nick anderson illini basketball lou henson

Lou Henson retired as the all-time Illini basketball coaching wins leader with 423 victories. He holds the same distinction at New Mexico State with 289 victories. Overall, Henson won 779 games, putting him in sixteenth place on the all-time list.

Henson belongs to one specific elite club which has just two members, and the other is John Wooden.

They are the only two individuals to have a basketball court named in their honor at not just one, but two schools.

illini basketball

Henson is also one of only four NCAA coaches to have amassed at least 200 total wins at two institutions. Additionally, the stretch of street that adjoins Assembly Hall/State Farm Center is named Honorary Lou Henson way.

So there you go, millenials now you’re up to speed on this College basketball hall-of-famer.

Lou Henson met the media yesterday, and the entire press conference is below.

BEWARE all the reporters doing the lazy “talk about….” and “your thoughts on…..” instead of actually putting forth a legitimate effort to actually ask a question.

Henson gave updates on this health, where he’s living these days and how many friends, family members and former players he expects to be come with him to the United Center Saturday night to watch his two former teams clash, Saturday at 7 pm.

Known for this trademark orange blazer, Henson said he will wear it for one half, to represent Illini basketball. He will wear a crimson blazer for the other half, to support New Mexico State. This game is a testimonial in all but one sense of the word.

It is truly “a formal statement testifying to someone’s character and qualifications,” and “a public tribute to someone and to their achievements.”  It’s also a game or event held in honor of an individual, but unlike the classic definition, this is a competitive match.

Typically, a testimonial is defined as non-competitive.

leron black

Biggie Smalls

Illini basketball coach Brad Underwood met the media right after Lou Henson, and provided a very informative session. Underwood said that forwards Leron Black and Kipper Nichols would miss the Longwood game Wednesday night, but that both bigs are not expected to be out long term.

Nichols was injured Monday in practice, Black Saturday night at UNLV. Both could be back, if not starting, at least seeing some minutes in this one. However, if one, or both, sit out, then it’s going to be Illini basketball small ball again, just like we saw versus Longwood. You knew there would be plenty of four guard line-ups during certain stretches this season.

Sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes by design. Underwood said Tuesday that if you look at the +/- numbers with the small ball line-ups, it actually shows more favorable results.

Perhaps this is a precursor then of what’s to follow?

leron black

United We Fall

As the Illini basketball program winning percentage has steadily fallen over the course of the past few seasons, so has United Center attendance in recent years. Illinois has continued trending in the wrong direction, and with it the quality of opponents that they have been able to schedule at The House that Michael Built has fallen down a peg or two as well.

Last year’s Chicago Legends Classic was an attempt to retool and shake things up. It obviously failed, as Dayton ended up drawing sizably more fans than the other three teams combined. You knew BYU wasn’t going to draw much, and Illinois fans were turned off by

1.) having to pay higher prices for another game, which involved Northwestern

2.) coming off a season with record total losses.

As for Northwestern, they drew about a couple hundred, maybe a few hundred in total, to one of the biggest games on the schedule during the program’s best season, so all in all…well, there’s a reason we don’t have a second Chicago Legends Classic.

chicago red stars

This is a re-brand of sorts, and perhaps the tribute to Lou Henson will re-inject left into a series of games that has been moribund for many years already. Hey, they’re not playing UIC here anymore!

That’s a step in the right direction right there! There is never any upside for the Illini basketball program to scheduleUIC, period.

New Mexico State Preview:

The Aggies come in sporting a 92 in the Sagarin ratings, 98 in kenpom and 102 in RPI. They enter the UC with an 8-2 record, and no interesting signature victories to speak of. Their two losses were to San Diego and St. Mary’s. Henson said Tuesday he expects a very competitive, very evenly matched and entertaining game.

illini basketball

Illini basketball Preview:

The Illini head into this one 76 in Sagarin, 183 in RPI (no, that’s not a typo, it’s really that low right now) and 92 in kenpom. They are 8-4 with four losses by single digits. Underwood said Tuesday that his team has got to stop fouling, and stop the turnovers. Not to mention the travels, after the loss at Northwestern, Underwood said his team must have broken the Guinness Book of World Records mark for travels.

That’s funny because it’s true!

My joke is “Illini basketball is Team Rick Steves, all the traveling!”

The Illini could really be a good team this year, if they would just cut out all the self-inflicted wounds. It’s a big if, but it’s true that this team has been its own worst enemy.

brad underwood

Winning the Lou Henson tribute would give them their first victory away from home.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC and Chicago, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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