Friday night fights: Illinois and Iowa renew their 'pure hate' rivalry

The Illini and Hawkeyes closed last season with an epic game in Champaign. Will the vitriol carry over?

Friday night fights: Illinois and Iowa renew their 'pure hate' rivalry

Good morning, frents!

Just when you thought the Cubs offseason couldn't get any more depressing, Ken Rosenthal reported late last night that the Cardinals and Rockies are talking about a Nolan Arenado trade.

Are the Rockies sure they wouldn't rather trade him to Houston for Deshaun Watson? John Elway would be forever appreciative.

As would we.

Iowa at Illinois (8, FS1)
Blue Jackets at Hawks (7, NBCSCH)

Creighton at DePaul (7, CBSN)
Blazers at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)

Rutgers at N’Western (6:30, BTN)
Blue Jackets at Hawks (6, NBCSCH)

Iowa and Illinois have a Friday night date in Champaign and it immediately makes me think of last year's regular season finale.

It's basically ancient history now, but you probably remember it. On the season's final Sunday, the two programs traded blow after blow in front of a wild and orange crowd. The Illini almost gave up a 17-point lead but ended up taking a 78-76 win when Kofi Cockburn blocked a shot from Luka Garza under the basket. The victory secured the fourth seed and a double bye in the Big Ten tournament. while the Hawkeyes dropped to the fifth seed and only a single bye.

It was an emotional game and maybe the best one I watched all season. Garza played all 40 minutes and scored 28 points, while Ayo Dosunmu led the Illini with 17.

The game was a contentious one.

“Basically, they want to kill us, and we want to kill them,” said Dosunmu, who also played the entire game.

The talk the next day was about Illinois basketball finally being back and how high their NCAA seed might be if the Illini pulled off a deep run in the conference tournament.

Three days later, Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

The Big Ten and NCAA tournaments were canceled soon after.

And without a real draft process, the pro dreams of Garza, Dosunmu and Cockburn would later be put on hold for another season.

Now all three are back for tonight's matchup, which will go a long way in determining how the Big Ten plays out.

  • Iowa (12-3, 6-2 Big Ten) is ranked seventh and coming off a loss to Indiana last Thursday while the Illini (10-5, 6-3) are ranked 19th and haven't played in 10 days because of last Saturday's postponement against Michigan State.
  • An Iowa win would give the Hawkeyes sole possession of second place behind a Michigan team that's halted play because of a COVID outbreak. An Illinois win would force a three-way tie for second with Iowa and Wisconsin and keep the Illini within striking distance of a Big Ten title.
  • This is the only time Iowa and Illinois will meet this season.

It's a total drag this matchup won't have the same energy and atmosphere as last season's game in front of a big crowd, but the Illini will need to get up for it. They've had an uneven season and their one statement victory — December 8 against Duke — certainly doesn't look as good now as it did then.

But judging from Dosunmu's comments after last year's game, it shouldn't be a problem.

“I mean, there’s a respect factor, but on the court it’s pure hate,” Dosunmu also said last year. “We just don’t like each other.”

Cubs will work out Jeff Samardzija

Yu Darvish was traded to the Padres. Jose Quintana signed a one-year deal with the Angels. Jon Lester was chased off to the Nationals.

But someone still needs to eat some innings for the Cubs next year in a cost-effective manner so the next couple of weeks should get interesting. The Cubs are set to kick the tires on former Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon and now comes word that they're interested in seeing what former Cubs and Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija has left.

Samardzija turned 36 last week and pitched in only four games for the Giants last season before getting shut down with a shoulder issue. He showed a little life in 2019 with a 3.52 ERA over 180+ innings. But there are obviously health concerns here that need to be ironed out before the Cubs can even think about having Samardzija do them a solid on the cheap in 2021.

The Jerry Reinsdorf era turns 40

It was on this day in 1981 that Jerry Reinsdorf and the late Eddie Einhorn plunked down $20 million to buy a team that was $2 million in debt from Bill Veeck. Four decades later, Forbes estimates that investment is worth $1.65 billion.

The anniversary got me to wondering: What grade would you give Reinsdorf's stewardship of the team the last 40 years?

On one hand, you have the 2005 World Series and roughly 10 total years —give or take a few — of being something resembling a contender.

On the other you have 30 years of disappointment, a ballpark that somehow missed being part of the ballpark boom, threats to move to the team to south Florida, Hawk Harrelson as GM, Tony La Russa's second tour and a move to pay television that drove Harry Caray to Wrigley Field and gave the Cubs control of the city for the forseeable future.

Did I forget to mention Reinsdorf's role in the 1994 strike, which derailed a serious chance at ending his own team's World Series drought?

There was also that.

With the Sox on the rise again, the best you can give Reinsdorf is an incomplete. The worst — but arguably the most accurate — is that the Sox have experienced all those brief bouts of success in spite of his ownership.

1. Jason Lieser on how the Deshaun Watson domino effect could end up helping the Bears. (Sun-Times)

2. Brad Biggs on OL Rashawn Slater, who could be Northwestern's highest draft pick in a long time. (Tribune)

3. The Cubs are the most expensive outing in baseball, according to this survey, which also finds that our other teams aren't cheap either. (We could've told them that.) (TN Bets)

4. What's wrong with Coby White? (Blogabull)

5. This guy is buying out Chicago's tamale vendors every morning so they don't have to stand out in the cold. Great story. (Block Club)

Right here is a good spot to end the week. Chico remains the man.