Illini nation has reason to be nervous after PSU loss

By Ryan Dixon

I’ve had a little time to mull over Illinois’ awful loss against Penn State. It would be too easy to analyze all of the numbers everyone has been talking about: only 33 points scored, no free throw attempts, shooting only 30 percent from the field.

Two simple statements from Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis during the postgame press conference stood out, though.

“No one has done anything yet. No one is in the NCAA Tournament.”

A lot of you might be thinking, “Duh,” right about now, but DeChellis’ words should hit hard for Illini fans after such an embarrassing loss.

Sure, Illinois is having itself quite a bounce-back season. Get over it. They haven’t done anything yet.

‘X’ number of wins won’t mean squat unless this team wins a game in the NCAA Tournament. But the Orange and Blue’s rampant inconsistency should scare the ever-living poop out of the Illini faithful.

Sadly, head coach Bruce Weber knows it’s his team’s recent passionless play that’s creating these troughs in the Illini’s regular season line graph. Weber emphasized a lack of emotion from his players numerous times after the loss.

That, too, should make Illini fans nervous.

If Illinois, a team that was vying for a Big Ten Championship, can’t raise its intensity for Penn State, then what are they going to do in a first-round matchup against a no-name conference winner?

It actually might work out better for the Illini if they slip to an eight- or nine-seed so they end up playing another major conference foe.

Look at the Illini’s remaining schedule: at OSU, home against Minnesota and MSU, and at Penn State.

If the Illini don’t get their act together, they could very well be one of the few Big Ten bubble teams hoping to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament – because “no one is in the NCAA Tournament.” And the tournament committee isn’t ready to let eight Big Ten teams into the field of 65. You know, because 38-33 scores are bad for the ratings.

And what is it about the Nittany Lions and the Assembly Hall?

Penn State owns a three-game winning streak in Champaign. They really know how to hit the Illini when and where it hurts them most.

Penn State, which snapped Illinois’ 10-game home winning streak Wednesday, also ended the Illini’s 33-game home winning streak in 2006. Man, I really thought McBride’s three was good.

Nevertheless, Illinois digressed again. Horrible timing. On paper, Wednesday’s game was the easiest victory Illinois had remaining on the schedule.

Unless the Illini experience a total collapse, (as in, they play like they did Wednesday for the rest of the year) they should still make the NCAA Tournament.

Weber will just have to make sure to humble his roster and get them to understand they haven’t done anything yet. No one has.

Except Indiana. They’ve done lots of losing.

Ryan Dixon is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]