The Indiana Hoosiers are on top of college basketball, number one in the nation, and number one in the Big Ten. But they have to defend that spot at Assembly Hall tonight: not the one in Bloomington, the one in Champaign, Illinois. Indiana (20-2, 8-1 Big Ten) has lost nine of their last 10 games in Champaign. The only win in that stretch came in 2008, when Eric Gordon faced the school that he first committed to play for in college. Gordon faced serious heckling from the Illini crowd, but Indiana won in double overtime.
This season, Indiana looks for its fifth straight win on the road in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have not done that in 10 years.
Illinois (15-8, 2-7 Big Ten) was ranked when the Big Ten season started. But the Fighting Ilini have lost their fight in conference play. Illinois first year coach John Groce is an Indiana boy: born in Muncie, his hometown is Danville. Groce would love an upset of his home state Hoosiers.
The best teams in college basketball have tossed around the number one ranking like a hot potato the past five weeks, with a new top team every week. Number one has landed in the hands of the Hoosiers. If they want to hold on to it, they have to win twice on the road this week in the toughest conference in the nation. Indiana plays at Ohio State Sunday. IU started the season number one, and has climbed back to the top.
I am in Champaign for tonight's game. I'll have a preview at 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. and postgame reaction tonight at 11 p.m.