Last night showed that Ohio State and Michigan are both legit. Not necessarily better than us but not worse. So to have any chance at winning the conference we need to win at Michigan and only get one other loss.
I expect both missing games to be added back to the schedule so we'll have the full 20.
These last two games felt like a little bit of cruise control. Sort of like a relaxed jog before the final sprint to the finish. I think this team still has another level when Curbelo and Miller both start clicking (they both are adjusting to the freshman wall right now) and Kofi goes full beast mode (the fire is lit but we're still figuring out how to get him the ball without turning it over.)
Right now it is starting to sink in that this is a legitimate Top 10 team and that we are definitely going to the NCAA Tournament. I think there is still a little bit of fear because even though we know in our gut that Ayo is capable of a memorable run, nobody can predict these things in advance. That's what makes them so magical.
This season hasn't had its defining moment yet. You know it's coming. What we've seen in the last month is that this team is not going to be a disappointment. When we hit our 5th loss there was a lot of doubt about whether it would all fall apart. Now we see that recruiting is back on track so we're not a one-year wonder and that we're clearly in that double-bye Top 4 Big Ten tier.
Even though I wasn't a fan in 1989, I'm feeling shades of that. We likely won't get the Big Ten Championship (Michigan) and some other Big Ten team might even win it all (Ohio State or maybe even Iowa) but we will have the iconic players and the most memorable team. If Ayo hits a buzzer beater to take down unbeaten Baylor and send us to the Final Four, that's what you're talking about 16 years from now. We have that 16-year Final Four destiny just like we had the March to the Arch in 2005.
You can't look at NERDstats and predict something like that. It defies analytics. But that's what's magical about college basketball and that's why I'll be an Illini fan for life. This team is special and its destiny awaits. We all just feel it in our guts but we're afraid to believe it or speak it aloud because we've been in the wilderness for so long.