If it were college basketball, Illinois would be a lock for the NCAA tournament, assured of at least an at-large berth and probably a lofty seed.
But it is the quirky world of college baseball, where 36 wins, a national ranking and a regular season conference championship don't guarantee much for a team that fields grounders north of, say, Chattanooga.
It'll cost you a few bucks but might be worth it. Take a checklist to today's spring football game (2 p.m. start, no TV or radio) and see how the Illini grade out.
A starter's manual, free of charge:
DOWNERS GROVE – Casey Leonhardt has decided to transfer from the University of Illinois, the sophomore center's mother said today.
Spring football at Illinois never will reach the excitement level it does at a Notre Dame or a Nebraska, where fans pay both attention and money in the off-season.
Still, interest seems mighty low this April. Turns out a 17-game losing streak can be a marketing nightmare.
He wants a Big Ten championship, a College World Series berth and lights at Illinois Field.
Anything else, Itch Jones?
Like most struggling football programs, Illinois lacks speed, talent and confidence.
What it does have is incentive.
Itch Jones has every right to be mad at us, a community more in tune with basketball and football and even home shows than his preferred sport.
He is a college baseball coach nearing a college baseball milestone. But not in a college baseball town.
Who said Big Ten basketball is on the ropes? For those keeping count, that's three NIT titles in the last six years.
Leave the Final Four to Kentucky and North Carolina and UCLA. The Big Ten prefers the tiny crowds of Madison Square Garden, where tickets and trophies are cheap.
CLEVELAND – His tender ribs had held up against every wrestler he ran into over three days, so Eric Siebert figured he'd push his luck and wade into the stands at Cleveland State's Convocation Center.
The bracket on the refrigerator says Illinois is in the third round of the women's NCAA tournament, but we know better.
Things don't kick off until the jukebox spits out some country music. That'd be Saturday night in Nashville, where both accents and competition will provide challenges the Illini didn't meet the past few days at the Assembly Hall.