I almost didn't come. There's going to be ice on my car when I get out there, and I'm going to chase that ice all the way back to St. Louis where it's sleeting right now. I knew that weather was coming but I wanted to attend a win. I didn't attend a win.
All of that confidence I had after the Michigan game? Gone. That prediction I made in the post last night (6-5 in the next 11 games)? LOL. I said I feared 5-13 before the Big Ten season began, and now I fear 2-16.
After this, I'm just not sure when we win a Big Ten game? At Nebraska no, at Wisconsin no, Michigan State at home no chance. So that's an 0-8 start with ten games remaining. Indiana and Rutgers come to Champaign after that - surely we win one of those, right?
Man, all that confidence I had after Michigan is just absolutely gone. I felt like I could see where this thing was headed, and now there's ice all over the windshield.
I mean, shoot 14-30 from three against the worst team in the conference at home AND LOSE. This Iowa team lost at Virginia Tech by 24, lost back to back games against Louisiana-Lafayette and South Dakota State... and they just came into Champaign and put up 100 points on the road for the first time since 1988 (that stat courtesy of the Iowa radio guys still giddy and celebrating to my left).
I mean, I get it. Fouls were everything. We're all going insane after Trent tied it at the buzzer (me on the inside since I'm on press row) and then we all had the same moment (probably): oh crap, we have three guys who fouled out and are going into overtime completely short-handed. Then a fourth fouled out (Da'Monte) and, with Te'Jon in street clothes, we were down to five players. Had anyone else fouled out - either Matic Vesel or Drew Cayce comes in I guess?
So yeah, I get it. Smith, Black, and Alstork all had the flu and haven't practiced the last three days. Four guys foul out and Eboigbodin just flat forgets to box out on a huge free throw - these are things that happen to freshmen who have played 85 total minutes all season and then have to play 25 minutes tonight. There are going to be growing pains all season. We've discussed this at length.
But goodness me, losing to 9-9 Iowa at home is just so hard to stomach. We're truly awful - likely the worst team in the Big Ten - and I don't think any of us expected that. My personal journey:
October: "The media picked us 12th in the Big Ten? 12th? What in the world?"
November: "Oh, right, 12th is probably spot on."
December: "BEAT MIZNOZ"
January: "Man we're not even 12th. Probably 14th. FOURTEENTH."
I mean, I had JUST reached a good point with this season. We nearly beat Michigan, we could start to see what this team might be capable of, Michigan fans are all "so weird to see a well-coached Illinois team"... and then we just lay an egg tonight. 20 point lead and then fall apart. At home.
How many times am I going to write this post? I've been blogging for nearly nine years now and I've never written about a significant Illinois team. Right now we've lost 12-straight Big Ten football games and 7-straight Big Ten basketball games. We are, without a doubt, the worst Power Five program in the country when you combine football and basketball.
And yet here I am, setting up my work schedule so I can drive to Champaign in an ice storm and watch us blow a 20-point lead to 9-9 (0-5) Iowa.
But enough about me. You're suffering the same thing. This building was as dead as I've ever heard it with a 20 point lead - as I tweeted at halftime, every single person in this building expected Iowa to come back - and I can't blame anyone for feeling that way. Yell? Scream? It's so impossibly hard to do when you know those screams won't be rewarded. I totally get it.
Is this rock bottom? I gave up that game a long time ago. I declared it after we didn't make the NIT in 2012. I declared it after the 2013 football season ended at 4-8 and the basketball season fell just short after Tracy's three. I declared it when Cubit was extended. But I'm done declaring. We've been digging for a decade now, and we still haven't found the bottom.
Please, someone, anyone - stop the digging and start the climbing.