For some reason I have become fixated on the merits of Illinois's basketball team. Having gone public with my belief that they are a "fraud," I now actively root against them so that my uninformed opinion can be validated. This is one of the great things about making my stupid opinions public—it makes watching sports more interesting.
As you'll recall, I first discussed Illinois prior to their road game with Purdue. I said that a loss against Purdue would prove that they are not for real. They lost to Purdue, so I declared them not for real. I also opined (on Twitter) that Illinois was now facing the likelihood of an 0-4 start in the Big Ten, with upcoming games against Ohio State, Minnesota, and at Wisconsin.
Illinois promptly went out and destroyed Ohio State.
So was I wrong about Illinois? Of course not! I was wrong about Ohio State.
Coming into the season, I was suspicious of all the love Ohio State was getting. They lost a lot from last year's Final Four team, and have mostly unproven players coming back. They do have a scorer's scorer in DeShaun Thomas, but the rest of the team is mostly question marks.
They really did nothing in the non-conference to dispel these doubts. They won all the games they should have won, and lost the two games (at Duke and against Kansas) that you can excuse them for losing.
What happened, really, is that I kind of forgot about my doubts about Ohio State. But I remembered them well when I watched them play Illinois on Saturday. Mainly, they had a bad shooting day—something I've watched a lot of, lately. But it was also pretty clear that their offense is not a well-oiled machine. Thomas can score, but he's the only one who can consistently create his own looks. And he has to create his own looks, because they didn't get a lot of open looks out of the flow of the offense.
I'm sure Ohio State will be fine, but they look like a team that is going to have a tough time winning on the road in the Big Ten. That was my takeaway from their game against Illinois.
As for Illinois . . . Perhaps they can be put back in the "jury's still out" category. If they beat Minnesota or Wisconsin this week, they'll have done probably enough to assure that they get to 9-9 in conference, which would make them a clear tourney lock. That would be a good result for that team. But we shall see...