So, How We Doin'? At Iowa
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I'm just not ready for this one. I had this plan in my head for this season where both Iowa and Wisconsin were really bad. And they might be - we don't know yet. I'm still holding out hope. But if Iowa is really good, then... I just don't think I'm ready for Iowa to be good again.
This is why I lose my mind when reading Twitter (or message boards) during the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Iowa wins AT Virginia and I see Illini fans saying "YES, Iowa beat Virginia - Big Ten off to a dominating start." Live-stream of my thoughts when I see stuff like that:
"No no no no NO. Iowa CANNOT be a top-25 team again this season. They lucked into Garza and that led them to three nice seasons but THEY MUST GO BACK DOWN. Doesn't anyone understand how gross the words 'YES, Iowa won at Virginia' are? They MUST be bad."
I feel nearly the exact same way about Iowa and Wisconsin this year. I wanted them 9th and 10th in the Big Ten. I wanted to be able to say that our rise has contributed to their fall (especially Wisconsin). Wisconsin's fall began a few years ago and now they have to replace 4 of 5 starters. Iowa had a Nice Little Team but Garza/Weiskamp/Frederick are gone so time for a rebuilding year.
So what happens? Wisconsin sophomore Johnny Davis and Iowa sophomore Keegan Murray both look like they'll be 1st Team All Big Ten players this season. They might even be All Americans. KenPom's player ratings currently have Murray as the #2 player nationally and Davis as the #10 player nationally so yeah, Iowa and Wisconsin are probably going to be good. KenPom's players ratings actually have six Big Ten players in the top 10 nationally (and Kofi isn't one of them) so everything about how the Big Ten is shaping up this season makes me angry. These teams are supposed to take a step backwards. They're not supposed to find that one of their freshmen from last season is suddenly a breakout All American candidate.
Man, once I start writing in this direction I find out just how bitter I am. I guess a lot of it comes from my first Big Ten road trip with fans since the Ohio State game in March of 2020. I attended almost every road game last year (we didn't get credentialed at Northwestern or Ohio State), and they were very pleasant road trips in empty buildings with no "Underwood calls a timeout because the opponent is on a 9-0 run and the noise is deafening" moments. I missed the only true road game this season (Tyler covered Marquette), so this will be the first time I'll have to just sit there and take it.
"It" being Iowa beating us. Because I'm pretty sure that's going to happen. And that's what I'm going to predict below. Which means it's likely (in my mind) that I'll be taking two trips to Iowa City in 16 days where I have to sit there and watch Iowa fans celebrate while I'm absolutely dying inside. You guys are lucky that I love you because I wouldn't do this for just anybody.
During the Cincinnati loss - maybe around the time where I realized that our 15 point lead was now a double-digit deficit and we weren't coming back - I started to think about the December schedule. If we remain a mess in December, what if we lose to Iowa, then Arizona, then Missouri? I know, I know - Missouri is awful (which hasn't meant much recently). But as we were shooting 7-40 to close the Cincy game, I started to ponder it. I'm an Illini fan since the 1980's, so...
- Iowa makes me think of Bruce Pearl and I still get angry and grit my teeth.
- Arizona makes me think of Lute Olson lobbying the refs in the Elite Eight in 2001 and I still get angry and grit my teeth.
Which means that three of the next four games are the "honestly, I'd rather not watch the game and then just check the score 30 minutes after the game is over" kind of game for me. I'm not joking - the fan side of me would rather just fast forward to the end of the game, deal with the final score that pops up on my phone, and not have to live two hours of internal strife. Now, the "I do this for a living now" side of me can remain professional and sit there in press row tweeting and taking notes and writing about what I observed once it's over. But inside, I'm going to be absolutely dying tomorrow night.
Like, we all know that Jordan Bohannon is hitting seven threes, right? It's the penalty we have to pay for all the Illini fans all over twitter mocking him for the fight video this summer.
Also, remember this?
Let’s see if that banner stays up if you guys do win. Good luck https://t.co/iQxoEEzKwA— Jordan Bohannon (@JordanBo_3) March 14, 2021
He got into a Twitter spat with one of our podcast guys after Illinois beat Iowa in the semifinals in Indy. The spat continued on Sunday, and Dan responded to something he said with "let's discuss later - busy watching the championship". Bohannon's response was to suggest that the banner would eventually come down (due to some future Illinois cheating scandal). There's nothing more Iowa basketball than an Iowa player on Twitter going with "Illinois cheats!" the day after losing to Illinois, but still, it means Bohannon is hitting seven threes tomorrow night. It just does. I accepted this in March when I saw the Twitter back-and-forth.
Actually, I'll tell you the exact moment I accepted it. The website Larry Brown Sports wrote about the Twitter spat. Here's a snippet from that article:
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon threw some shade at Illinois while in a Twitter spat with an Illini fan site.
Bohannon was in a Twitter spat with an account for an Illinois podcast. The two sides went back-and-forth after Illinois beat Iowa 82-71 in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Saturday. Things continued on Sunday, which led Bohannon to throw a zinger at Illinois.
Bohannon said "Let's see if that banner stays up if you guys do win."
The moment I read "an Illini fan site" I knew I was going to have to wear it. The schedule wasn't out yet, so I didn't even know if we'd play at Iowa this year, but if we did (and we do), I accepted then and there what was going to happen. The spat wasn't my Twitter account, it was one of our podcasts (although I should note that I did enjoy said spat - crazy that a college basketball player would engage and toss cheating accusations like that), but the fan site represented here is my own. And now there's an Illinois-Iowa game at Iowa and I'll be the IlliniBoard representative covering the game. The way that the universe works, I'm absolutely certain that I'm going to have to wear it tomorrow night.
(I'm not suggesting that Bohannon would know or care that some IlliniBoard representative would be in attendance tomorrow night. I'm just saying that this feels like how the world works. He has some feelings about Illinois. He's going to share them in basketball form. I'll be in attendance and I'm going to have to just sit there and take it. And then I'll get more and more angry when he goes 1 for his next 12 from three in the next week.)
Those are my feelings towards Illinois-Iowa tomorrow night. I can still remember the sound of the Iowa crowd cheering the kickoff return two weeks ago, and I know I'm going to hear that same sound when the threes splash through the hoop tomorrow night. I've never seen a win in Iowa City, and while I'd give anything for that to change tomorrow, without Curbelo, I just don't think it will. He single-handedly won the Iowa game in the BTT last year, and he's out tomorrow, and I can't see a win.
Iowa 84, Illinois 71