Tennis

Asmussen | Illini’s tennis faces the best | Sports

Asmussen |  Illini's tennis faces the best |  Sports

CHAMPAGNE – College tennis schedules are set years in advance.

Illinois coach Brad Dancer therefore didn’t knowingly try to pack this weekend’s games with top teams. It just worked like that.

“I tell guys all the time, ‘That’s exactly why you’re coming to Illinois, to play this competition,” Dancer said. “It’s all about the excitement for our guys at this point.”

Illinois will host No. 4 Baylor at 6 p.m. Friday. After a game Saturday at noon against Illinois-Chicago, Illinois will face the No. 1 TCU at 6 p.m. Saturday.

It ranks as one of the toughest weekends of Dancer’s tenure. It would be like the Illinois men’s basketball team playing Arizona and Gonzaga on the same weekend.

Later in March, the challenges continue with trips to No. 5 Florida, UCF and No. 3 Ohio State.

“We’re getting healthier, which is going to help a ton,” Dancer said.

In its final game on February 20, Illinois defeated then No. 22 North Carolina 4-2. The team played earlier against Ohio State (loss 4-0), Oklahoma (loss 4-1) and Michigan (loss 4-1).

The dancer made adjustments to the workout schedule. He accepts some of the blame for the struggles this season.

“I just don’t understand all the staff we have and what they need to do to prepare,” Dancer said. “Hopefully we handle this a bit better and end up in a better place.”

It’s refreshing to hear a coach point the finger.

“Anytime your team isn’t performing the way you are capable of, you have to look at the coach right in the mirror,” Dancer said. “We are still trying to figure out what we could do.”

Dancer is hoping for a big turnout for this weekend.

Fans are once again allowed to attend matches. Tennis is back to normal.

“We’re rebuilding the fanbase,” Dancer said. “Come to the games. It’s a big weekend for us. Anything we can do to make some noise would be incredibly appreciated.

Illinois is still at the start of its season, with 14 more games before the Big Ten tournament from April 28 to May 1.

Baylor and TCU want to return to CU at the end of May. Illinois hosts the final eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Dancer wants his team to be part of it.

“We would love to be,” he said. “We have a lot to do with how we started this season. But we can get there. »

Illini of the Week: Footballers Jake Hansen, Blake Hayes, Kerby Joseph and Vederian Lowe

It’s always a good thing to get an invite to the NFL Combine, which kicked off Tuesday in Indianapolis. But there haven’t been many calls to CU in recent years.

Give Lovie Smith credit for bringing all four players to the Illinois campus. And pat second-year coach Bret Bielema on the back for helping develop the players.

Hayes and Lowe enjoyed another year and likely improved their pro stock. Joseph, who earned All-Big Ten honors in 2021, is projected as the first Illini recruit.

Illinois hasn’t received this many invitations combined since 2003, when five players made the trip. They were all drafted: cornerback Eugene Wilson (second round), wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (fourth), offensive lineman David Diehl (fifth), offensive lineman Tony Pashos (fifth) and wide receiver Walter Young (seventh). Lloyd, Diehl and Pashos spent more than a decade in the NFL.

Don’t miss: Men’s Basketball vs. Iowa, 6:30 p.m., Sunday.

After Wisconsin’s home win over Purdue on Tuesday, Illinois is no longer in control of its Big Ten title destiny. In fact, 20th-ranked Illini needs some unlikely help from bottom-ranked Nebraska. But as we learned long ago in sport: never say never.

All Brad Underwood and Co. can do at this point is mind their own business. The task actually begins with Thursday’s home game against Penn State. Lose that one and the game with Iowa loses its significance.

My guess is that Illinois will tame the Nittany Lions, setting up another heated game with the hated Hawkeyes. (Hate is too strong).

Like the Illini, Iowa is tied to the NCAA Tournament. Heading into Thursday’s game at Michigan, the 24th-ranked Hawkeyes have won four straight.

Keegan Murray is one of the best players in the conference and a treat to watch if you’re not supporting his opponent. Check him out while you can, he’ll likely be heading to the NBA next season.

Oh yeah, almost forgot, this will also be your last chance to boo Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon, who is finally no longer eligible. He rivals Wisconsin’s Brad Davison as the Big Ten’s most despised players.

One more thing, Wisconsin’s 1 p.m. game against Nebraska on Sunday will be over by the time Iowa-Illinois clocks in at 6:30 p.m. If Nebraska pulls the shock, the intensity at the State Farm Center goes up a notch or 20.

Classify and store

As Illinois wraps up its basketball regular season, here’s a look at how the opponents fared. And their post-season outlook:

RK., TEAM RESULT(S) VS. UI REC. Post-season

1. NCAA Lock Arizona W 27-3

2. Purdue W, W 24-6 NCAA lock

3. Wisconsin L 24-5 NCAA Lock

4. Iowa L, ? 21-8 NCAA lockout

5. Ohio State W 18-9 NCAA Lock

6. Notre Dame Lock L 21-9 NCAA

7. Michigan State L, L 19-10 NCAA Lock

8. Marquette W 18-11 NCAA Lock

9. Bubble Indiana L 18-11 NCAA

10. Michigan L, L 16-12 NCAA Bubble

11. Rutgers L, W 17-12 NCAA bubble

12. Arkansas State L 17-10 None

13. Kansas State L 14-15 None

14. Cincinnati O 17-14 None

15. Maryland L, W 15-15 None

16. Minnesota L 13-15 None

17. North West L, L 13-15 None

18. Penn State? 12-14 None

19. Nebraska L 9-21 None

20. Missouri L 10-21 None

21. Jackson State L 9-18 None

22. St. Francis, Pa. L 9-21 None

23. UT Rio Grande Valley L 8-21 None

Simple objective

As retired trainer Jim Heffernan has always reminded me, the Big Ten wrestling meet is primarily a qualifying tournament.

Due to its success, the Big Ten has 88 guaranteed NCAA spots, with 12 at 184 pounds, 11 at 197, 10 each at 125 and 133. The other weights have at least seven offers.

The Big Ten meet is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Lincoln, Neb. The highest ranked Illinois wrestler is Lucas Byrd, who is No. 3 at 133 pounds.

The Big Ten continues to be the dominant conference in wrestling. At last year’s NCAA meet in St. Louis, Iowa clinched a title. Penn State finished second and four other Big Ten schools finished in the Top 10. This year’s NCAA competition will be held March 17-19 in Detroit.

Hey mom, it’s me

Some people like to see themselves on TV. It’s cool to wave, shout a little, and hope the family can get a brief glimpse.

Well, there are four chances for camera time during the Illinois baseball season. Dan Hartleb’s team is scheduled for two appearances on BTN (April 22-23 vs. Maryland) one on ESPNU (May 13 vs. Nebraska) and one on ESPN2 (May 15 vs. Nebraska).

It’s a nice change from last season when fans weren’t allowed in games.

I should probably write this more often, but going to baseball games in Illinois is a no-brainer. Especially when the weather is nice.

Free admission, many gifts and promotions. And now, a shot at TV stardom.

The Illini opens its home schedule Tuesday against Eastern Illinois. OK, so the forecast calls for temps in the 40s. Put on a thicker coat. It should get hotter by the time Illinois returns home for a March 15 game against Butler.