clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

This is Illinois Basketball’s most important week in 15 years

New, 2 comments

Let’s do it.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I have a stupid gimmick on Twitter as of mid-January.

It’s very nice of all of you to keep liking these tweets either:

a. Out of pity

b. Because YOU ACTUALLY THINK I WAS HOLDING THE PROGRAM BACK

I’m going to believe it’s choice A.

Anywho, it’s real now. Illinois is good. And this week, we’re about to figure out how good.

But not only how good, we’re about to figure out if Illinois is turning the corner for the years to come.

Of course, any year in the past decade when the Illini were essentially knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament before Friday, they could have just won the entire tournament and punched a ticket to March Madness. That could happen this year, too.

That’s not the same as what can happen over the next seven days at State Farm Center.

Friday night vs. Maryland and Tuesday night vs. Michigan State — both sellouts — are arguably the making for the most important week for the program since the Final Four run in 2005. The stakes were high then because, you know, there were only four teams left and the entire nation was focused on this unbelievable Illinois squad.

Since then, a whole lot of nothing for the most part.

But now, seven days — two games — that can propel Illinois into position to win the Big Ten for the first time since that ‘05 group. A chance for Illinois to show that it can punch its weight and jump — MAYBE — into the top 10 or 12 teams in the country.

ISN’T THAT EXCITING??? HOW DO YOU NOT GET EXCITED ABOUT THAT!?

And, sure, just like how the Illini can win the Big Ten Tournament any year, the Illini can also go on a seven-game winning streak early in Big Ten play any year — just like how Illinois Football won four straight games in the middle of conference play and suddenly had a chance to win the division until the second-to-last week of the season.

But if Illinois wins two games this week and is in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten, it won’t any longer be about that Illinois could win the Big Ten any year if the chips fall the right way. It will be about that Illinois certainly can and is in the conversation to win the Big Ten any year (for the foreseeable future).

Of course, the stretch doesn’t get any easier after next Tuesday. There’s suddenly road games out east against currently ranked Rutgers and Penn State teams, but those games won’t be nearly as meaningful in the big scheme of things if the Illini lay an egg at home this week.

However, let’s say the Illini sweep the home slate this week against those ranked teams.

Well, then maybe the following week will be Illinois’ most important week — since last week.

So, yeah, no more WTF, I’m coming to terms with this fact Illinois is good now because we’re about to get the kind of week we haven’t had in 15 years when the entire nation had its eye on the Illini.