Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An Illinitalk First!

Today, we have a special treat for you. There are many sports reporters out there that also have blogs--Mark Tupper and Brett Dawson are two examples of reporters who do this and do it well. Because they are also reporters, they often get more in-depth information that we may not be able to match because we don't have the same access to the coaches, players, conference calls, news conferences, etc.

However, today we have something for you that I have yet to see from any reporter out there. While you may have read quite a bit about Air Force's coach and perhaps some general information about their team, today Illinitalk brings you an inside perspective about Illinois' Thursday opponent. This marks our blog's first-ever guest commentary. It is something Chief and I have been talking about for awhile and now seemed like the perfect time to launch it. We hope you enjoy it and if you do, let us know and we will bring you more occasional guest commentary features in the future.

With that, here is what AF Zoomie has to say about his team:

"Recently I was asked to provide a ‘guest blog’ for this site. I’m a cadet at the Air Force Academy, but I have a place in my heart for the Illini as well—I’m from Illinois and most of my family and friends are either alumni or current students. I’m no writer or poet or anything like that, but here it is.

I know that most of you have probably seen or read about the media’s take on why the Air Force shouldn’t be in the tournament this year, so I’m not going to beat that drum anymore than I have to. What I have to say about all that is that the media never gives Air Force any credit. I doubt that half of the guys that are talking us down have ever watched us play. Yeah, we aren’t the best team and we didn’t beat the best teams, but we do have a good record (24-6) and we had a great season. I’ve got classes with some of the guys, and they’re excited about playing this game—they know how good the Illini are and they know what everyone thinks of them and they’re ready to make a stand. They would love to pull off an upset and wait for the apologies from CBS that probably wouldn’t come.

Air Force has ridiculous fans and the team benefits from it. We have a 35-0 winning streak at home, granted we won’t be playing at home in the tournament, but neither will our opponents (plural hopefully). On that note, the cadets here have been fired up since we found out that we slipped into the tournament. Our Section 8 would normally rival the Orange Crush. However, the ‘powers that be’ have determined that this weekend’s training supersedes any attempt to support our team. I disagree, but no one asked me. There is a rumor that we will send out a very small contingent, but nothing huge. That said, San Diego is in our conference, so we should benefit from that and it is pretty far from home for the Illini, so that should give the Air Force a leg up.

We are primarily a shooting team. We don’t have a J.J. Redick, but our senior, Antoine Hood averages 15 points a game. Jake Burtschi doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, but averages 13 points a game. These two are our playmakers and the rest of the team compliments them well. We’re a fast team, but the one major disadvantage is our height. Yeah, we’ve got a 6’-10” guy, but he’s scared to go to the hoop and only averages 6 points a game. Illinois has an opportunity to destroy us inside. Our best hope is to drain 3’s all night long. I would say that we are a typical 3-point shooting team—when we’re on, we’re on, but if not, it’ll be a rough game.

We have no misconceptions about the strength of the Illini, but we won’t be pushed over. The biggest mistake that the Illini can make is to look past us. Good luck."

-- AF Zoomie

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