Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dee and Deron

I'm watching the Jazz-Spurs game. Rarely do I watch the NBA but this is the first time this year I've had an opportunity to see Deron and Dee in action. Deron doesn't have a hot hand tonight but he is so good in so many other areas of the game i.e. rebounding, running the offense etc.

Dee just got some nice face time. They showed him visiting what I think was a middle school and giving a motivational speech about the importance of reading. Reminded me of his time at Illinois. His contribution was never limited to just the court--he always did the little things to try and help people and that's why he remains the face of Illinois basketball.


Thoughts on MSU

A couple thoughts on last night:

“He showed me more guts than anyone I’ve seen since Mateen Cleaves,” Izzo said of his former point guard, the heart and soul of a team that led the Spartans to the 2000 national championship. “Everyone knows he’s hurt. Watching him before the game, he could hardly walk.

“I told him at our place he’s the toughest player in the league. I told him that again tonight. It was a gutsy effort.”


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cold Night

Under 5 minutes left in the first half, 15-20 Illinois.
Quote of the night (so far) from my cousin: "It's like a junior high boys game."

Oh well, at least the refs are in good position.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Bo Knows

Arrelious Benn isn't the only football freshman attending classes in Champaign. Classmates Bo Flowers and Erique Robertson are also on campus.

But Bo isn't your typical freshman. Drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in 2002 and traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2005, he's got a few years of minor league baseball experience under his belt. Bo knows baseball, but apparently it wasn't everything he hoped. Now, at age 23, he's the oldest freshman football player on the Fighting Illini, planning to play safety or receiver. So Bo knows football.

Bo also knows how to get a deal -- he's not on scholarship, he's getting an education courtesy of the Tigers, thanks to the contract he signed when he was drafted. Smart move.

(Little known irrelevant fact: Bo played quarterback for his high school football team. His junior season came to an end during the Illinois 2A football playoffs when he was picked off twice -- by my brother.)


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bill Cole Guest Blog

Another great guest blog by future Illini Bill Cole:

Hey Illini fans,

I just thought I'd stop by and let everyone know what's been going on lately. Last Saturday we took a three-hour bus ride up to Schaumburg to play against a very good team. Very shortly into the game (I'm talking 1:30 max), I had picked up two of the most tickey-tack fouls I have ever gotten. This made me pretty mad because I knew my coach would probly sit me for the rest of the half and that's exactly what happened.

I was proud of the way my team played without me though and we went into halftime down two. We came out with a bang and finally pulled away from them in the 4th quarter. We ended up winning by 14, I think. I finished with 25, scoring 22 in the second half.

That was our only game that weekend...but this last friday we played Peoria Manual at Manual and lost. We played terrible. We shot 3 for 23 on 3pt fg's. I have to give my props to Manual for coming out strong though. We had a wide-open shot at the top of the key when we were down 1 with 25 seconds left but he missed it and we ended up losing by 6.

The feeling of disappointment after the game was horrible. It was one of those days you wish you had a reset button and you could just go back. I was also mad because we didn't have a Saturday game to kind of make it up to our coaches and fans. Coach kicked our butts yesterday in practice. Hopefully this loss will light a fire under the squad and turn out to be a good lesson for us.

I saw the second half of the Purdue game yesterday. I'm not really sure how we got down in the first half, but I thought we were coming back in the second until that Teague guy went off. I can't wait until Randle gets back. I think he will bring his basket slashing abilities back with him and provide a needed scoring threat. I was impressed with Chester's play yesterday...he's an all-out warrior. Jamar is gonna knock down about four or five threes next game for me...I feel it.

Bill Cole


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Salt in the Wound

Not really sure what that was over at Purdue today. You sure couldn't call it a basketball game from my perspective.

And to add insult to injury, the day after the Washington Post runs a huge feature on Arrelious Benn, they run this hit piece on Chief Illiniwek. Hey, at least they're fair and balanced. One day they give you great press, the next day they run a hit piece.

I would refer you to this column by George Will in the wake of today's unfair and one-sided commentary on the Chief in the Post.

By the way, Alma Mater, great first post. Good to have you on board.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Trending Up?

First off, thanks to Chief for his kind introduction, though I'm not sure I can live up to it. I can't begin to compare to EA -- the only edge I have on her is that I'm a proud Illini alum. I won't rank my sports IQ, but I do have opinions and I love my Illini!

