Big Ten

Illini's Mike Thorne granted sixth year of eligibility, will be back next season

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Illini's Mike Thorne granted sixth year of eligibility, will be back next season

Illinois center Mike Thorne Jr. will be back for a sixth year.

The Illini announced Wednesday that Thorne, who played in only eight games last season after transferring in from Charlotte, received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and will suit up in orange and blue for the 2016-17 campaign.

"We are thrilled for Mike," Illinois head coach John Groce said in the announcement. "He endured a lot of adversity last season, suffering the knee injury after a great start and then having lingering complications that prevented him from being able to return to the court. Now he will get that chance to come back for a sixth year and finish his college career in the way we all envision. The NCAA deserves a ton of credit in this situation, as they have made a decision that is without question in the best interest of the student-athlete."

Thorne was supposed to play a major role on last season's Illini team, which entered the season with little front-court depth and then saw both Thorne and forward Leron Black miss the majority of the season with injuries.

He ended up appearing in just those eight games: the season's first seven and one game against Indiana in January. Thorne averaged 12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in his limited action.

That lone appearance during Big Ten play was the major question mark when it came to whether Thorne would receive a sixth year, as the NCAA often requires a player not play during the second half of a season if he is going to earn a medical hardship waiver. But in Thorne's case, the NCAA awarded him the waiver anyway.

Thorn's return is a big deal for the Illini, as he showed quite a bit of promise, twice recording double-doubles in the early going last season and scoring a combined 46 points in the season's first two games. Given how much Illinois struggled in the front court and rebounding the basketball last season, having a 6-foot-11 veteran back in the fold is nothing but good news.

Thorne's up-in-the-air status since the season ended in March was one of multiple roster mysteries for the Illini, a couple of which still remain unresolved. Black was suspended for the first four regular-season games of the upcoming season after he pleaded guilty following his arrest for pulling a knife on a nightclub bouncer in February. Guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate remain indefinitely suspended following their unrelated March arrests for domestic battery, though an update on Nunn could be forthcoming after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery on Wednesday.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.