Definitely not saying this because I’m a grad student at Marquette.
While it’s easy to get down about a November loss, especially when the rest of the month’s schedule for Illinois is filled with cupcakes, that Marquette loss is going to look REALLY GOOD all season long.
Did anyone watch the Golden Eagles take on No. 1 Kansas on Tuesday night in Hawaii? They took care of them with ease. Kansas had no offensive identity all night, and not a single shot was easy.
While Illinois may have had advantages like being at home and facing (an “injured”) Tyler Kolek, the Illini stuck with them for about 35 minutes, and still had a chance to pull off the W at the end of the game. Just a seven-point loss to Shaka Smart’s team, which may be No. 1 in the country next week if they take down Purdue on Wednesday in the Maui Invitational Finals.
Still a lot of big opportunities for the Illini in non-conference play, including Tennessee (which gave Purdue a big fight on Tuesday) and FAU (which may not be that good), so it’s important to claim at least some victories there.
But while the Marquette loss (and a few so-so performances) kept the Illini out of the AP Top 25 this week, that defeat won’t hurt a whole ton when we get to Selection Sunday.