Oh, how long have we waited for such a glorious Saturday, with the sun spanking down on the greensward, 1,609 fans tense and standing for the final pitch, and Dan Hartleb’s Illini outlasting the greatest baseball team in Indiana history, 2-1.
Dan Hartleb’s pitching-strong Illini are building momentum for four of the season’s most significant baseball challenges: a 6:30 p.m. makeup date with Missouri on Wednesday at Busch Stadium and three weekend home dates against Indiana, 11-1 in the Big Ten and ranked 13th nationally by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
It doesn’t pay to get too far out on a limb.
Like, if I projected Illinois to reach the 2015 Rose Bowl, who’d take me seriously? Or how quickly would you call for the men in the white suits if I predicted both Illini basketball teams would do what UConn did?
Let’s put the numbers into perspective.
First, of 85 permissible scholarships handed out by Illini football coach Tim Beckman next fall, about 60 will go to athletes from beyond the Illinois boundaries (failure of in-state recruiting is another story).
OK, college basketball aficionados, did you know:
— Prior to 1910, no coaching was allowed during the progress of a game. The first violation drew a warning, the second a free throw. Don’t confuse the players’ minds, right?
With each passing day, John Groce’s Illini are gaining ground.
Take Monday. While Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III and Michigan State’s Gary Harris were committing to the NBA draft, the Illini celebrated their 92nd Kiwanis Club banquet featuring five returning starters and three promising transfers who have already enlivened practice sessions.
Having witnessed so many unanticipated turns Saturday, you should not expect a knowledgeable prognostication of what’s likely 140 days hence when Illinois hosts Youngstown State.
But it’s our job to try. First, the positives from the annual Orange-Blue football game:
As you may have noticed, three-point shooting matters in the NCAA tournament. Very often a single arc-shot decides a game.
Did the Big Ten miss a golden opportunity?