Things Illini Fans CAN Be Thankful For

With all of the turmoil at the top for Illinois athletics, here are a few things Illini fans can be thankful about this year.

Football is one big cloud of uncertainty, the Athletic Director position is a giant question mark, and Illinois Basketball is struggling far more than anyone anticipated.  

So what can Illini fans be thankful for this year? Here are a few things..

#1-Ranked Mens Golf Team

The Illini Mens' Golf team, after just missing a berth in the final of match play in this past spring's NCAA championships, are right back on top this year.  Even with the professional departure of key player Brian Campbell from last year's team, the Illini returned several bigtime players to this year's group.  

Led by seniors Thomas Detry and Charlie Danielson as well as sophomores Nick Hardy and Dylan Meyer, the team has already won four of their five matches so far this season, and appear poised to make yet another run at a national championship under the guidance of head coach Mike Small.

4-0 Womens' Basketball?

Facing a tumultuous offseason, burdened with accusations of racial discrimination that made national news, Matt Bollant and the Illinois Womens' Basketball team have started the season 4-0.  Everyone's talking about the Mens' team limping to a 2-3 start, but the Womens' team deserves some credit for not only winning their first few games, but winning decisively (by an average of nearly 29 points, in fact).  Super soph Chatrice White, the prized recruit of Bollant so far in his tenure at Illinois, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.  

Though they haven't played any real formidable opponents yet, the start is proof that the team is at least mentally focused in on the season.  The squad will have a good opportunity to beat a currently 5-0 Miami Hurricanes team.  Could Bollant finally be turning around the Womens' hoops program?

A National Champion

No, not in football or basketball, but Illinois scored a Big Ten and an NCAA championship this spring when redshirt freshman Isaiah Martinez dominated his way to a national title, going undefeated the entire way.  Illinois will have this guy for 3 more years, and that's a good reason to be thankful, because he's a special talent.

A Baseball Program that Produces Pros

The Illini might have fallen to the national runner up Vandy back in the spring, but a 50-10-1 season, which included a smokin' 21-1-0 conference record led to several Illini baseball players landing professional baseball careers.  The most notable of those was ace pitcher Tyler Jay, who went sixth overall to the Minnesota Twins.  P Kevin Duchene went in the 5th round and slugger David Kerian went in the 9th round.  In all, NINE Illinois baseball players were drafted in the 2015 MLB draft, and plenty of talent returns in 2016 for Dan Hartleb's squad.  With facilities improvements in the works for Illinois Field and the 2015 season serving as a strong foundation to build upon, the needle is definitely pointing up for Illinois baseball moving forward.

A Facelift for the SFC

Illinois basketball has been far from pretty so far this season.  Three rough losses and two ugly wins have the fans in a pretty cynical spot when it comes to Illini hoops.  But after opening their season at the confines of the PC3, which turned out to not be so friendly, no one is looking forward to getting back to their new old home in Champaign than the team. 

A multi-million dollar renovation that began hours after the Illini's final home game last season is all but complete now, and a refreshed look at a familiar venue may just give Illinois some of the energy they need to start to turn things around.  Having the students of the Orange Krush, who now sit in much better and more visible seats, near the court making noise will undoubtedly help.

And the experience for the fans should be far better, too.  Less crowded concourses, filled with better sound, more televisions, better restroom facilities, and improved concessions, should enhance the gameday experience.  Bland gray seats were exchanged for new blue and orange seats, luxury suites were added, and the newly Christened "Lou Henson Court" all contribute to a much-improved State Farm Center.

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