Three straight Illini victories that didn’t put me into the vicinity of a heart-attack – that’s a cause for celebration! More importantly, Illinois’ 76-58 win over Purdue on Saturday, coupled with Michigan’s victory over Wisconsin, vaulted the Illini into a 4-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa. Indiana messed up its chance to be part of this discussion by getting thoroughly demolished at previously winless-in-conference Minnesota yesterday.
The way that no one can win a key game on the road in the Big Ten has reached epidemic proportions. That makes the Illini’s Super Tuesday game at Wisconsin tomorrow night a critical point in the season. A victory would give Illinois the upperhand in the Big Ten race with a road win at one of the toughest arenas in college basketball, not to mention knocking Wisky out of that first-place tie. Just as important for Illinois is another signature win that builds the case for at least a #2 seed for the NCAA Tournament. This is a huge game for the Illini (and for that matter, the Badgers, too).
The Over/Under Teams in College Basketball:
An argument about a team’s rank in the college basketball polls is usually an argument in semantics since it’s a pretty useless indicator of success when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. However, I’ve got to comment on two egregious mistakes that I hope will be rectified when the new polls come out today as we recognize the most overrated and underrated teams in the nation:
1) Most Overrated Team in the Country – It’s unfathomable to me how Louisville is still in the top 25. Maybe the nation’s sportswriters and coaches continue to be mesmerized by Rick Pitino’s wardrobe. Hopefully, in the wake of the Cardinals getting pounded by Rutgers (?!) on Saturday, they’ll stop drinking the Kool-Aid and finally realize what the average college basketball fan has known for weeks: this year’s Louisville team is not only the most overrated team in the country this year, but they are probably one of the most underachieving college basketball teams of all-time.
It’s going to get far worse for Louisville since their remaining Big East road games are at Villanova, Cincinnati, Syracuse, West Virginia, and UConn. Has there been any preseason national top 5 team in history that ended up not making its own conference tournament, much less the NCAA Tournament? That’s a very real possibility. This season has been an awful return to the Big East for Rick Pitino.
2) Most Underrated Team in the Country – This feels as good as a root canal to say this as an Illini man, but even before Iowa handled Indiana and Ohio State in successive victories this past week, the Hawkeyes have deserved some love from the national scene. In addition to the aforementioned wins from this past week, Iowa has beaten Illinois, N.C. State, and Kentucky. Sure, the Hawkeyes have suffered a couple of bad losses, but it seems as though the poll voters are as averse to cutting the team some slack for the great wins they’ve had so far as they are to punishing Louisville for their horrible performances this season. No Big Ten team is looking forward at all to traveling to Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the next few weeks while no other team in country is going to want to face this Hawkeye club in March.