And I love them still, though this basketball season has been a bit more painful than anticipated. Welcome to reality in the Big Ten, Illini fans. (Yes, this is the type of season most true college basketball fans experience.) It's tough to win on the road, and even at home you have to give 100%.

But I've seen promising trends in the last few games that give me hope that the second half of the conference season will be better than the first half:
1. More leadership. Carter, Pruitt and McBride have all stepped up and been more vocal on the court.
2. Less standing. Love the motion offense. It's fun to watch the boys in orange run in circles and get an open shot. But in the first half of the conference season, this team looked more like the Standing Illini. Recently there has been more movement and energy on the court -- keep it up, guys!
3. Fewer attempted 3s. Seriously, 25 attempts against Iowa? That's way too many. I was yelling at the TV every time they shot the 3, even when they made them. Not the way to win games -- even if you are making a respectable 35% from behind the arc.
4. More inside game. We are a big team, and we usually have an advantage inside. I like seeing the ball in Pruitt's and Carter's hands more often -- they take high percentage shots. And, we are getting more penetration off the dribble. Rich made 2 buckets inside the arc against Indiana, and Frazier is driving more, as well. That's a good way to get the sharp-shooters open outside without a hand in their face. Might help their confidence with all the well-documented shooting slumps.

Now, if we could just start making free throws...

However, we are capable of beating Purdue if we play our best. Go Illini!


Football Getting Major Press

Check out this photo shoot of Juice and C.J. from


Washington Post On Arrelious Benn

Today's Washington Post has a great feature article (make sure you click on the photo link) on Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn, who is from Washington, DC.

Couple things about this story:

--It's running in the University of Maryland's hometown paper. It takes up most of the whole front page of the sports section and is also teased on teh front page of the paper. This will do nothing but help the already strong recruiting efforts of the Illinois staff, particularly Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley, in the DC area.

--The article does a great job of showing just how difficult it is to be a student-athlete, especially on the D-I level.

--Zook and company are unbelievable recruiters. Benn left his girlfriend in DC and is facing a tough Illinois winter when he could have stayed at home and gone to Maryland or had some fun and sun at USC.

--Love this quote by Zook:

"We've got something special going on right now, men," Zook said. "We're cooking with gas. I hope you feel it. This thing is getting ready to take off. You know it. I know it."



That school drives me nuts. Last night's game against Clemson was ridiculous as even former Duke player Jay Bilas mentions here. Deadspin has the proof of the injustice linked here and just in case you've been living on Mars and thought this was the first time Duke has been treated as the ref's favorite, click here.


We've Got Our Own Erin Andrews

Most of you are probably familiar with ESPN's Erin Andrews. She covers a lot of Illinois games and has grown pretty fond of the Orange Krush. However, not only is Andrews attractive, she takes pride in her knowledge of sports.

Well, in an effort to bring a little bit of the Worldwide Leader's style to Illinitalk, we are proud to announce that we've just inked our own version of Erin Andrews to a nice little contract as a contributor to this blog. We were pleased that we had room for her under the salary cap because her knowledge of Illini sports is outstanding and she will be a phenominal addition to our team.

That's right folks: She's young. She's attractive. She's smart. Her sports IQ is off the charts. And for the record, she's single.

She will be writing under the pen name "Alma Mater." Please join me in giving her a warm welcome as she starts to post soon...

Housekeeping Item: Thanks to everyone who's been commenting on our posts lately. However, if you use profanity, it will be deleted. Also, to the fella who asked for a summary of the Bilas column on Weber/IU etc., I accidentally erased your comment while trying to erase a profanity-laced comment by what appeared to be some IU fan. Sorry...did not mean to.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Jay Bilas=Class Act

This and this took some humility and character (it always does when you admit you're wrong). Props to Bilas!


Kelvin Sampson, Blackberry User?

I have no idea if this is true or not but I was doing a search on Sampson and came across this story. I suppose you could text someone from a Blackberry but isn't e-mail the more common form of communication? What are the NCAA guidelines on that?

Bottom line: It's a whole new world and the NCAA better be ready to keep up. I can just see Sampson sending a recruit an e-mail with a link to YouTube with a video plea begging him to come to IU.


Mr. Pruitt, Your Table is Ready

Despite a sprained ligament (MCL) in his left knee that threatened to keep him on the bench, Shaun Pruitt put on a brace and played 32 minutes as he led the Illini to victory over Indiana with 10 points and 13 rebounds. He also helped hold the Big Ten's reining player of the week, D.J. White to 12 points and 8 rebounds (only 4 points and 3 boards in the 2nd half plus 3 turnovers). Perhaps most important was the leadership Pruitt provided to the team in helping them finish off a victory against a top 25 opponent.

