At 4:30 EST on Sunday, the biggest college basketball game of this young season will take place. It has the most bad blood and probably the best story behind it of any game this year. Indiana University versus the University of Illinois isn’t a matchup of highly-ranked teams, though Indiana is ranked 11th. It isn’t even a matchup of teams fighting for the Big Ten crown this season. Illinois is good, but they’re down compared to how they usually are. No, this game centers around one player, Indiana guard Eric Gordon.
Gordon is from Indianapolis, Indiana. He always wanted to go to IU when he was young and most of the way through high school. However, as he was making a decision on what school to attend, Mike Davis’s likeable but incompetent tenure at IU had not ended yet, so Gordon chose Illinois.
There is no one way to describe how good Eric Gordon is on a basketball court. He is simply better than everyone he faces. He’s one of those guys who has an extra gear when running, while dribbling, when rising up for a shot. He’s like Lebron or Kobe in the way he can take over a game. One of those guys who just seems at peace playing basketball. He scores any way he pleases. He shoots from insanely long range, drives to the basket at will and rises up for thunderous dunks with an ease that is truly astonishing. Currently he’s averaging 23.5 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. As a freshman.
When Indiana hired Kelvin Sampson, Gordon’s interest in Indiana gained strength and he eventually backed out of his oral commitment to Illinois and committed to Indiana and Sampson, in a story we broke first (yes a week before any other major news outlets had it. We Rule!)
Naturally, losing one of the best guards to come to college in a long time didn’t sit well with Illinois or its fans. The outrage was incredible and the already ill-tempered rivalry between Indiana and Illinois grew into a full-blown basketball border war.
Sunday’s game is the first of two games between the schools this season. This one is at home for Indiana, in Bloomington at Assembly Hall. So the full vitriol of Illini fan won’t be seen until February 7, in Champaign, at Assembly Hall (yeah we know that’s weird too). Expect J.J. Reddick-levels of hatred from Illinois Fan. At Sunday’s game, expect the jubilation of Indiana fan because they have the best guard in the class of 2007, and it will show. But don’t be surprised if Illinois plays its best game of the season to date. Chances for vengeance like this don’t come along too often.
As IU grads, we’re obviously going to tune in (right after Phillips and my Chargers play the Colts) and be extremely loud and partisan. You should watch too, if only to see the best guard in the country play basketball. There’s nothing really interesting about Illinois anymore, win or lose on Sunday. I mean it would be different if there was one shining star on that roster who you can focus on and really rave about. They should really try and recruit one. Oh. Right. My bad.
But rest easy Illini fans, we’re sure it will get better eventually. But for now we’ve got three words for ya: We Got Gordon!