The University of Illinois basketball team has spent A LOT of time together over the past 4 months. 

No family. No friends. Just the players and the staff keeping each other company. It appears that there has been some incredible bonding going on because this team is having more fun than any top 5 team I've ever seen. You usually see this kind of bonding with an underdog team, a small school that's making a deep unexpected run in March. A team that knows they've already overachieved. You don't see title contenders having this much fun in early March.

Let's go back 2 weeks to when this team really started to feel themselves against Minnesota on the road. This might have been the most complete game I've ever seen an Illinois team play, including anything turned in by the 37-2 2005 team.

Then they had the setback against Michigan State, a game that might have derailed some other teams. Illinois followed it up with a win on the road over Wisconsin before heading into Ann Arbor and destroying the second-ranked team in the country on their own floor. One of the few good things about there being almost no fans at these games is you get to hear the bench. Illinois' bench was LOUD the whole game. These guys love watching each other play and everyone is part of the party.

Then there are the post-game celebrations. These have become epic. It starts with coach Brad Underwood sprinting into the locker room screaming, while the whole team dumps water on the 57-year-old coach before they do some weird boom thing while stomping their feet in unison. It's wild.

Coach Underwood lost about 50 pounds during the pandemic and is really feeling himself trying to keep up with these 20-year-olds. I'm close to passing out from just looking at this picture.

They did another locker room celebration after the regular season-ending win at Ohio State. This time after Underwood's victory speech, he straight-up tackles Da'Monte Williams to thank him for hitting a big three at the end of the game.

It's not just the coaches and the players either. Josh Whitman is the athletic director and former University of Illinois football player. He's been as amped up as anyone after these wins. Here he is dapping up the whole team as they came off the court after the Ohio State game.

College basketball in March is all about who is hot at the end of the year. No one is playing better or looser than the Fighting Illini right now. The team leaves for Indianapolis this week for the Big Ten tournament. The NCAA tournament will be held in the same place so the team won't be coming back to Champaign until they're knocked out of, or win, the NCAA tournament. It's a trip that could last 3 and a half weeks. I absolutely love that one of the only things Coach Underwood is concerned about is if he has enough clean socks to make it through the entire trip.

Listen to the Illini's march through March all right here on 1440 WROK.

 

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