CHAMPAIGN — Well, it looks like there will be a basketball game late Friday night at State Farm Center.
Not too long ago (OK, it was Thursday morning), I wasn’t sure if the much-anticipated Illinois-Michigan game would happen. And I won’t really believe it until they are on the court at 8 p.m. — even if the full allotment of Orange Krush won’t be there to give Hunter Dickinson some grief.
Michigan missed games against Purdue and Michigan State in the past week because of COVID-19 cases within the team and staff. It’s been a difficult time for a team considered a Big Ten title contender going into the season. Now, not so much.
I would suggest fans hold off before being too critical of the Wolverines’ program. COVID-19 has affected teams across the country and at all levels.
Those that have avoided long pauses definitely are doing a good job. That should be the aim for every team. But it is a challenge.
Illini of the Week: Women’s basketball’s Aaliyah Nye.
The sophomore guard scored 21 points to lead her team to a 68-47 home win this past Sunday against Wisconsin. It was the first Big Ten win of the season for Nancy Fahey’s team.
Nye hit seven three-pointers, tying a school record for treys in a Big Ten game previously set by Amber Moore. Nye added seven rebounds and two assists.
Nye and friends return to action Sunday afternoon at Penn State, with the Illini (6-8, 1-2 Big Ten) looking for a Big Ten winning streak in a winnable game against the so-so Nittany Lions (7-7, 1-3).
Don’t miss it: Men’s basketball vs. Purdue, 11 a.m., Monday.
What an awesome way to spend the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Not only do you get a potential classic between a pair of ranked rivals, but you will also have plenty of time afterward to hang out on campus or go to dinner. While wearing masks, of course.
Illinois won’t have to wait long to play the Boilermakers again. The teams are scheduled to meet again Feb. 10 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. Tip is a bit later than Monday’s game, scheduled for 8 p.m on the second Thursday of next month.
Making a list
Barry Lunney Jr. will be the 20th Illinois offensive coordinator I have covered since joining The News-Gazette staff in 1989.
Here are the rest:
Gene Dahlquist 1988-91
Tom Beck 1992
Greg Landry 1993-94
Paul Schudel 1995-96
Buddy Teevens 1997-98
*Ron Turner 1999-2003
Dan Roushar 2004
+Larry Fedora 2005
Mike Locksley 2005-08
Mike Schultz 2009
Paul Petrino 2010-11
^Jeff Brohm 2011
Chris Beatty 2012
Billy Gonzales 2012
Bill Cubit 2013-14
*Bill Cubit 2015
#Ryan Cubit 2016
Garrick McGee 2016-17
Rod Smith 2018-20
Tony Petersen 2021
Barry Lunney Jr. 2022-
*Served as head coach and offensive coordinator
+Left before he coached a game
#Fired before he coached a game
Ready to rumble
Or grapple. Or fight. The Illinois wrestling team under first-year coach Mike Poeta faces a difficult weekend.
First, on Friday, the team travels east for a dual against No. 17 Rutgers.
Then, on Sunday, the Illini open their home schedule against second-ranked Iowa.
Don’t go to Huff Hall for the match. The team is competing this weekend and in the future at State Farm Center. New COVID-19 rules are in place so fans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, the team will share a new building with the volleyball, gymnastics and hockey teams.