Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Still Waiting

I am still waiting for this year's team to take that big step forward in conference play. I thought the Wisconsin game was it but it turns out it wasn't. We won some close games during the non-conference season but have not been able to do that during conference play. It is very, very frustrating. With that, here are some thoughts from me and from Chief regarding last night's game against Michigan:

--I thought we had positioned ourselves well for NCAA tournament seeding by moving up to #8 this week and the possibility of winning or tying for the conf. title. Some of that could be negatively impacted by this loss. I really didn't want to see the team with anything lower than a 3 seed but that likely won't happen if theylose any more games now.

--Every time I think some of our players have progressed and developed, they have a game where they regress. Such a lack of consistency. It has to be driving Coach Weber crazy. Here are more of his thoughts. In addition, I think Tupper captures the essence of what I am getting at in his blog today.

--Despite my concerns listed above, I am actually still feeling pretty positive today. I don't think there is any way we can win the conference title outright (it would just be asking too much in terms of help from other teams) but I do think we could still tie for the title IF (granted a big if) we win out. OSU still has to play at MSU, WI has to play at MSU and IA, and we get Iowa at home. In addition, some of these other teams still have tough home games. It won't be easy but the opportunity is still there with a little bit of help.

--More important than the conference title is the NCAA Tournament. With the Big Ten being at tough as it is and playing on the road having been as difficult as it is, tournament games may feel like a relief. They will be on neutral courts and most teams we may play will likely not be nearly as familiar with our team and what we try to do compared to our Big Ten opponents. Plus most conferences don't play defense like the Big Ten. All that gives me hope that a good tournament run is possible.

--Or maybe I have just been drinking too much orange kool-aid as they say on Illiniboard.

Chief's thoughts:

--It is tough to play 2 games in 3 days especially when the second game is on the road

--It is tough to hang with Horton when he is unconscious--that said, our defensive lapses were ridiculous on the perimeter

--Illinois should have gone more to Augie in the paint in the 2nd half

--The Big Ten Tourney should be interesting since it's "neutral" court and no one can win on the road

--We're still about where I thought we'd be

--Times like this make me look forward to football, where we're the team without the target on our backs

Funny side bar:
--During most games, Chief and I email each other back and forth with comments about the team, how we are playing, the officiating, etc. So last night, I emailed Chief asking how Skinny Sweet Cheeks (his wife) handled the last five minutes of the game. Here was his response: "She NEVER gets upset but she all of a sudden screamed I HATE YELLOOOOWWWWWWW!" (referring to ia and mi). Skinny Sweet Cheeks--I couldn't have said it better myself. Go Illini!

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