This win was badly needed and the team played outstanding defense (Indiana went nearly 12 minutes without a basket in the first half, and 5.5 minutes in the second half), even with Brian Randle unable to play due to a foot injury. The win keeps Illinois' hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth alive and hopefully gives them a positive feeling and some momentum. For more game coverage, check out this article and this one too.

P.S. Coach Weber was about as animated as I have ever seen him during this game. You think he wanted this one badly? To answer my own question, yes he did. Why you ask? If you have been reading Chief's posts late, it is because of this. Until later, GO ILLINI!!!


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


This game looked about as ugly as Bruce Pearl's bare chest until McBride got hot.

Crowd is LOUD!


The Game

Second half just started.

I'm sick of hearing about this guy.

Pruitt is a beast.

Musberger just said college basketball recruiting is a "bottom line business." You read between the lines.


X-Rated Bruce Pearl

This is a fine thing to start your morning out with.

We all knew it when he was at Iowa and threw the Illinois basketball program under the bus but now hopefully the rest of the world sees it too. Bruce Pearl is just pathetic and has no shame.

Below are links to his latest, um, behavior. WARNING: VIEW DISCRETION IS ADVISED.




Monday, January 22, 2007


I know this is an Illini site but the University of Illinois and the Chicago Bears have a long history with each other dating back to Papa Bear Halas (The Bears colors are the same as Illinois' because of Halas) so I want to take just a minute to send out our congratlations to the NFC CHAMPION CHICAGO BEARS, who beat the New Orleans Saints 39-14 yesterday!!! Next stop: SUPER BOWL XLI in MIAMI!

The Bears opponent will be none other than the Indianapolis Colts, who defeated New England 38-34. For those of you who are familiar with Illinitalk and have looked at the links on the right hand side of the blog, you may have noticed that under the category of "Inspirational Pioneers," we have the Colts Couch Crew. Inspirational pioneers or not, all we have to say to them is "GO BEARS--BEAT THE COLTS!!!"


We'll Give it Two Days Because it Deserves Two Days

Normally we preview a game the day of. Not IU. Not the team whose coach pushed the limits of what's acceptable when it comes to recruiting. Not for the team that represents the future home of that player who has a problem with this.

Nope...we'll give it two days of coverage because it deserves two days. Can't wait to see the reception said coach in above paragraph gets when he enters the Hall tomorrow night. And just for good measure...


Friday, January 19, 2007

Arrelious Benn and Wisconsin Preview

A win against the Badgers tomorrow would be a huge boost. It's a tall order though.

Here is the big news: Arrelious Benn started classes this week. That means he's ours. That's a big deal because he was recruited by football powerhouses like Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Florida State and Maryland (although I wouldn't put the Terps in the "football powerhouse" class).

In fact, according to Supinie, he gave a silent verbal to Notre Dame early on in the process"

Benn acknowledged that he had made an earlier "silent verbal'' to Notre Dame, a commitment that wasn't strong, he said, and one he called off soon after making it.

Making the earlier commitment to Notre Dame "was one thing I wish that I'd never done,'' he said. "I told them that's not the decision I wanted to make. I opened up the recruiting process again, then I made my decision.''

Hmmmmmmmm. Benn handled his change of heart a little differently than Eric Gordon handled the same situation.

Anyway, that's enough mentions of that basketball player for one week. This is the quote from Supinie's story that excited me the most:

"I believe I'll play right away,'' said Benn, who graduated from high school early in order to start college classes and play spring football at Illinois. "I have really high expectations of myself. My plan is to be out there for the first play of the first game. I didn't come here to drop balls.''

Rock on.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bill Cole on the Weekend and What He Thinks about Indiana

Here is the second in an occassional guest blog series by Richwoods senior and future Illini Bill Cole:

Richwoods is fresh off three wins this past weekend. We played Peoria Woodruff, Moline and Champaign Central.

Peoria Woodruff was played at Woodruff on the 12th. We ended up beating them pretty bad-I had 29 and 15. We played Moline at RHS on the 16th and we beat them too-I had 20 and 10 in three quarters. The third and final game was Monday on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We played Champaign Central in the fieldhouse. They jumped out to an early lead but my boy Justin Dehm caught fire and led us to a 10 point lead at the half. We ended up kind of pulling away until the end of the game when they made some 3's. Justin ended up with a career high 32 points! I finished with 17.

