The year was not without controversy. Because of COVID-19, not every game on the schedule took place. Illinois finished with the league’s most wins, at 16-4 in Big Ten play. Michigan, however, had a slightly better win-percentage with a 14-3 conference record, and won the league crown, despite playing three fewer games and having two fewer wins. Illinois also had the lone win between the two last season, beating Michigan 76-53 on the road.
It’s no surprise that there’s no love lost between the Illini and Wolverines. Ahead of the 2021-22 season, they are two of the three teams receiving first-place votes in the league’s preseason poll. Michigan basketball is tied with Purdue in first, and has the most first-place votes with 13. Illinois hoops is alone in third, with three first-place votes.
The players feel it too. Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson, a preseason All-Conference player for Juwan Howard’s team, was asked about Illini fans, and was pretty honest about how he feels about them.
“Illinois fans are pretty annoying, I’m not going to lie.” — Hunter Dickinson
— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) October 7, 2021
Commissioner Kevin Willard was asked about the decision to award Michigan the lone regular season title last season, despite Illinois’ pretty convincing claim to at least a share. He said that he believes the right call was made.
Asked about the Big Ten's decision to not award Illinois a co-championship with Michigan last season, Kevin Warren says, "It was not a straight-line year," and adds, "I feel we made the right decisions, collectively."
— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) October 7, 2021
With the availability of vaccines and other COVID-19 treatments, we should see something far closer to a normal season this year. We’ll also get a pair of opportunities for the Wolverines and Illini to hash this out on the court.
Illinois hosts Michigan basketball on Jan. 14, while the return game is set for Feb. 27.