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From the Sports Editor's desk: Where the Illini go, Richey goes

Mar. 20—CHAMPAIGN — Traveling by planes, trains and automobiles is how Scott Richey has covered the Illinois men's basketball team this season.

Mostly by automobile, though.

Now in his ninth season as the Illini beat writer for The News-Gazette, the 36-year-old Eastern Illinois University graduate has seen most of the country the past four months providing his in-depth coverage of Brad Underwood's talented team.

Traversed more than 7,100 miles to do so, too, being in person for all 34 games this season.

Whether it's by tweet (check out his video from Sunday evening of Luke Goode tossing the ball to the rafters of the Target Center after the Illini clinched the Big Ten tournament title in Minneapolis) or by written word (and there's a lot of them from Richey in this 16-page section), he is the daily, constant voice of the team that has fans in Champaign and beyond thinking of a national title in the coming weeks.

At the time of this writing, Richey, along with staff writer Zach Piatt and photo editor Robin Scholz, are once again hitting the open road, leaving Tuesday for the roughly 500-mile trip to Omaha, Neb. They'll be there throughout the week, providing constant coverage before, during and after the Illini as they open their NCAA tournament stay at 2:10 p.m. Thursday against Morehead State.

Consider this and Hall of Famer Loren Tate's column on the Terrence Shannon Jr.'s season the opening salvo of getting ready for what to expect from the Illini in the NCAA tournament. Richey breaks down all 68 teams in his annual rooting interest piece, giving praise to a team coached by another former Illini coach he got to know on the beat (John Groce at Akron) and scorn to someone all Illini fans can relate to (Bruce Pearl at Auburn).

We've also got veteran columnist Bob Asmussen, here at The News-Gazette since 1989, weighing in on Underwood's tenure and his favorite thing besides college football: his hometown of Omaha. Asmussen will be there this week as well, documenting the Illini like he has done for decades.

Staff writers Joe Vozzelli and Joey Wright pitch in their talents, too, with Piatt along for the ride as well.

And what a ride it could be for the Illini in the next three weeks. Wherever it ends up — Omaha, Boston or cutting down the nets after winning the national title on April 8 in Glendale, Ariz. — we'll be there every step of the way.

By planes, trains or automobiles.

Matt Daniels is the sports editor at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-373-7422 or at mdaniels@news-gazette.com.