Saturday, December 31, 2005


Illinois ran it's record to 14-0 by beating Tennessee-Martin last night. Big news of the night: Rich McBride's 21 points and James Augustine setting the Illini rebounding record. If McBride can continue to pour in the points, I believe Illinois will be a solid Final Four contender come tourney time.

The Trib's Neil Milbert talks about Illinois' incredible winning streak in the year 2005 here.

Tupper has some interesting comments from Tennessee-Martin's coach about Illinois' defense here.

Tupper's blog addresses the Illini's schedule, looks ahead to Big Ten conference play and has an update on John Supinie here.

Augie gets love from the Sun-Times here.

Clark Kellogg predicts Illinois will finish behind Sparty and the Hoosiers in conference play here. (Not sure we agree with him on Indiana...Bruce Weber can outcoach Mike Davis any day when it comes to X's and O's.)

Let's here it for the fans! Journal-Star notes this was the Illini's 20th straight sellout. (That's saying something with the students still gone.)


Friday, December 30, 2005

Keeping up with Chief

Okay, Chief has been on a roll this past week or so and I felt I had to contribute something. Almost every day lately, I get up thinking I will post on the stories of the day and every time he has beaten me to the punch. Here was me on the first day this happened, the second day, the third day, the fourth day, and finally today.

However, since he missed a couple of articles from today and yesterday (but to be fair he posted some that I missed), I thought I would add links to them for all of you to enjoy.

More Augie love, this time from Herb Gould of the Sun-Times.

More thoughts on the Illini being a blue collar team as well as some love for Warren Carter from Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald.

Rick Morrissey casually slips in a prediction of Illinois playing for the National Championship again in yesterday's Tribune (scroll to the bottom, and yes he is joking about more of the same in 2006 but hey, you never know. And I am sure he will take credit for being the first to make that predicion if it were to come true).

Dan McGrath, also of the Trib, says Weber was the best interview for him in 2005. Also, while it is not Illini related, check out the funniest quote he heard at the bottom of the article.

Luke Winn keeps Illinois at number 5 in his new power rankings on and in reasons why Illinois is still a title contender he comments on the ticket scandal that Chief mentioned. Pretty good stuff from Winn this week. Meanwhile, Dee makes Grant Wahl's early All-America team.

Finally, Greg Doyle has a very interesting comparison of the 2004-2005 Illini with this year's Villanova squad on CBS Also, don't forget to check out his Top 10 Stories of 2005 where the Illini receive some major props as the top story. Number 5 on the list is pretty good as well.

After tonight, the Illini should be 14-0. Then the real season begins--look for more on that soon. Until then, GO ILLINI!


Scandal, blue collar and Weber the plane de-icer

Illinois looks to go undefeated in the nonconference portion of their schedule tonight when they take on the University of Tennessee-Martin. (For those who have never heard of Tennessee-Martin, here is their webpage.)

A 14-0 record going into Big Ten play would be, without question, exceeding expectations.

White collar vs. Blue collar
Tupper has a nice preview of tonight's game here, which talks about the identity of this year's team compared to last year's.

Rebounding king
Trib's Neil Milbert has nice story on Augie here as he looks to become the Illini's all-time leading rebounder tonight.

Scandal...In Champaign?????
Peoria Journal-Star has a story on the fake ticket situation. Brett Dawson blogged about it last night. You know you're hot and popular when people are selling fake tickets.

Bruce Weber: Plane De-icer???
Kirk Wessler (PJS sports columnist) gives nice props to Weber today (you'll have to scroll a little to get to it).

New Power 16 up. Illinois at No. 5...solid 2 seed. HOWEVER, check out what they say about Indiana. (Hint: Big Ten getting as much love this year as it got scolding last year.)

Also, Dee Brown. Need we say more?


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tupper: Supinie update

Tupper covering the Supinie beat as only Tupper can here. Thanks for keeping us updated Mark!


Lloyd Carr and Michigan

This (video link up here) starts to make up for this, this, this, this, this and all the other times Lloyd Carr has screamed at the officials, acted like this and gotten his way.


The Bench

Illinois played a great overall game last night in beating Southeast Missouri State 89-64. In particular, the Illini bench was outstanding.

Tupper has story here...includes talk of Dee's buzzer-beating mid-court shot right before halftime...that shot is No. 6 on ESPN's top plays today btw.

Chicago Tribune's Neil Milbert talks about the Illini bench contributions major props to Jamar Smith, Warren Carter and Chester Frazier.

Tupper's blog here. Make sure to note very end...Copley's John Supinie undergoing triple bypass surgery this morning at Carle. Please keep him in your prayers. Supinie is a favorite of Illinitalk and linked often. In case you missed it, his recent profile on Brian Randle was top-notch.

