Illinois and the problem with extremely weird circumstances

Eamonn Brennan, in The Athletic, has a fascinating look at how the NCAA Tournament committee will look at the resume of the Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball team.

On Nov. 15, star guard Andre Curbelo played disastrously in a one-point loss to Marquette, a game Cockburn missed. A week later, both played and scored in double figures as Illinois lost to Cincinnati by 20. OK, then! Thanks to concussion symptoms, Curbelo then missed Illinois’ next 11 games. Illinois went 10-1, with the lone loss coming narrowly at home to Arizona. Cockburn was brilliant throughout.

The duo finally got back on the floor together Jan. 17, against Purdue, for a game that fully showcased Curbelo’s dynamic potential when he’s playing well; ironically, it was perhaps in defeat that Illinois best showed what it might be capable of at full strength. Then, Cockburn missed Illinois’s trip to moribund Maryland with a concussion of his own, and the Illinois lost 81-65.

Then both players missed Jan. 25’s game against Michigan State … which Illinois won anyway! True story! And then Cockburn, but not Curbelo, who is in COVID-19 protocols at present, returned for the Northwestern escape last weekend.

Did you get all of that? Are you following? You’d surely need some kind of visual aid to do so. 

It will be interesting to see how the committee sees it overall.

February 1, 2022


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