An underappreciated basketball program
As a longtime Illinois basketball fan there's one thing that is bothering me about all the attention going to the Illini this year: too many people, nationally and locally, are acting as though Illinois has never been that great a basketball team, or program, except for the 88-89 Flyin' Illini.
Yes, that was a great team but Illinois has had a lot of very good teams in the last quarter-century.
This is, at the least, a top 15 basketball program. And it's getting better.
Over the last 25 seasons, Illinois has had a winning record 23 times (only exceptions: 13-15 in 91-92 and 14-18 in 98-99 - and that last one was the year they almost won the Big Ten tournament as a No. 11 seed). Illinois has finished the season ranked in the AP top 25 in 15 of those years (counting this year). It has finished No. 19, 6, 12, 11, 16, 3, 18, 19, 22, 21, 4, 13, 11, 13 and ?? (this year).
Yet, for some reason the Chicago media (until this year) have treated Illinois much the same as DePaul, Notre Dame or even perennially lowly Northwestern.
But name another Chicago area team - basketball, baseball, football, hockey -- that has had winning seasons in 23 of the last 25 years.
It'll be interesting to see how the Chicago media treat Illinois next year, when I suspect the team will not go undefeated through the regular season. The Illini probably will go back to the inside pages, with those great Bears, Blackhawks and Northwestern Wildcats (the pride and joy of the Chicago Tribune and all its NU alums) out front.