All in all I think it was a great weekend for our program. If we can string together a few more wins I think we will be where we need to for the state tourney. We play Schaumburg up north on Saturday.

Aside from is going well right now. Spanish 5-6 is my hardest course. I'm trying hard to get good grades during the season and I'm doing a pretty good job. I finally decided what I want to major in down at U of I. I want to be a business major. I know this will be extremely hard, but I know if I stay focused I'll be able to do it.

I didn't get a chance to catch the game, but I heard the Illini beat up Minnesota pretty bad, which is great to see. It would be awesome if they could put a string of wins together here! Especially one against IU...I really don't like them. haha.

Go Illini,
Bill Cole


Take That, Eric Gordon

QB Clint Brewster is sticking with the Illini, despite his dad being named the new football coach at Minnesota.



Eric Gordon.



Big night for Illini basketball, past and present. The team took care of business at Minny last night. This was a badly needed road win.

In addition, Deron Williams had a monster game last night. Anyone who doesn't think Weber can develop talent, just check out D-Will.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007


For a preview of tonight's game against Minnesota, click here and here.


Is a U of I Alum Making Friends With Dictators Who Want to Kill Us?

Rarely do we deviate from sports but this is too interesting and possibly ridiculous to pass up.

So I'm surfing the U of I's website last night and come across this story that is linked on the front page about the new president of Ecuador who is a U of I alum. His name is Rafael Correa. The university seems loud and proud that one of its alums is the new head of what many would characterize as a third-world country.

So I skim the article, which is basically a propaganda piece about the huge role the U of I played in getting him where he is and think, "Hmmm, interesting but there has to be more to this story."

Alas, there is.

As is my custom every morning, I opened the Wall Street Journal to the editorial page this morning and behold, what do a I find in the left column, but a lead editorial on Hugo Chavez, the dictator of Venezuela and his dirty tricks, the latest of which is a weekend summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And who does the editorial say supports Chavez?

Ding! Ding! Ding!

The new president of Ecuador and U of I alum Rafael Correa.

And guess who attended Correa's inauguration? guessed it: Mr. Ahmadinejad. Doesn't this guy want to blow us up?

I'm so proud. My alma mater is using tax dollars to educate people and trumpeting when they become leaders of third-world countries and then seem to make friends with dictators who want to blow us up.

UPDATE: Two Tribune stories about Correa here and here. Someone should find out if the U of I is actually proud of this guy.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brian Cook, Sherron Collins and Tim Brewster

Lots of news this morning involving former Illini and shoulda been Illini:

Brian Cook had a great game last night against the Heat. In fact, he scored as many points as Kobe. This is the guy I expected Brian Randle to develop into. So far it hasn't happened. We saw flashes in the Iowa game but he just ain't there yet.

Sherron Collins had a monstrous game against Mizzou last night. I saw a bit of it on ESPN. Please tell me I'm not the only Illini fan who watches guys like this and wonders how much better our team would be if he were wearing orange. Injuries have been a big problem this year but it's time to fix the recruiting nightmare.

Tim Brewster will be coaching the University of Minnesota football team next season. Great hire for Minny. Brewster was a captain of the '84 Illini Rose Bowl team and coached under Mack Brown at Texas (I heard he recruited Vince Young) and most recently was tight ends coach for the Denver Broncos. A lot of Illini folks wanted him after Turner was fired.

I'm actually very disappointed he's not in the Illini program but I suppose you only have so much room for folks. The bigger question is gonna be whether Brewster's son Clint, who Zook has recruited to the Illini to play QB, will keep his committment now that dad is at a rival institution in the Big Ten.

The News-Gazette is all over the story and Bob Asmussen says Illini fans have nothing to worry about. Hopefully Clint shows up Eric Gordon when it comes to keeping a commitment.

PS We didn't blog about the Mich State game because we were so disgusted.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Michigan State

Pretty much everything to you need know as background for today's game, the Sun-Times' Herb Gould supplies you here. Highlights:

--Apparently the start times for the Bears and Illini games are the only thing the two teams have in common.

--A look at the Weber-Izzo relationship, including a nice root canal quote from Izzo (for some good reason I think Weber's relationship with Sampson is a little more icy).

