Illinois' 12-point win Sunday over Indiana pretty much summed up the season.
The Illini were, by turns, brilliant, acrobatic, dominating and hugely entertaining when they weren't missing open shots, kicking the ball away in a series of inexplicable turnovers and letting a wounded Indiana team back in the game. They could have won by 25.
In other words, they were inconsistent [–] overpowering one moment and maddening the next.
Don't get me wrong. I love this team and think they're very good. But Illinois fans, spoiled as they are, don't think in terms of good anymore. They think in terms of how the Illini match up with the best teams in the country.
So how do they match up? Here's the age-old cliche: tell me which Illini team will show up, and I'll tell you how they match up.
The Illini, at their best, can beat anybody, except maybe Duke, Villanova or Connecticut. Both those teams just have too much strength and talent.
But the Illini can really play. They're talented at every position, although with the exception of the Wisconsin game they really haven't put together a dominant performance for 40 minutes against a good team.
Sure, the Illini had a great win against Michigan State, but that was the Dee Brown show.
On Sunday against Indiana, the front-court guys, particularly Augustine and Randle, were excellent while the guards sometimes struggled.
Great players and great teams become great because of one thing -- they're really good every time out. This hit-and-miss stuff is a sign that the Illini, in terms of the national elite, just are not there.
That's no crime. At 22-4, Illinois has had a great year and still is in contention for the Big 10 title. But three of the final four games are on the road, and the lone home game is against first-place Iowa.
Does anyone really think the Illini will sweep?
They surely could if everyone gets on a roll at the same time. But if it hasn't happened yet, why would it happen now?
Still, the Illini can be thrilling to watch [–] suffocating defense, speed, athleticism, consummate team play, mind-boggling effort. My heart says they can do it. My head says I'm kidding myself.