It was, as they say, not a banner weekend for University of Illinois athletics. Football? Loss to Northwestern. Head coach Lovie Smith? Fired. Basketball? Loss to Missouri in the annual Braggin' Rights showdown. Yes, it can now be said, without a doubt. Brad Underwood's team was overrated to start this season, and there are a lot of question marks as conference play gets underway this week.
Yes, overrated. You aren't ready to win a national championship when you barely beat Ohio, get thumped by Baylor and lose at Missouri. A top five ranking was cute, but it wasn't deserved. You gotta earn it, and this Illini team still can, but every night in the Big Ten will be a dog fight. I'm disappointed, but I'm not ready to concede that this team can't be great. It's still possible, but we're not there just yet.
Yes, I remember the win at Duke. That was good, but to be a great team you have to bring it every night, and you have to respect your opponent. By most accounts, Missouri wanted it more and head coach Cuonzo Martin had his team better prepared. Sure, the officiating was terrible, and yes, it probably cost the Illini a chance at a victory. But so did turnovers, defensive breakdowns, questionable late game coaching strategy and free throw shooting.
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