Friday, March 17, 2006

Victory Number One

It takes 6 wins to be crowned as the National Champion. After a delayed start due to a bomb scare, Illinois got victory number one last night thanks to outstanding, big-time performances from Jamar Smith, Brian Randle, and Warren Carter to go with solid contributions from Dee Brown and James Augustine.

Rick Morrissey of the Tribune says that surviving Thursday is a big deal. I agree. This was a game that was being played a long way from Illinois against a very solid and motivated Air Force team during a week when the Illini had encountered flight delays, bus breakdowns, and a bomb scare. It would not have been difficult to get distracted and let a game like this slip away. Thankfully, Illinois' focus never wavered and now they move on to play Washington on Saturday. Before going any further, I want to congratulate Air Force on the way they played. I thought they gave a tremendous effort and certainly proved that they belonged in the tournament. Also, AF Zoomie provided us with some great analysis that was right on--the two players he named had good games, their big guy didn't like to go inside, we were able to pound the ball inside to our guys, and AF could definitely shoot the three. In the end, the Air Force players left it all on the court and Illinitalk commends them for a great season and we thank them for serving our country.

The Illini now move on to Saturday's game against Washington and try to get victory number two. You might infer from the title of this column and the opening sentence that I am predicting a National Championship for the Illini this year. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that they need six wins to accomplish that and the only way to get there is to take it one game and one win at a time. The Washington Huskies are a good basketball team that defeated Utah State in their game yesterday. They have an outstanding guard by the name of Brandon Roy, who was the Pac-10 Player of the Year. Both teams finished as the runners up in their respective conferences, have virtually identical records, and were number one seeds a year ago, thus having tournament experience. Illinois will have to play well to win this game and Coach Weber doesn't intend to allow the team to relax after yesterday's win. If Illinois can get contributions from its bench, continue to shoot well, and continue to throw the ball inside, they should win tomorrow's game. I feel good going into this game and hope that's a good sign for tomorrow.

As of this post, the Big 10 is 3-2 in the tournament with wins from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio State. Unfortunately, Wisconsin got crushed by Arizona today and Iowa was upset by Northwestern State University. That's right, it wasn't a misprint--Northwesten State University, the 14th seed. Iowa Coach Steve Alford said before today's game that he knows all too well that upsets happen because he experienced it back when he was playing for Indiana and 14th seed Cleveland State upset them in 1986. Apparently, he should of showed his team highlights from that game. We hate to see the Big 10 look bad like this and unfortunately there is no other way to put it--this is what happened to Iowa.

That's all for today. Have a great evening and let's cheer on the Illini to victory # 2 tomorrow. Go Orange and Blue!

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