Stubhub offered ridiculously cheap tickets for Thursday night’s Big Ten tournament games, so I met Blats and his family at United Center for the Illinois/Iowa late game.  Must be an NCAA or Big Ten rule about StubHub, because all purchasers needed to stop at Park Tavern to pick up physical tickets instead of a digital ticket arriving on your phone.

I met up with them in section 316 and grabbed an empty seat a row down.  Blats trained his boys well in the ways of Hawkeye fandom, as they were eager to cheer on their favorite team, despite a post-bedtime 8:30pm start and his older son battling through a headache.  Didn’t complain once, though.  Impressive.

The vastly-improved Illini kept it competitive in the first half.  Iowa is just too deep.  Nicholas Baer’s 3-pt shooting and Tyler Cook’s string of explosive dunks helped the Hawkeyes pull away for a 21-point victory.  There was more orange than gold in the crowd, but plenty of support for both sides.  Exhibit A: Listen to the Iowa cheers when Giorgi missed 2 technical free throws after a brief skirmish:

 

Iowa has shooting, solid bigs and depth that could propel them on a little run during March Madness.  Illini have a future, but haven’t reached the level necessary quite yet to rise through the Big Ten.

I don’t always stay seated for halftime shows – but this one was worth watching.  Simon Says proctor Steve Max ripped through a court-full of Illini & Iowa fans and cheerleaders, eliminating them from the game at breakneck speed:

Simon Says Champion at Big Ten Tournament from Brendan Greeley on Vimeo.

It was a crowdpleaser, for adults and kids alike.

I’m sure tickets prices will jump for the remainder of the weekend.  It’s cool to host it here in Chicago.  Thanks Blats for nudging me to snag a ticket.