Thursday, January 31, 2013
Sense of urgency for Illinois?
By Luke Lapinski
Illinois surprised a lot of people when it shot out of the gate at 12-0 to begin the year. But the Illini have dropped six of nine since then, and now sit at just 2-5 in Big Ten play. Can they get this turned back around?
It's tough to fault a school for losing games to the likes of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Then throw in a late non-conference loss to Missouri, and it's not all that surprising that John Groce's squad has dropped off a little. Then again, that's life as a Big Ten team. And if they want to make something out of that impressive start, they'll have to get back on track against stiff competition. The victory over Ohio State at the start of this month was big, and the Illini certainly have some nice resume-building wins over Gonzaga and Butler. But their next stretch of four games could go a long way towards defining their season, starting with a trip to No. 13 Michigan State tonight. After that, they host Wisconsin (Sunday) and No. 3 Indiana (Feb. 7) before traveling to No. 23 Minnesota (Feb. 10). Put another way, the next week and a half could really put Illinois in a tough spot -- or it could be a great opportunity to grab some impressive wins.