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#AskTCR: Rivalries, Recruiting, and Bill Self’s Return to Champaign?


Oklahoma State v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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While the recent history as gone in favor of the Hoosiers, the Illinois-Indiana basketball rivalry currently sits at only an eight game differential. Indiana leads the all-time series 88-80, having won four of the last five games. The longest winning streak in the series by either team has belonged to Indiana (nine games from 1972-1977). With the next game likely being played in Champaign, I don’t see Indiana’s current winning streak growing larger than four games.

Jalen Coleman-Lands. As a pure shooter, Lands will very likely thrive under a “shoot-first” offense that revolves around scoring. His totaled 71 three point shots made this season (37.97% 3PTM), and a starting spot on Underwood’s roster could see him bump that 3 point total to 100 or more next year.

At 6’5” 225, Smith would fit nicely in Illinois’ backcourt, specifically on the wing. Without Smith, you likely start Lucas, JCL, Nichols, Black, Tilmon/Finke. Pending Smith’s decision, you could slot him in at the three with Kipper to provide a one-two punch at the shooting guard/small forward position. Coach Underwood’s offenses have generally revolved around three guards, so having another bullet in the chamber certainly doesn’t hurt.

Why would Martin be hurt about an offer he “turned down”? (Eyeball emoji)

By retaining Jamall Walker, Illinois has virtually locked up Jeremiah Tilmon. Add Tilmon to the already impressive list of Damonte Williams, Trent Frazier, and Javon Pickett as Illinois commits. We’re still waiting on Mark Smith to make a decision, but the competition is fierce as Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State have all given Smith a scholarship offer.

As with any coaching change, there is an expectation for players that don’t get as many minutes to transfer to other programs where playing time is abundant. Even though Underwood loves the three guard offense, I would not be surprised if the two players you mentioned look to transfer away from Illinois. Especially since there are three guards coming in, with potentially a fourth on the way.

If you’re looking for years when Illinois has not made a bowl game* AND missed the NCAA Tournament, here they are (with records):

2016-2017: Smith (3-9), Groce (18-14, NIT)

2015-2016: Cubit (5-7), Groce (15-19)

2013-2014: Beckman (4-8), Groce (20-15, NIT)

2009-2010: Zook (3-9), Weber (21-15, NIT)

1998-1999: Turner (3-8), Kruger (14-18)

1995-1996: Tepper (5-5-1), Henson (18-13, NIT)

*Bowl system unofficially started in the early 1980’s

Brad Underwood has arguably the easiest path, with basketball being the easiest sport to “rebuild” over a short period of time. Personally, I don’t see Illinois football competing for a Big Ten West title until the 2019 season. Underwood could very easily have a Big Ten Championship in two seasons with the roster that’s currently here, and the recruits that are coming in.

When playing NCAA Football 2014 on my Playstation 3, there were two teams I looked to add to the schedule during the non-conference slate. Looking to boost the strength of schedule and create more marquee matchups, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Missouri Tigers. The appeal to go head-to-head with the Irish would be a great primetime game for two potentially strong programs, and the Arch Rivalry game would be a lot of fun to re-visit in the future. Even though Illinois never beat the Tigers, the atmosphere at the Edward Jones Dome was always exciting (see 2007), and a GREAT benchmark for where Illinois was at the beginning of the season.

For basketball, a home and home with the Kansas Jayhawks could be a LOT of fun. Just think, Brad Underwood bringing Illinois back to the top of the Big Ten while Bill Self continues to dominate the Big 12. Both teams looking for an early season “signature win” to boost their NCAA Tournament resume. Could you imagine the scene at the State Farm Center when Bill Self returns to Champaign?