Football is about to start, but the basketball schedule just came out. Now it's time to give basketball its sole moment of fame for the next 3 months. I'm going to give you my spot predictions on each game of the season, similarly to how Trevor just did it. Why I am doing this now, you ask? Because optimism is still high, my friends. Here's the schedule:
The Illini will head into Las Vegas at 5-0 with an opening round matchup with Indiana State. I think we beat Indiana State, and proceed to play the winner of Baylor and Memphis. I'm going to predict that Baylor wins and we play them in the championship. A regrouping Baylor squad falls early to the Illini. This has us sitting at 7-0, ready to face Miami.
We roll into the Miami game, still mad at them from the NCAA Tournament, and trounce them. We then come back home and have an easy win over American. The Illini sit at 9-0 ready for their matchup with Villanova at the Madison Square Garden.
The Rough Patch
Villanova will be Illinois' toughest and most fun non-conference game. In the Jimmy V Classic we will face the Villanova Wildcats on ESPN in primetime. We fight, but come up with a loss. The team goes from the Big Apple straight to Chicago for the United Center matchup with Oregon. They regroup and get a nice victory in front of a large crowd, all in orange. Finally they come home to
Assembly Hall State Farm Center for a game against Hampton, in which they easily win. Now comes the Braggin' Rights game with Missouri. Missouri lost a lot from last year and we win easily. Then we finish the non-con season out with an easy victory against Kennesaw St and start the B1G Conference season with a record of 13-1.
Big Ten Season
The Rough Patch 2.0
The Illini have a brutal start to the conference season with 4 of the first 5 on the road. I say they lose the first two, but win against Maryland in the third game, at home. A toss-up against a good Nebraska team with us most likely losing because it's in Lincoln. This drops us to 1-3 in conference play and 14-4 overall. People are now negative and calling for Groce's head if he loses to Northwestern.
The Winning Streak
But then, just when we think it's just go to be like the last two seasons, the Illini go on a winning streak that put them at the the top of the conference. First a rivalry victory against Northwestern, gives the Illini some confidence. The boys use that confidence to beat both Indiana and Purdue at home to put us at 4-3 in conference. Then a nice win at the barn lifts the team to 5-3 and 18-4 overall. A thumping of Penn State has fans ecstatic and we are now on a 5 game conference winning streak. A win against Rutgers puts us at 20 wins on the season, with a lot of time left.
The Final Stretch
A February game in East Lansing on a Saturday. Sound familiar? This is a huge game for both the Illini and the Spartans. For Illini fans, it feels nice to be back at this point again. Nationally televised, huge conference game, and the Illini are in it playing none other than the Michigan State Spartans. In a close battle, the Illini fall just short. Defeated, the drop the next two games against Michigan and Wisconsin. But now it's time for revenge. Sitting at 20-7 we will look to knock off Michigan State at home. And we do exactly that. Remembering the last contest Leron Black has a breakout game and the Illini are confident looking at the final four games of the season.
The Illini are able to repeat last year's contest in Iowa as they grab a win. We once again beat Northwestern, and this time knock off Nebraska at home. We go on to take care of business on the road against Purdue. This leaves us at 25-7 heading into the Big Ten Tournament, red hot.
And now it's time for football. 7 days.