Herb Gould of Sun-Times has the Dee Brown "We don't get nervous" quote here.

Finally, ESPN's Andy Katz give the Illini and Bruce Weber some love here for being unbeaten. It's great to exceed expectations. (This article is a little dated but it's still running on the front page of ESPN's college basketball page.)


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another seven-footer?

Illinois is still reportedly interested in Riverton's seven-foot Mike Tisdale for the class of '07 even after Peoria Richwoods Power Forward Billy Cole committed. Peoria Journal Star's John Supinie has the story today.

I've seen Tisdale listed anywhere from 7' to 7'-2". I really hope if he comes to Illinois he can bang down low and doesn't have attitude problems. (Not that a certain tall player in recent Illini history has had problems in either of those areas.)

Anyway, David Kane from the State Journal-Register takes a look at Mike Tisdale as well as his bother Ronnie today...and discusses the numbers fudging that goes on with players' heights.

Also, check out the Illinois High School Sports page for some photos of Tisdale here and here. Appartently he was only 6'9" as a sophomore.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Must-read stuff today

Brian Randle
John Supinie has a must-read profile on Brian Randle today.

Quick snip:
But Randle is more than a 6-foot-8 forward. He gained strength from a family that struck a balance between white and black. The son of a mixed-race couple, he was adopted into an interracial home where he flourished as a student and an athlete.

For a photo of Randle playing defense, click here.

Weber vs. Quin: A study in contrasts
(and I'm not just talking about hair styles, styles and styles...feel free to email your caption suggestions for these photos to If we like 'em, we'll post 'em. No profanity please.)

Check out this Mark Tupper column today. Here's a snippet from the end. Pay close attention to the final paragraph:


There was little sympathy for Missouri coach Quin Snyder in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch accounts of the game published Thursday morning.

Columnist Bryan Burwell seemed to crystallize the case against Snyder and the downfall of the Tigers in these three paragraphs:

"This was it, the perfect punishment to fit the crime. Quin Snyder slowly rose from his seat at courtside, his face flush and hollow, trying to figure some quick and less painful way to end this miserable spanking. Lineup shuffles didn't work, and neither did any mad scribbling of fancy Xs and Os on his coach's board.

"There was nothing he could do to stop another night of tough love and righteous rebuke for all the wrong and shame the embattled coach and tarnished ex-golden boy has brought to Mizzou.

"Somehow, the basketball gods always get it right. They love these perfect morality plays that remind you how fitting it is to see one program rising under the spirit of a leader who knows how to win the right way and one program sinking under the weight of its failed leader who couldn't tell the difference between a wrong turn and a shortcut."


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Braggin' Baby

Together with our wives, Good Hope Orange and I got to see the Braggin' Rights game last night in person. This is quickly becoming a Christmas tradition and one that I hope continues for a long time.

I know you can get the wrap on the game from the papers and probably saw it anyway so a few thoughts on the game from someone who was there and things you may not have seen on TV:

Dee and Augie played masterful games. Dee's shots are falling and Augie is attacking the basket like never before.

Not that I'm looking ahead to next season but I've been wondering if the rest of the guys, particularly those who will be around next year, will be able to pick up the intensity without Dee. Well, you may not have seen it if you were watching the game on TV but in the second half, Brian Randle starting pumping his fist in the air and throwing his arms up to get the Illini faithful to scream. This was a welcome sight. It was great to see someone other than Dee step up. Randle was definately playing with fire last night.

Jamar Smith
Jamar Smith. He's automatic and full of attitude.

Mark Tupper says it was 65 percent Illini. But if you count all the restaurants and Union Station beforehand, I'd have to say it was at least 85-90 percent Orange. It was unreal.

We were at the Hard Rock before the game and I counted three tables of Mizzou fans. The rest of the place was orange. In fact, the Illini cheerleaders and pep band came in and pumped us up for about 20 minutes or so. It was great!

Odds and ends
Best t-shirt
Spotted outside the Savvis Center on a Mizzou fan who's obviously had enough: "BRING BACK NORM."


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Back to St. Louis

The Illini will make their first trip back to St. Louis since the Final Four last April. Tonight they take on the Missouri Tigers in the annual Braggin' Rights Game at the Savvis Center. Today's media coverage includes a preview in the Sun-Times, a profile of Shaun Pruitt in the Tribune, Marlen Garcia of the Trib reflects on the stories she covered this year and gives a lot of love to the Illini, and the Daily Herald has Dee Brown's thoughts on the game.

Chief, Skinny Sweetcheeks, Oskee Mom Mom, and I will be making the trip to St. Louis to get our first in-person look at the Illini this year. Victory #12 would be a nice early Christmas present. Go Illini!