In addition Post-Dispatch has a nice article on Brian Randle here.


Saturday, January 13, 2007


We have some quality individuals on this basketball team.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Too close for comfort but we'll take it

This is how I spell relief. Watching last night's game, I thought I was going to have to take some of those antacids and offer some to Coach Weber as well. Thankfully though, that was averted when the Illini prevailed over the visiting Hawkeyes. This was very much a team victory and it ended Illinois' three-game losing streak.

Randle and McBride snapped out of their slumps and were huge contributors in this victory. Randle had his best game in a long time and McBride shot very well from three-point range. With major contributions from Carter and Pruitt as well, it was enough for the victory. I also want to give credit to Brian Carlwell for his nice play coming off of the bench. I would like to see him as the first sub in for Pruitt. He is going to be someone Illini fans are really thankful to have on the team as he gets experience and matures these next couple of years.

Illinois really missed having Chester Frazier at the point last night. I think we saw how important he is to this team and the value he brings to the floor. He may not be a great shooter (although he is much improved in that area this year) but he runs the team well and is a solid assist guy. Trent Meacham is just not at the same level and did not play well last night. However, give him credit for hitting two clutch free throws that were desparately needed at the end of the game. We certainly need someone who can hit free throws because this team does not shoot them well and it may cost them some games if they can't improve. Iowa, on the other hand, doesn't seem to ever miss from the line, especially Haluska as he shoots 90% on his free throws.

Finally, I hope that Illinois studies the tape from the second half and learns two things:
1) The big guys inside can be a strength and they need to get the ball to them. Illinois shot way too many 3's and jump shots last night without ever throwing the ball inside or trying to penetrate. If you go inside first, the big guys have a chance to score or to kick it back out for a better outside shot. Relying too much on 3's and jump shots is going to kill you on bad shooting nights, as Illinois should have already learned.
2) This team must develop a killer instinct!!! They had this game under control and then almost lost it by letting Iowa back into the game in the final minutes. Keep the pressure on and don't let up until the clock reads zero!

Bonus thing to Learn: Stop fouling guys when they are shooting three point shots!!! McBride and Carter both did this last night and, especially as seniors, they should know better.

All in all, it was great to get the victory and now it is on to a tough road game at Michigan State on Sunday. The game begins at 12:30 central time. Please send your thanks to CBS for scheduling it during the Bears playoff game against the Seahawks. That's all for now. Until later, GO ILLINI!!!

P.S. Congrats to the University of Illinois-Chicago on their upset of 12th ranked Butler last night. Great win for them!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Basketball Recruiting Update

There has been some recruiting news break this week that I thought I would pass along for those of you that may have missed it. Quinton Watkins from Dominguez High School in Compton, California, is a four star shooting guard and a class of 2007 Top 100 player. He committed to Illinois on Saturday night.

Many recruiting analysts view Watkins as the best remaining shooting guard in the 2007 class and getting a commitment from him was a good thing for the Illini, especially since most experts believed he would end up at a school on the west coast. Illinois badly needed to add another guard (especially one who can score) to its recruiting class and this commitment likely concludes recruiting for the 2007 class.

As Illinois moves toward getting 2008 commitments, it will be interesting to see how many scholarships they have available. There will be at least two scholarships. Whether or not there is a third, depends on what they have committed to Trent Meacham. He joined the team as a walk-on after transferring from Dayton. It is Illinitalk's understanding that he will have a scholarship next year (as Illinois had five available but only has four recruits counting Watkins). Whether that scholarship was for one year or for the remainder of Meacham's eligibility seems to be unclear. If it is for only one year, Illinois will have three scholarships available for the 2008 class.

I don't oppose giving Meacham a scholarship during a year when there is an extra one available. However, if Illinois has an opportunity to get three great recruits for the 2008 class, then I sincerely hope they have not committed that scholarship to Meacham. Nothing against Trent but he knew what he was getting into when he decided to transfer and walk-on. Just because a scholarship is available for him in 2007 doesn't mean that he should expect (or that the coaches should feel obligated) to get one in 2008.

The 2008 recruiting class is going to be critical for the Illini and Coach Weber. They need to being able to maximize every scholarship they have available to bring in the best talent possible. I hope that is the choice they make.


