Slice it however you want, 2018 wasn’t a good year for the Illini.
This will be positive. I promise. Maybe it’ll be blind optimism, but that’s better than consistent negativity!
I’ll spare you the specific stats of the last 12 months, but Football missed a bowl game; Women’s Basketball didn’t win a Big Ten game; Men’s Basketball is in a rut; Baseball and Softball missed NCAA Tournaments; and there were individual champions among other sports, but no team championships. Of course, the closest anyone came was Volleyball, who self-destructed in the Final Four.
But that’s a good starting point. Wasn’t it great to feel pride in something again? To be able to wear your Illini gear out and about and be like, “This is fun.” Of course it did.
As a senior graduating from Illinois in May, I’ve been told about the days when Dec. 31 just marked the turn of a calendar and the basketball schedule to Big Ten play. When Dec. 31 is the day before the Rose Bowl. Those kinds of thoughts.
Yet, that hasn’t be the case over the past few years. Barring a remarkably long winning streak during the return of Big Ten play for the men or a double-digit winning season for the women in conference games, both are going to miss the tournament again. And then we’ll flip the calendar to the spring as we wait for summer. Then there’s fall camp, enthusiasm around football, and, potentially, another season without a bowl. All that to get back to basketball. And then we’re here again.
It’s not a very fun cycle to be in. We can all agree on that. And, at some point, it has to end. I wrote about that very point back in November 2017. Boy, that feels like ages ago.
Maybe it’s a bad point to make. Maybe there is just something going on out of our control where this is what life is like and it’s as good as it gets.
Wow, that got dark.
But, maybe it isn’t, ya feel?
Sure, at that point in 2017 the article was just, “Illinois WILL EVENTUALLY be good at football,” with men’s basketball coming a Rutgers game away from the NCAA Tournament. Now, it’d probably just be, “Illinois WILL EVENTUALLY be good.”
And it’ll get there eventually. And if it doesn’t? Well, there’s a boatload of other sports to keep you occupied in the meantime. Volleyball should be just as good in 2019. Baseball and softball are bound for Tournament berths. And don’t forget about Men’s Gymnastics, and Tennis, and Wrestling, and Track, and, etc.
And then before you know it, it’ll be August again. Time for football in Memorial Stadium. And something will happen on the field. And
maybe hopefully it’ll be different than this season. If it isn’t? There’s basketball. And if that fails?
Well, it’s a brand new decade in 2020.
Happy New Year, Illini nation!
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