I just got home from that 63-0 loss to Iowa, and my bones are still aching and shivering. Another football season at Memorial Stadium has come and gone, and now we all officially turn our full attention to the hardwood.
Illinois has already suffered a heartbreaking defeat and November isn’t even three weeks old. The Illini lost to Georgetown last week 88-80 in a see-saw affair that presented the Illini with numerous chances to secure a victory. The Hoyas have since gone on to lose to Loyola Marymount in a contest where they were only able to muster 52 points.
Now the Illini turn to Maui. Before we dive into best case and worst case scenarios, check out our Maui Preview Post where we broke down the other teams the Illini could end up playing.
What We Need to See
Trent + Ayo — According to Frazier’s Instagram it looks like he will suit up Monday night vs. Gonzaga.
We didn’t get to see the dynamic duo suit up vs. Georgetown, so this is the Illini’s first crack at a high major opponent at full strength. Does Trent make a big impact on the half court defense? And what does the offense look like in crunch time?
The Defense — Gonzaga is going to score a lot of points, but we need to see the defense step up in games two and three. Illinois gave up 88 points to a Georgetown team that is certainly not an offensive juggernaut. The questions about Underwood’s defense are only going to get louder if the Illini give up 80+ points three days in a row against high major competition.
The Freshmen — The season is young and so are the freshmen, but this is a stretch where we can hope to see some flashes from Tevian Jones, Alan Griffin and Samba Kane. Kane has yet to play for Illinois and Jones and Griffin struggled against the Hoyas. It’s unfair to ask the freshmen to grow up fast, but if this team is going to compete come Big Ten play it would be great to see each of them have flashes and spurts of greatness this week.
A Hopeful Expectation
Avoid a blowout loss against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are really good. Mark Few has an extremely talented and experienced team. They’re size and length is going to be a huge test for the Illinois defense. A positive sign would be to see the Illini keep this one close headed into the second half. Somehow beat Gonzaga? The rest of the week is gravy.
Win on Day 2. Arizona and Iowa State are both expected to have better seasons than Illinois, but this is the perfect opportunity to strike and pick up the first big win of the season.
Fight on Day 3. Hopefully that results in a win, but three games in three days is a tough task. The most likely opponent is Xavier or SDSU. Much like Arizona and Iowa State, these are beatable opponents.
A 3-0 finish would make me forget about football. A 2-1 finish would be glorious. A 1-2 week would be incredibly positive. An 0-3 finish would be tough to take, but not the end of the world.
This week is not about wins and losses. If they lose, they need to make sure it’s not for the same reasons they lost against Georgetown. If they lose to a better team that’s okay, it’s going to happen. But the coaches and players need to be adaptable, continue to execute on offense, and grow as a team defensively.
We’ve already suffered enough embarrassment as a fan base this week. Just get out of Maui with some experience, some flashes of greatness and maybe a W.
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