Illinois isn't good this season, but that's okay. They've been not good in the past.
Check that: We have been not that good in the past. We're all in this together. And--me and you--we've had some doozies. This one, though, sits atop the pile of garbage.
The 2014 losing streak lasted almost the entire month of January. Illinois won their first conference game on Dec. 31 against Indiana. When the year turned, Illinois won again, this time against Penn State on Jan. 4. Illinois did not win again until Feb. 9, and again, it came against Penn State.
In all, the losing streak lasted eight games and 36 days. Here are the losses with angry quotes from the recap:
Wisconsin Badgers, 95-70
Bo Ryan doesn't simply beat you. He defeats you. He suffocates your offense, forces it to come up for air, and steals the ball just as you takes your first breath. He'll embarrass your defense. He'll humble your season-long ambitions.
Northwestern Wildcats, 49-43
This is a joke. A mean joke. A personal joke that hurts your feelings, and gets the whole Big Ten class to point and laugh, while you run away and never come back. We just called the teacher "Mom." We showed up to school naked.
Purdue Boilermakers, 66-58
If you're craving anger and resignation, get on Twitter and search "Nnanna," "Groce," "Ekey," or "Illinois." You'll find your fix there, full of quick snippets about how the season is over.
Michigan State Spartans, 78-62
Illinois can't rebound. It's maddening.
Ohio State Buckeyes, 62-55
On a night when our star can't score and the freshman carry his weight, the freshman eventually fumble the load and no one picks it up. Illinois loses.
Indiana Hoosiers, 56-46
I hated this game.
Iowa Hawkeyes, 81-74
I'm not happy. I'm proud of the effort, but son of a bitch, that isn't enough.
Wisconsin Badgers, 75-63
I hate this, especially when "this" took place in a year we beat Missouri. That'll be our championship--blissful at the time, but the drink to our drunk dreams in retrospect. Losses have flooded that memory. I'm hungover. I just puked.
In that same stretch of time, Northwestern won five games, Penn State won three, Purdue won four, and Nebraska won four. Michigan won eight. Nik Stauskas went from good to great to Big Ten Player of the Year front runner. Chris Collins went from coach of the worst Big Ten team in years to coach of a decent team. Michigan St. got injured several more times, and Nebraska strung together their first Big Ten winning streak. Iowa fans stayed awful.
Around the rest of the country, Bill Self and Kansas won nine games, Bruce Weber and Kansas St. won six games, and Lon Kruger and Oklahoma won seven games. Rayvonte Rice's ex-school Drake won two games, Jon Ekey's old school Illinois State won six, and John Groce's Ohio Bobcats won seven.
Other things: the state of Illinois froze over and over again with Chicago experiencing its worst winter in 30 years. Obama delivered his State of the Union, Chris Christie fudged with a bridge, Ukraine revolted, and the Sochi Olympics began. The world changed.
Around here, we passed the time idly. We talked about football and about different recruits. We told some jokes. We had a good cry, of course, as did most fans. Mostly, we asked each other this question, like a traumatized child asks his dad: "It won't be this bad ever again, right?" Unless we've re-entered the pre-Lou Henson days, then the answer is probably, no.
Illinois hasn't lost eight straight games since 1974, when the Illini lost 11 in-a-row. That's 40 years of relative bliss. Moving backwards from the 1974 losing streak, Illinois picked up another eight-game losing streak in 1971, midst an era of truly awful basketball. Lou Henson had yet to arrive on the scene, and times were bleak. Teams rattled off six-game skids with regularity, losing to levels of competition from DePaul to Loyola (New Orleans) to Oklahoma A&M. But still, outside of 1971 and 1974, they never dropped eight consecutively. That is, until 1907 and an Illini team that finished their 11-game season on a 10-game losing streak.
According to the Illinois basketball archives, Fighting Illini basketball has been around since 1905. In nearly 110 years, a team has only lost eight straight three times.
Now, that number is four. If the past five weeks have felt like an eternity of losing, that's because they were pretty close--they were a century's worth.