If you haven't seen "Groundhog Day", first off – what the hell? Second off – shame on you. Lastly, you have seen it and you just don't know it yet. That's because we're witnessing a big time case of it with 2012/13 Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team and some of us, if not most of us fell for it once again this year – so I guess it's shame on all of us.
Just how groundhogs day is this team? Let's play a little game of guess the season shall we?
Illinois started the season off hot, winning two games against teams that will make the NCAA tournament only to lose to rival Missouri. What Illini season are we talking about?
No, we aren't talking about this season, we're talking about the 2011-12 Bruce Weber led Illini. However, you wouldn't be wrong in saying the same thing about the 2012-13 version of the Illini either as they own two impressive wins over Butler (the Maui Invitational championship) and at Gonzaga, only to lose to Missouri.
So, we'll take either as the correct answer to that one.
The Illini put their near flawless record up against Purdue early on in Big Ten play, on the road, and lost. Only to come back and beat a top 10 ranked Ohio State squad and follow that up with three straight losses immediately following the OSU win.What Illini team are we talking about?
If you guessed both you are correct and you should be seeing a pattern by now.
Yes, the Illini were able to jump up and bite another ranked opponent last year and they could well do so again this year, but it's seriously eerie how much of a mirror image last season and this one have been already for this team.
The point of this little exercise? It's not only to point out how groundhog day(ish) these two seasons have been, but to also point out that pundits and bloggers (myself included) should've seen what is happening right now coming from the very beginning. It also points out that perhaps we put way, WAY too much stock into what a team is doing in November and early December than waiting to see what a team is doing in mid-January and early February.
We all love to point to and talk about rankings from the jump of the season, but if we're really self-analytical (and we should be) and honest, perhaps we are better off waiting to talk about how good a team is and that means stopping the pattern of putting too much faith in arbitrary rankings and "strength of schedules". I don't know about you, but taking a look at a team through the prism of Ken Pomeroy or other analytical means sounds a heck of a lot better than some arbitrary ranking that a writer or coach (who probably have never seen team X or team Y play a game) put together and tell us it's gospel.
So, perhaps we all have learned a lesson through all of this. Stop putting so much faith a team that wins two good games sprinkled around some really crappy games against teams they should've beaten until they can prove it on a night in and night out basis. Oh, and also stop putting teams that lose tough games early in the season on the scrap heap until they do it again in conference play. I mean, all you need to do is look at the Illini for examples of the former and to Wisconsin for the later.
Maybe the Illini will turn it all around and find a way to win some really good games down the stretch, but I'm a fan of history and recent Illini history with the players on this team tell me it's probably going to be more of the same – winning a rare game against a ranked Big Ten opponent and then turning around and losing a head scratching game or two as well.