Friday, December 16, 2005

Gordon Profile

Check out this excellent in-depth article in the Trib about Eric Gordon. I think it reaffirms that he is going to be a great fit with the Illini.

Also, the Trib's Melissa Isaacson says the IL-AZ Elite 8 matchup was the best game she coverd this year. Uh, yeah, I would have to agree with that one.

Finally, some big time high school matchups this week that will include Illinois recruits Gordon and Brian Carlwell as well as Derrick Rose, who we hope will join them at Illinois.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Does Seth Davis live in a bubble?

Found an interesting read on today. For a sports writer/analyst, it sure seems like Seth Davis doesn't pay much attention to what is going on in college basketball these days. In his Hoop Thoughts column this week, he says it is going to be an interesting battle to see who finishes second to Michigan State in the Big 10. Then he goes on to say that most people would select Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, or (his sleeper) Ohio State (to finish second). Come on Seth, pay attention to what is going on in the Big 10. How about a little more love for the Illini? I guarantee you the Illini are not conceding their title (that's right, they are the defending conference champs in case you had forgotten).

Look, I understand why Michigan State is still considered to be the favorite by most but the title is NOT going to be handed to them. I think Illinois and some of the other Big 10 teams are proving that the conference is going to be very, very good this year and that whoever wins the title, is going to earn it. It is not a foregone conclusion that Michigan State will win the title. Also, while I still believe it is a little early to give too much credence to rankings, consider this:

AP Poll--Illinois ranked 9th, Michigan State ranked 12th

USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll--Illinois ranked 8th, Michigan State ranked 12th

CBS Sportsline RPI Rankings--Illinois ranked 3rd, Michigan State ranked 34th

Dukie Vitale Rankings--Illinois ranked 5th, Michigan State ranked 10th
Plus, on a side note, Illinois is Vitale's Team of the Week

Even Davis' own SI colleague, Luke Winn, shows the Illini some respect in his Power Rankings--Illinois ranked 5th, Michigan State ranked 9th

In an abberation (but to be fair), the CBS poll--Illinois ranked 14th, Michigan State ranked 12th

The defense rests your honor.

In all seriousness, we aren't going to have a real good feel for who the contenders vs. the pretenders are until conference play starts. And for the record, while the Illinois-MSU conference opener is an important game for both teams, the winner of that will not necessarily end up winning the conference. Davis might also want to check out this analysis from Andy Katz on why the Illini were his team of the week and why the Big Ten title shouldn't be handed to anyone else just yet.

Now that I have beaten Davis up a little bit, let me also show him some love. In the same Hoop Thoughts article, he makes a point that Chief and I wholeheartedly agree with--"Two words why recruiting rankings are overrated: Jamar Smith. Illinois' 6-3 freshman guard was not on anybody's top 100 list last year, yet he's the Illini's third-leading scorer (10.0 ppg)." Amen, Seth, Amen.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Finals Week

This week is finals week at Illinois (and just about every university in America). That means no basketball games, which would ordinarily mean no news.

Not at Illinois:





Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who'da thunk it?

Nailing Georgetown by 10?

Taking down Oregon by 30? (On the road)

Going into finals week undefeated at 10-0?

Landing another top recruit for the class of '07?

If you would have told me at the beginning of the season this is how the Illini basketball team's season would have started, I would have told you you were crazy. I was hoping to get through this stretch with just a couple losses.

The victory over Oregon Saturday was a huge momentum booster. The rest of the nonconference schedule isn't exactly a cakewalk (Missouri is always a war) but Illinois could easily go into Big Ten play 14-0.

In my opinion the Big Ten schedule will tell us a lot. The Big Ten is much improved this year, as Gregg Doyel says here...and every team is going to want revenge on Illinois for last year. And the Illini's conference schedule is much more difficult this year than last.

For the time being, I want to enjoy the first ten games.

Peoria Pipeline

This team is awesome...and they're only going to get better in the years ahead...Peoria Richwoods junion Billy Cole committed this weekend...Peoria Journal Star article here...Cole joins Eric Gordon from Indy as Bruce Weber solidfies his resume as a genius coach who can recruit. Or is that a teacher who coaches? Or a coach who is a leader? Or a leader who is a teacher who is a coach?

Anyway, some quick links of interest: Dukie V gives us some love...Andy Katz here....latest AP's poll...BCS standings...oh wait, that's college football where they have a phony system...sorry...


Monday, December 05, 2005

Two Games, Two Teams

I saw two very different Illini teams play on Saturday and Monday. On Saturday against Xavier, the Illini continued to look out of synch on offense and had defensive lapses. The first half was particularly challenging but they played much better after halftime. Thankfully, there were some bright spots.

