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When I opened the back door to let the dog out, I could hear what sounded like a really big jet taking off from Willard. Really loud.
So I pulled up my app. Saw which plane was taking off. A 737-400, so that's why it was so loud. Much bigger than anything that usually flies in and out of Willard.
I clicked on the tail number. Yep, headed to South Bend. A 737-400 seats around 200 people, so Notre Dame basketball players really get to spread out on the flight home.
Thinking about 13 players and 4 coaches (plus some support staff) flying home on a 737 made me think about, well, (motions to everything happening in college sports), all of this. Lincoln Riley is off to USC. Brian Kelly is off to LSU. Notre Dame is looking for a football coach. And there's plenty of money to go around for everyone.
Including the players now. Could NIL have come at a better time? Trent Frazier is the spokesperson for Impact Physical Therapy during a season where he's suffered both a shoulder injury and a knee injury. If I'm that physical therapy office, I probably can't believe my luck that a rehabbed Trent Frazier returned to the court ahead of schedule tonight and helped the Illini win the game. I hope they sign up 300 new patients tomorrow (and Trent gets a bonus check for it).
And then I hope every Illini fan buys a Trent Frazier shirt at Gameday tomorrow (Trent gets the proceeds, you know) to show their appreciation for this senior warrior. You know, I'm not even sure if I should be saying any of this? Should I be telling fans that they can buy a Trent shirt now to directly support him? It's legal now, but the NCAA has my mind so messed up the last 30 years that I feel like I shouldn't say that. Or maybe a member of the media just shouldn't say it at all? I have no idea how any of this works.
So I'll just head off in this direction. It's been a really weird 20 months. Covid killed one basketball season and kept the fans away from another. After a year where the college football coaching carousel was very quiet, it's now as loud as it has ever been. Illinois is playing Notre Dame the night that it's announced that Notre Dame's football coach is taking the LSU money and running (while they're possibly in line for a playoff spot with a loss or two on Saturday). Mike Brey and Brad Underwood appeared to discuss it before the game. Krush is chanting "LSU, LSU" at the Notre Dame bench. And the Illini player with the physical therapy sponsorship just healed himself in record time and willed his team to victory.
And I mean that. After four minutes, everything still felt all disjointed. Then Trent checks into the game and I took to Twitter.
I'm so mad that Trent is coming in after a TV timeout. He deserves a glass-breaking, "oh my God that's Jason Bourne, DANIEL LARUSSO IS GONNA FIGHT cheer from Krush.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) November 30, 2021
Brace on his right shoulder, brace on his left knee, Trent stealing the ball and going coast-to-coast to give the Illini the lead.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) November 30, 2021
There is no RESPECT gif strong enough to place here.
The internal fanboying I'm doing right now in Trent's direction is nearly unmatched. He's playing at 62% health. Favoring one shoulder and the opposite knee. Absolute warrior.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) November 30, 2021
I almost tweeted that Trent had a brace on both knees. He wears those black leggings so it's hard to see. He definitely had a brace on his left knee. And possibly his right knee as well? I had this whole "three of his four appendages are damaged and here he is turning the game around" tweet set up but I couldn't verify that there was a brace on his other knee.
But it's not just Trent. We learn after the game that the other Super Senior, Da'Monte, was puking at halftime. The flu bug has bit Illinois, costing Jacob Grandison a week, preventing Austin Hutcherson from being at the game tonight, keeping BBV out, and now, apparently, sending Da'Monte to the bathroom stall. And what does he do? Comes out and dishes out 5 assists and grabs 6 rebounds all while playing solid defense.
What else can we say about these two Super Seniors? Between injuries, suspensions, and the flu, this is a team that hasn't played a full game with everyone yet. Three starters were missing from the game on Friday and then tonight, Trent and Jake are back but Hutcherson and BBV are out (and I think Podz might be dealing with the flu as well?). All of this means that Da'Monte has to start at PG (no Curbelo) and Trent has to live out a Mr. Mister song. The result?
Illinois 82, Notre Dame 72
Now, a lot of this is because of Kofi and Alfonso. In this little three game back-on-track streak here, Kofi is averaging 30 and 10 and Plummer is averaging 24 per game. You're not going to win games without scorers. See the Cincinnati game.
But this game isn't won without Trent and Da'Monte. One is injured and hasn't practiced, one is puking, and they're the two to steady the ship and guide it to a safe harbor. I wasn't surprised one ounce that this was the direction that Brad Underwood went in the locker room:
I'm not even sure I need to say anything else. After a complete mess of a season so far, while facing a game where it seemed like 4-5 players might be out, Trent and Da'Monte toughed it out and led us to a win. Make all the noise you want, college athletics. Sometimes it just comes down to toughness.
Speaking of college athletics, a quick postscript here. I just went to close the open tab where I had checked the flight tracker to see if the flight I heard take off was headed to South Bend. The tab had refreshed. The plane had landed there... and then took off an hour later. Headed from South Bend to Richmond, Virginia, due to land at 3:12 am. I guess I'm breaking the news here: Notre Dame is so very obviously targeting Richmond Spiders coach Russ Huesman to replace Brian Kelly. Stay tuned to IlliniBoard dot com for more on this breaking story.