This You Gotta See: Top-flight teams Illinois, Michigan continue on their collision course

The Illini and Wolverines won’t meet for the first time until March 2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After that, maybe the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. After that, maybe another Indy tilt in the Final Four.

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Michigan v Illinois

Kofi Cockburn dunks on Michigan last season.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Illinois’ 94-63 smackdown Saturday of Minnesota — the third-worst home loss for the Gophers ever — was almost uncomfortably thorough.

It left some Gophers players questioning the team’s pride. It left some in the local media discussing coach Richard Pitino’s job security. It certainly made a mockery of the notion the Illini were in danger in Minneapolis, where Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan already had gone down.

Simply put, it was the most impressive performance by a Big Ten team all season.

But then Michigan-Ohio State happened. The one-loss Wolverines’ 92-87 victory Sunday on the Buckeyes’ home floor was so impressive — not to mention so wildly entertaining — it made one wonder whether coach Juwan Howard’s skilled, dynamic, deeper-than-deep team should skip the formalities and proceed to the Final Four right now.

In the one-and-done age of college basketball, the Big Ten hasn’t often been as good as it is right now. One night, it sure looks as though the Illini (16-5, 12-3) — led by the soaring duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn — are the cream of the league, inevitably bound for the top. A day later, it’s clear why Michigan (16-1, 11-1) is still the hunted, not the hunter.

The Illini and Wolverines won’t play for the first time until March 2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After that, maybe the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. After that, maybe another tilt in Indy in the Final Four.

Until then, we ride along on their collision course. Here’s what’s happening:

MON 22

“2020: Season at a Distance” (7 p.m., Marquee)

What was pandemic baseball really like at Wrigley Field? A one-hour documentary from Cubs Productions features never-before-seen footage and interviews as the 60-game sprint unfolded. Not shown: a lot of solid Cubs contact in September.

TUE 23

Illinois at Michigan State (6 p.m., FS1)

The Spartans have won three straight at home over the Illini — each time by at least 20 points — but this is Tom Izzo’s worst team in 25 years. And if you don’t believe that, just ask Izzo’s most anguished facial expressions in a quarter century.

“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (9 p.m., HBO)

Inequitable NFL hiring practices, nonexistent social distancing at youth sports events and an explosion in the popularity of chess are examined. Wait ’til you find out which segment includes scenes from “The Queen’s Gambit.”

WED 24

SheBelieves Cup: U.S. vs. Argentina (6 p.m., FS1, TUDN)

After taking care of Canada and Brazil, this is all that’s left for the Americans. Another tournament title? It’s just what the No. 1 team in the world does.

Timberwolves at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)

You know what? After rookie Anthony Edwards’ dunk-of-the-year moment over the weekend, we’re going to be nice and not even point out that Minnesota has the worst record in the NBA.

Lakers at Jazz (9 p.m., ESPN)

Overlook them if you like, but the Jazz are nearly at the midpoint of the regular season with the best record in the entire league and, OK, fine, the Lakers are probably better. 

THU 25

West Virginia at Baylor (4 p.m., ESPN2)

Time for a look at the big, bad, unbeaten Bears, who missed six straight games heading into the week due to COVID-19 protocols. On the cusp of March is hardly the ideal time to be starting over.

Blackhawks at Blue Jackets (6 p.m., NBCSCH)

Rookie goalie Kevin Lankinen has held Columbus to two or fewer goals three times already this season. Not to tell Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton how to do his job, but maybe he should dial up that very same game plan.

Iowa at Michigan (6 p.m., ESPN)

Once upon a time, the Hawkeyes were the Big Ten favorites. Luka Garza and company could get all their mojo back with an upset here.

FRI 26

Suns at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)

If the one-two punch of starting guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul doesn’t get you, the one-two punch of reserve guards Cameron Payne and E’Twaun Moore (hey, remember them?) probably won’t, either.

SAT 27

Illinois at Wisconsin (1 p.m., ESPN)

Dosunmu is known as the best closer in the country, and it all started in last season’s visit to Madison. A three, a swish, a 15-game losing streak to the Badgers snapped — and the Illini haven’t looked back.

Southern Illinois at Loyola (5 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU)

There’s only one way for Cameron Krutwig and Lucas Williamson to go out in the final home game of their careers: with a win that clinches the Missouri Valley regular-season championship.

Red Wings at Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBCSCH)

The Hawks are 4-0 against their Original Six rival this season. Can’t these teams sneak in an additional best-of-seven series somewhere between now and early May?

Canelo Alvarez vs. Avni Yildirim (10 p.m., PPV, DAZN)

Alvarez wants to fight again on Cinco de Mayo in his effort to unify the super middleweight division, so he can’t afford to take any damage. He’ll go for the quickest KO he can summon here.

SUN 28

Clippers at Bucks (2:30 p.m., Ch. 7)

Remember that back in December when Giannis Antetokounmpo signed the richest deal in NBA history? We’ve got to think he didn’t see the alarming mediocrity of this Bucks team coming.

Red Wings at Blackhawks (6 p.m., NBCSN)

Did somebody say 6-0? Maybe we’re just hearing things.

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