First and foremost, they found a way to win the game (Sidebar--Congrats to Dee and Augie on going 12-0 at the United Center for their careers). I think that is a carryover from last year. Despite the change in the makeup of the team, the players expect to win every game and with Dee and Augie, they are being shown how to make that happen. Speaking of Augie, this is the type of game he could have almost every night. He was played aggessively but smartly and attacked the basket. His scoring, rebounding, and defense were excellent and he dominated the game. He was the main reason Illinois won this game. Since were a couple days past the game, I doubt any of you need links to recaps but check out this interesting column from Mike Downey of the Tribune about the Illini's ranking. Not sure that I agree with it but I understand where he is coming from--he makes a pretty interesting case.

Monday night I saw an improved Illini team, especially in the second half. My only question is whether the team looked so much better because things are slowly starting to come together for them or if it was because the level of competition was better. Arkansas-Little Rock was a scrappy team, and even though they gave Michigan State everything they wanted and more, they are not at the same level as Xavier. That being said, I am leaning towards the opinion that the Illini looked better because things are starting to come together for them. Don't get me wrong, they still have a ways to go to get their offense in synch but I liked what I saw Monday night much more than I liked what I saw on Saturday.

First, I think players are starting to define their roles and we will see that get finalized by the time conference games start. Dee looked much better at the point guard--he didn't score as much as usual but he got his teammates involved and set them up nicely for shots. I also love the way he coaches the young guys out on the floor--that is so important not only for this year, but for the future. Having him on the team this year is going to mean more than just what he contributes by his play on the court. I thought Augie looked solid again as did Randle. Carter also had a nice game. AND HOW ABOUT JAMAR SMITH? Talk aobut a freshman stepping up bigtime. He was outstanding. He shot the lights out from three point range, had some nice passes, and from what I saw, he played very good defense. He got a lot of well-deserved minutes and I believe even started the second half. It was just one game but he has played well so far this year and this should be a huge boost to his confidence.

The biggest concern I have coming out of that game is continued poor free throw shooting. That has got to get better or it will cost some game this year. I think turnovers and fouls were better than they have been but I haven't had a chance to see the final stats--they didn't stand out as a problem though. The only other concern I have coming out of this game is that I would really like to see McBride get on track. Not sure if his feet are bothering hin again, but we need more consistency from him this year and I don't want to see him lose confidence early on.

Next up: Georgetown at Assembly Hall tomorrow night at 8 p.m. on ESPN


Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Illini's New Recruiter

“My #1 Priority is Derrick Rose.”--Eric Gordon.

This is why landing a guy like Gordon so early is huge for the program!!! It is not just the fact that we are getting a top 10 player but also that he may bring other top guys with him. I love it!!! Check out his press conference in Indy and notice the Illinois sweatshirt he is wearing. What a great addition to the program--I can't wait to see him on the court in Illini orange. Also lots of discussion on Illiniboard about Gordon so check it out.


ESPN Loves Tyler Hansborough's "Mom"

Good Hope Orange has a nice post below about the UNC game. You really should read it. He provides some good analysis.

We here at Illinitalk like being opinionated and providing interesting and sometimes entertaining commentary. We think it's what keeps us different from most reporters and even other Illini bloggers.

In that spirit, I wanted to add one additional thought about Tuesday night before we look ahead to Xavier: Who was sitting in the ESPN satellite truck during the Illini's game with UNC Tuesday night?

The reason for my question is simple. It seemed like the network had one camera trained on Tyler Hansborough's family the entire night. Every single time the guy dribbled the ball without losing it, made a pass or got a rebound, there was Tyler's mom and younger brother screaming and going crazy on ESPN.

There are a few things wrong with this.

First, and perhaps most obvious: Was this really necessary? As my brother-in-law said, "I watch games to see the competition, not the crowd." I couldn't agree more.

And if ESPN feels the necessity to show specific members of the crowd, especially more than once, they should balance it out with folks cheering the other team. I'm sure Coach Weber's wife was probably cheering just as hard and I think Dee Brown's mom was sitting behind the Illinois bench. Both good opportunities to show our fans.

This whole thing raises the question Skinny Sweetcheeks (for those of you new to our blog, that's my wife) raised with me during the 200th shot of Tyler's mom and brother Tuesday night: "Do you think the guy from ESPN calling the shots to the cameras has a crush on that woman?"

Skinny Sweetcheeks is one smart woman. Very perceptive.

Lest you think that is all, there is more! It wasn't Tyler's mom or younger brother as ESPN announcers Dan Shulman and Dukie Vitale said. A quick peak at Tyler Hansborough's website will confirm this fact here. (I'm sure I'll come up with a tangent later on the over-the-top fact that a college basketball player has his own website.)

Come on ESPN! If the producer in your satellite truck who is running the cameras is going to keep showing a woman because he has a crush on her, don't identify her as a prominent player's mom who she ain't. Journalistic integrity at its best!


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