Is this the week when disappointing Illini finally start showing up ready to play?
Good Illinois can take your breath away. Bad Illinois makes you want to punch a wall. Illini fans’ knuckles are like ground beef.
Good Illinois can take your breath away.
Bad Illinois makes you want to punch a wall.
Illini fans’ knuckles are like ground beef after the Big Ten’s most talented team was upset for the second and third times in league play — by Maryland and Ohio State — last week in Champaign.
“We have to quit riding the emotional roller coaster that is this team right now,” coach Brad Underwood said.
“It’s frustrating. I wish I had the exact answer. We’re going to have some very tough meetings. We’ve got to get this figured out. We’re excellent — we’re one of the best teams in the country — when we play.”
And when they don’t?
“It’s time to put a stop to the ‘don’ts,’ ” he said.
They couldn’t match Baylor’s intensity in their biggest test of the season and got smacked around. They failed to match Missouri’s enthusiasm in a bad-looking Braggin’ Rights loss. Most recently, they were dominated in the first half by Ohio State. The Buckeyes roared out of the gate as the Illini (9-5) pulled the covers over their eyes and went back to sleep.
Another game or two like that, and there will be no avoiding it: Illinois will begin to be viewed as one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball.
Good Illinois spanked Duke on the road, blew out Minnesota and put on a spectacular second-half show at Northwestern, overwhelming the Wildcats 53-13 after the intermission. Are the “good” guys coming back? If so, any chance they’ll stick around this time?
Here’s what’s happening:
Bucks at Nets (6:30 p.m., TNT)
Like it wasn’t hard enough already for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks to break through to the Finals, now they have Kevin Durant and James Harden to deal with. Which of these teams will Kyrie Irving be on when the Eastern Conference finals get here?
Rockets at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
Christian Wood vs. Zach LaVine? Now that’s what we call a clash of superstars. Look, you can at least flip to this game during the Bucks-Nets commercials.
Class is in Session with Doug Glanville (7 p.m., MSN)
From Ivy Leaguer to big leaguer to host of his own, brand-new TV show — Glanville is one impressive dude. In the debut episode, he digs into the topic of minority coaches in sports with guests Dusty Baker and Herm Edwards.
Kansas at Baylor (8 p.m., ESPN)
Remember how the Jayhawks used to own the Big 12, like, every dang year? The unbeaten Bears are the big cheeses now.
Blackhawks at Panthers (6 p.m., NBCSCH)
Will the Hawks’ defense tighten up? Will their offense find some continuity? Who the heck is their No. 1 goalie? And most important of all, can they convince Joel Quenneville to leave Florida with them?
Penn State at Illinois (7:30 p.m., BTN)
“I’m getting really frustrated with really poor, lack-of-emotion, non-competitive starts,” Underwood said. Not to tell the man his business, but he probably ought to let his team know that before the game.
Northwestern at Wisconsin (8 p.m., BTN)
From the hard-to-believe files: The Wildcats have won three times in Madison since Chris Collins took over as coach in 2013.
UConn at Tennessee (6 p.m., ESPN)
The Lady Vols aren’t the national titans they used to be, but it’s still a one-of-a-kind spectacle when they take on Geno Auriemma and the mighty Huskies.
Lakers at Bucks (6:30 p.m., TNT)
At times last year, a LeBron-Giannis collision in the Finals seemed almost inevitable. Only the James Gang held up their end of the bargain, of course.
Illinois at Michigan State (11 a.m., Fox-32)
A number of positive COVID-19 tests in the Spartans program forced the postponement of this game.
DePaul at Marquette (5 p.m., FS1)
We could come up with plenty of unflattering numbers to describe Blue Demons basketball in recent times, but we might not be able to top this: 1-14 in the last 15 trips to Milwaukee.
Lakers at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
LaVine scored 38 but missed a last-minute shot for the lead in a 117-115 loss at Staples Center two weekends ago. If all you knew about the Bulls was that, you’d probably figure they must be pretty good.
Red Wings at Blackhawks (11:30 a.m., Ch. 5)
Division rivals again! OK, so it’s only temporary. Winner gets first crack at negotiating a comeback contract with Chris Chelios.
NFC Championship Game (2:05 p.m., Fox-32)
Aaron Rodgers is having his greatest season. He’s practically a shoo-in for MVP. Nobody is having more fun on the field. But none of it means squat if he doesn’t get that long-awaited second crack at the Super Bowl.
AFC Championship Game (5:40 p.m., Ch. 2)
Buffalo at Kansas City — now that’s a sexy matchup. And this is the last time you’ll ever see “Buffalo,” “Kansas City” and “sexy” in the same sentence.