Illini Wonk
Saturday, January 21, 2006
  Northwestern strategy: Don't piss 'em off
The Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team plays at Northwestern today. For Illini fans and returning players, the trip to Evanston will no doubt bring back memories of last year's game and the despicable conduct of the Wildcat fans.

This year, the Wildcats are hoping to avoid a repeat. A columnist for the Daily Northwestern writes: Whatever you do folks, don’t throw food this time.

But more importantly, the Illini desperately need a win on the road, which is never an easy prospect considering the quirky Wildcat schemes. To say today's game is a "must-win" is an understatement. The Illini are currently tied with three other teams in fifth place in the Big Ten Standings. A loss today would put the Illini ahead of only Purdue and Minnesota, potentially in ninth place in the Big Ten Standings and leave them out of the running for a conference title.

Could the Illini be out of the conference race after only five games? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, here's why: Bruce Weber believes that it will take 12 wins to take the conference title this season. Considering that six teams are ranked in the top 25, he's probably right and you certainly couldn't win it with 11 wins or fewer. That would mean Illinois would have to win 10 of their last 11. To do that, they would have to sweep their last six games at home, which includes games against Iowa and Indiana. Although that won't be easy, it would be even more difficult to only lose one of their last five road games. Those include contests at Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Losing only one of those four would be a remarkable achievement to say the least.

So, the Illini have to win today. It's that simple. For Gametracker, click here.
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