Good Morning Illini Nation: The Illinois-Indiana(?) Rivalry | Sports

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Welcome to Good Morning, Illini Nation, your daily dose of college basketball news from Scott Richey, beat author and AP Illini Top 25 voter. He will share insights into Brad Underwood’s team each morning:

Chester Frazier wore a training jersey Wednesday afternoon ahead of Illinois’ final day of preparation for tonight’s game against Indiana. Whether or not the former Illini guard-turned-assistant coach was a full participant on the pitch at Wednesday’s training session is unknown. We media types are not allowed to stand and watch. But there’s no doubt that today’s game means a little something extra for Frazier.

Exhibit A (a not-so-gentle welcome to Eric Gordon in Champaign):

The Illinois players didn’t miss Frazier’s tweet.

“I was excited, man,” said freshman guard Ty Rodgers. “This is Coach Fraz. He’s a dog, man. He’s always talking about what he used to do, so it was cool to see.

“He’s been telling us about it all week. It’s important to all of us — especially people like Luke (Goode) who are from Indiana. It will be fine.”

But here’s the real question. Is Illinois-Indiana still a rivalry? It certainly was when Lou Henson and Bobby Knight were training. It then got a boost when Kelvin Sampson was able to turn Bruce Weber’s Gordon over (and also save Derrick Rose from the Illini?).

Now? The Illinois-Iowa and Illinois-Michigan games heat up fans more than the Illinois-Indiana games. There’s a real distaste for the Hawkeyes. Maybe just as much for the Wolverines (or at least Hunter Dickinson). Deep down it’s probably the same for some fans as it is for the Hoosiers, but I haven’t felt it that strongly in the last six seasons or more.

Just look at the series history. Indiana has a 94-91 lead, but the streak hasn’t been quite the same lately. Much of that is likely because the Hoosiers won seven out of eight games from 2015-2019. Then Illinois countered with four straight wins, including two in a row in Bloomington, Indiana, before Indiana’s Big Ten tournament win last March.

The honest opinion is that Illinois may not have a full-fledged rival in the Big Ten. It’s a strange place the Illini occupy. Michigan has a larger rival in the state of Michigan. The same goes for Indiana and Purdue.

So it’s Iowa for Illinois, I assume, and not Northwestern at all.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email address is [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).