Brad Underwood’s squad will be staying in Champaign for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this year. The news broke this morning that the Illini will host the Miami Hurricanes in the annual series between the two conferences.
Illinois holds an 8-12 all-time record in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after falling in their most recent contest at Notre Dame last year. Their matchup with Miami this year will be interesting because it will be the first meeting between the two programs since Illinois got absolutely hosed on a horrible call in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Now, of course all the players have filtered out from those rosters, and Illinois even has a new coach. But us die hard Illini fans don’t forget. It wasn’t Miami’s fault, it was solely on the officials in that game, but that moment sent the Illini into a downward spiral as a program and Miami just happens to be associated with it. Illinois has not returned to the big dance since then, which has been heartbreaking for the Champaign faithful to endure.
Though it seems we say this every year, the Illini look poised to bounce back this season. They shored up a huge (literal and figurative) need by landing seven-foot center Kofi Cockburn (a four-star recruit) over the offseason. The Illini have lacked a true force in the paint for years, which doesn’t spell success in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten brand of basketball. Hopefully Cockburn can create space for the high-octane guards, clean up on the glass, and shut down opponents around the rim.
We are 180 days away from the Illinois-Miami matchup in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and I’m way more excited than I should be. It’s hard not to be when the orange and blue are ranked in Andy Katz’s Power 36 NCAA Preseason. The fight song doesn’t lie, we’re loyal to you, Illinois. I-L-L!
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