Before we continue with more of my thoughts on the remaining Big Ten schools, I want to extend an apology to you all because it’s been quite some time since I last had anything published. My excuses are good though, I promise.
First, I was fortunate enough to play host to my dad and sister for a week when they came to visit. I couldn’t be happier that I got to show them around my new stomping grounds all while being there to experience their first time across the pond. We couldn’t have asked for a better week, I got to show them some amazing places around Austria and the weather cooperated by being superb the whole time. My dad also got to see me play a game live – his first since the Miami game of last year – and it happened to work out that I shot 5/6 from three on my way to 26 points in a much needed win for my team. My performance also awarded me with my 2nd player of the week award from my league.
Secondly, I’ve had a hellacious basketball schedule the past ten days, in which three games in that span all resulted in losses. It’s been a tough week but I think my team can pull through and get it together in time for the playoffs, which start the second week of April. Even still, the fact that my team has secured at least 4th place in the regular season is an accomplishment considering we were picked to finish 7th in the preseason!
My last excuse can be blamed on the TV drama Scandal, where I managed to watch the entire series in a matter of four days. After my rough calculation, I figure I spent a total of 27 hours in that four day span in front of my computer watching Olivia Pope do work. And the President.
But okay, enough with my excuses. Here are some stories from schools in the Big Ten that we had to bus to for games.
Northwestern – Welsh-Ryan Arena – Capacity 8,117
Northwestern and Welsh-Ryan Arena felt more like a really big high school gym rather than a really small college arena. In fact, a capacity of 8,000+ surprises me a little. I thought it would be smaller than that.
In my four years as an Illini, we went 2-2 in Evanston, with some really tough losses coming in my first two years. However, one memory stands out above the rest and I think I will share it here. I couldn’t laugh about it then, but enough time has passed that I’ve gotten over it.
It was my freshman year, and we had just lost a game that would end up costing us the NCAA tournament that year. After the game and I’m sure as you can imagine, coach Weber was furiously upset. I can vividly recall him storming into the locker room, his face already a new shade of bright red, and just unleashing a tirade of insults and expletives directed at us but to no one in particular. That was one of the angriest times I had ever seen coach, but it’s not like we didn’t deserve it. We had just lost our chance at the NCAA tournament. He always used to say, “Don’t pay attention to the volume or the adjectives, just listen to the message behind them.”
The message that day was that we screwed up. Big time. And like I said, this loss meant no NCAA tournament for us this year.
Positioned next to coach while he was losing his voice for the remainder of his career, was a Gatorade cooler that was filled to the brim with freshly made red liquid. It all happened so suddenly so I’m not quite sure what exactly went down, but in the blink of an eye, that blood red Gatorade had made its way out of the container and onto a very surprised and now soaking wet Mike Tisdale.
It was in his hair, on his jersey, and puddled underneath him but still, nobody dared to move a muscle.
I think that was the fastest and most silent we had ever left a locker room. It wasn’t until years later when the incident was brought up again by D.J, Brandon, Joe and I sometime in our senior year. It wasn’t funny then, but enough time has passed that I feel comfortable sharing now.
Purdue – Mackey Arena – Capacity 14,846
Every year, Purdue had the potential to be the best road trip of the season. First, it’s only an hour and a half drive from Champaign making it the shortest road trip of the Big Ten season. Second, we get to stop at the Beef House on the way there, which is probably the best restaurant East of the Mississippi. Third, since for the first three years of my career our head coach and an assistant coach had previously coached at Purdue, I could imagine it would have been be pretty sweet to get a win there. Oops.
The Beef House though.
I’ve written about how well the Illinois basketball team eats and The Beef House restaurant is a big part of that. We had our choice between bacon wrapped filets, New York Strips, rib eye steaks, and an unlimited amount of chicken fingers.
(It’s weird that they serve chicken at a place called The Beef House, right?)
Even the salad bar was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And do I even have to describe the famous yeast rolls and strawberry jam?
It was actually a disappointment when they moved the Big Ten tournament to Chicago because that meant one less trip to the Beef House. Playing in the United Center and in Illini country is nice, but the Beef House though…
Indiana – Assembly Hall – Capacity 17,472
Out of all the places to play at in the Big Ten, Indiana is one of my least favorites. I mean come on its Indiana. There’s nothing spectacular about the school, it’s just…blah.
But realistically, and logistically, traveling to Bloomington from Champaign is a nightmare, at least in my experience. First, It’s located at the absolute perfect distance of just being right within reach of where it makes more sense to take a bus rather an airplane to the game. Second, it snowed during each of my three trips to Indiana and turned a three-hour bus ride into a 5-hour one. And lastly, because there is just no good way to drive into the town of Bloomington.
When you walk into the “other” Assembly Hall, I will admit it is quite breath taking to be walking in such a historic building where a lot of great players have played. However, you get over that pretty quickly after staring for 5 seconds at those much too big and annoying championship banners off to the side. It’s a bit pretentious in my mind, but maybe I’m just speaking from jealously.
Other than that, I really don’t have much to say about playing at IU. Like I said, nothing spectacular ever happened when we played there; it was always just another game against a team we didn’t get along with in front of fans that hated our guts. Although we went 1-2 in Bloomington during my career, there is one positive that I can see. I managed to put up an unprecedented 1 point-per-minute scoring average in those three games combined. Does it matter that I only logged a meager 3 total minutes of game time and scored those points on just one shot? Nah.