Fans of the University of Illinois basketball team have been waiting a while for tonight's game. 

16 years ago yesterday, the University of Illinois basketball team was ranked 3rd in the country and were starting to turn heads. That night they would be hosting the number one team in the country, Wake Forest, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wake Forest had one of the best guards in the country in Chris Paul. But Illinois had some elite guards themselves in Dee Brown, Deron Williams, and Luther Head. The Illini would dominate in Champaign and they announced to the college basketball world that they were going to be a problem to deal with the rest of the season.

The Illini would go on to lose only two more times that year. A last-second shot from Matt Sylvester, which is still one of the more painful sports losses of my life:

...and the National Title game against North Carolina when the refs let Sean May do whatever he wanted. I'm not bitter at all.

That National Title game in 2005 would be the last time the Fighting Illini were ranked in the top 5 nationally.

Until this year.

Illinois has its best team since 2005 and is looking to make some noise tonight against Baylor, the number 2 ranked team in the country.

If you watched the video from Brad Underwood at the top of this post, you can hear that he and the players understand the significance of tonight's game.

Ayo Dosunmu is their Junior point guard and along with his teammate Kofi Cockburn, appears on the pre-season Player of the Year watch list. He understands what's at stake tonight, going as far as calling it a "legacy" game for the program.

There is plenty of room on the Illini bandwagon if you're not invested emotionally in any local team currently playing. Looking at you Bear fans. Have something fun to root for this winter.

Catch the game live, tonight on 1440 WROK. Pregame starts at 8PM, tip is at 9.

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