Illini Wonk
Friday, January 21, 2005
  The search for meaning
It was bound to happen. The Illini had set expectations so high so far this season that they had to disappoint sometime. They weren't just winning games, they were blowing out good and bad teams alike. So, when the Illini were taken to overtime by a good Iowa team, it raised a few eyebrows.

Media post-game coverage focused mostly on the close call. When I picked up my USA Today this morning, the front page sports teaser had a picture of Roger Powell and said "Illinois survives a scare." (Their write-up is here). The headline in the Chicago Sun-Times was Illini scared but unscathed.

Then, it was like unleashing the pundits who, as always, were waiting in the wings to swoop down and over-analyze the meaning of the game. Why was Iowa able to hang with Illinois at home? Are the Illini slipping? Did Iowa show the way to beat Illinois?

Matt Trowbridge of the Rockford Register Star, for one, thinks that they did. In his column, titled Iowa falls, but shows how to beat Illini, he gave his keys to beating Illinois:

(Thanks to College Basketball for bringing this to Illini Wonk's attention).

Pundits, who get paid to write, will always try to make meaning out of a game, even when it might not be there. Illini Wonk believes that is what happened in the case of the Iowa game. The Illini simply had an off game. Iowa can take some credit for that off night, but nothing they did forced Rich McBride to miss wide-open three-pointers or Roger Powell to get stuffed by the rim on a lay-up.

Yoni Cohen at the aforementioned College Basketball wrote: Anytime a teams shoots less than 35% from the field but still manages to defeat a Top 25 opponent, they're something special. IW agrees. This team continues to find a way to win, this night on the back of Luther Head.

The blogosphere had some good coverage of the game here, here and here.

UPDATE: Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald also believes the Iowa game showed the way to beat the Illini and offers a how-to to interested opponents.

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