illinois is now a unanimous number one everywhere. They received all 21 first place votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll, all 72 first place votes in the AP poll (including the one from Mr. Austin Bishop of the Neshoba Democrat in Philadelphia, MS, last week's lone holdout), are ranked #1 by all of ESPN's "experts" in their power rankings, and are number 1 in every other conceivable poll or ranking you could look at. The question on everyone's mind is how long will they stay there. This evening's game will go a long way towards answering that question

After a huge win on the road at Wisconsin last Tuesday and a blowout win at home against Minnesota on Saturday, the Illini now travel to the Breslin Center to take on the Michigan State Spartans tonight. These two teams meet only once this year during the regular season so there is a lot at stake. If Illinois wins, they will have a two game lead on the Spartans and Wisconsin with eight games remaining. This puts them in a great position to win their second straight outright conference championship. Should the Spartans pull off the upset, they would tie the Illini for the Big 10 lead, although Illinois could still guarantee itself at least a share of the conference title by winning out. However, if both teams win out, the Spartans would get the number 1 seed in the Big 10 Tournament because of the head-to-head victory. While this may not seem like a big deal, this is an issue of pride, not to mention the fact that the number 1 seed should have the easier tournament path.

Who will win tonight? That is a great question. The victory at Wisconsin was a great win because of the Badgers' 38 game home winning streak, it was a key conference road win, overcoming the Badgers disciplined style of play, not to mention the fact that the two teams really don't like each other. Michigan State presents a different challenge. Like the Kohl Center, the Breslin Center is a tough place to play. The bigger challenge however, is the athleticism of the Michigan State players. These teams don't have the dislike for one another that the Illini and Badgers have. In fact, there are a lot of connections between the players and coaches so bragging rights are on the line. So who will win? No outright predictions this week but remember this: Unlike the Spartans, the Illini have shown they play their best in the biggest games when the lights are brightest. Every time they have been challenged, they have risen to the occasion. Illinitalk doesn't expect that to change tonight.

<< Home |

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?