Illinois must beat Iowa tonight

There isn't much to say about tonight's game other than Illinois desparately needs to win this game if they have any hope of being competitive in the Big Ten and making the NCAA tournament (without having to win the Big Ten Tournament). With a three game losing streak that they need to break and this being a home game, I am hopeful Illinois will come out and take care of business tonight. There is also some very encouraging news on Brian Randle that has come out of Illinois' practices this week. It is time for McBride and Randle to step up and exhibit some veteran leadership.


Final Thoughts on the Bowl Games

1) As a Big Ten fan, I was disappointed to see both Michigan and Ohio State get crushed in their respective bowl games. Any argument Michigan had about deserving to be in the title game went up in smoke. As for Ohio State, that was not the same team I saw play all season. I don't know if it was the 51 day layoff or what, but they were terrible. Give Florida credit for how they played because they were outstanding (and Zook credit for recruiting the players there), but Ohio State was a better team than they showed on Monday night.

2) The Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl game was the best bowl game of the year and certainly one of the top ones I have ever seen (along with Ohio State-Miami a few years ago and USC-Texas last year).

3) NOTRE DAME SHOULD NEVER AGAIN BE AWARED A BCS BOWL GAME. Okay, perhaps that is a little harsh and a bit overboard but this is getting ridiculous. They have lost nine straight bowl games overall and have been blown out in BCS bowl games the past two years. The Golden Domers are overmatched and are taking up a slot that should go to another deserving school.

Their record this year was inflated thanks to a number of easy games--in games against ranked teams such as USC and Michigan, they were blown out. And they barely squeaked by Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and UCLA. I know football schedules are set years in advance and you don't know which schools are going to be up or down that far out, but warning signs were abundant throughout the season that this Notre Dame team (and last year's too) were overrated. The special treatment Notre Dame receives in the BCS system is undeserved and is an example of just one of the many problems with how the BCS is currently structured.

4) It is time for a college football playoff. I know there are legitimate arguments both for and against this, but if you want to crown a true national champion, I think that is the only way you can do it. Go back to having four BCS games (which would be quarterfinals and occur on January 1st), then have two games a week later (the semifinals), and then have the championship game a week after that. This would only extend the season by a week and (in most cases) all of the games would occur prior to the players beginning spring semester classes. In terms of teams playing more games, four teams would play one extra game (semifinals), and two teams would play two extra games (championship).

There are some other issues that would need to be addressed, such as conferences that have championship games vs. ones that don't. Also, the BCS selection system would need to be tweaked to make sure that a team from a non-BCS conference, such as Boise State this year, had a fair and equal opportunity to participate in a BCS game. I don't think that opportunity would have been there this year if the BCS had not added a 5th BCS Bowl game (which in my suggestion above would be eliminated). Maybe one team from a non-BCS conference should be guaranteed a spot if they are undefeated (and/or some other requirements are met). Boise State certainly showed they deserved to be there this year, just as Utah showed they deserved to be there a couple of years ago.

The point is there is a way to make a playoff work if there is the will to do it. I know some people will argue that this devalues the regular season or that there will always be a deserving team left out. Maybe there is some truth to those arguments but I think the excitement of the playoff will justify some of the other impacts that may occur and, in the end, you will have a true national champion.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ron Zook's Recruits Win National Title

Lee Corso gave Ron Zook major props last night for recruiting 20 of the 22 starting players who won the National Championship over The Ohio State University. Actually, those Zook recruits looked like they were running in turbo boost and the tOSU players looked to be in third gear.

In addition, as Teddy Greenstein points out today, Ron Zook was the only Big Ten coach to rank his recruits and Florida ahead of Michigan at the end of the regular season. I don't think he was just sticking a finger in Lloyd Carr's eye when he did it...he had faith in those recruits. Talk about loyalty.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Guest Blog: Future Illini Bill Cole

This is the first in a series of blog diaries by Illini basketball and football recruits here at Illinitalk. Kudo's to Bill Cole for being the first recruit to take the plunge:

Hey everybody it's Bill Cole coming straight out of my living room on Sunday night.

This weekend we played two tough teams and I think Richwoods finally came together as a unit.

Friday night we ran into a very tough Peoria Central team at their place. We were winning by about 8-10 or so most of the game until the 3rd period when they actually took the lead. It came down to the wire and was tied most of the 4th...with about 25 seconds left my team fed me the ball on the block and I made that shot that would turn out to be the game winner. I give all the credit to Central and their team...they played their hearts out and really wanted to beat us.

I know their sophomore stud D.J. Richardson is being recruited by Illinois, and I think he is a very good player. He is a very smart guard with great body control, he is also a great kid from the times I've talked to him.

Saturday we played Springfield High at Springfield. They were a solid team, but a little undersized and they had trouble stopping me in the post. I could just shoot right over the top of them. I really have to give all the credit to my teammates for finding me last night...that's been one of our focal points lately. We ended up pulling away and beating them by around 20.

I was happy with the way I played last night, except for my free throw shooting. I was 2-9, which is so unlike me. I'm not sure what happened. That will be corrected this next weekend.

I did see the Illinois - Ohio State game last night. I thought the Illini were playing well and playing hard. They were right there with them until it seemed like OSU's shooters got away from us right before the half ended and they went on that run. I was pleased with the way they kept Oden in check.

I think the team is struggling to find what defines them right now. But I have the utmost confidence in the coaching staff and the players. I know Coach Weber is gonna get them back on the winning track here shortly.

Well anyways that's all I've got for now. I can't wait to get down to ChamPAIGN and start trying to help the Orange and Blue, but I have some business to handle for Richwoods first. We have three games in four days at the end of this week, and I think if we can come out 3-0...then we will be back on the track to the state finals just like last year!

Go Illini,
Bill Cole


Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Bright Spot

Sadly it didn't come on ESPN this afternoon. No. It came when I flipped the channel to the Army All-American Bowl on NBC during a commercial break of our bloodletting.

There they were. There were three of 'em. One was Martez. Think one was Benn. Not sure who the third was because I caught it halfway through.

They were all wearing orange baseball caps with what looked like the Chief on them. After they finished introducing themselves they all pointed at the camera and said, "We are Illinois."

It was tough. And it gave me hope.

Frankly, gentlemen, given what happened today on the hardwood, you are Illinois.


The Ohio State

If we'd played better the last two games I think I'd be looking forward to watching the game this afternoon but after reading this article, I'm almost afraid to watch.

NOTE: Be watching in the future as Illinitalk puts together an opinion piece on what Ron Guenther has to do to ensure the future vitality of the Illini basketball program.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Jim Sheppard

At face value, Jim Sheppard losing his job is ridiculous. For fans at football and basketball games, he's been the voice of the Illini for 22 years.

Unfortunately, this is the only story running on it and it uses an Illini message board to fill in half the story. What is that?

I want some real reporting since there is obviously more to it. After all, Sheppard himself said he had no warning. How does the university get away with operating that way? Aren't there laws against that sort of thing? takes Ron Guenther FOREVER to fire Ron Turner in order to try and right the football ship. Yet they fire the announcer without warning in order to "make our atmosphere and operations better."

Seems to me the best way to achieve that is to improve the product on the gridiron and hardwood.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Just Who Is This Brumby Guy Anyway?

To most, he’s Brumby. That’s his alias on the IlliniBoard-the Internet sports message board he created that focuses on Illini sports. His full name is John Brumbaugh and many would argue he’s done more for Illini fans than just about anyone, including most of our recent football coaches.

But just who is John Brumbaugh? In this special edition of Illinitalk, we present-60 Minutes style-the story behind the man who is quickly becoming a legend in Illini sports circles. Read on as Brumby shares just how the IlliniBoard was born, his thoughts on the Chief as well as Bruce Weber’s recruiting and Ron Zook’s coaching (Note: this interview took place before Illinois' recent two-game losing streak).

Illinitalk: What's your background and affiliation with the University of Illinois? When did you graduate and what was your degree in? Do you have a "day job?" Where do you live?

Brumby: I graduated from the University of Illinois with a BS Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2001. My day job is a web development consultant based out of Chicago, but my job offers me the ability to travel to some of the most beautiful cities in the country, places like Milwaukee, WI, and Savannah, TN.

Illinitalk: When did you start IlliniBoard and where did you get the idea to do so?

Brumby: The first day that IlliniBoard was opened up to the masses was on July 31, 2000. The idea was really nothing spectacular. I was thinking about starting an Illini basketball site because I wanted to learn more on how to actually program a website, so I had a small one that I just messed around with to learn, and then I thought it would be smart to register a domain name for it. I went through the process of finding a domain name, and I tried to first register, but I discovered that it was already registered. I went to the site, and saw that Dave O’Neill had already had the site up and running, and there was a small message board attached to it, so I started to post on that more and more.

Basically from there, IlliniHOOPS failed to exist for Dave’s reasons, and I was already in the process of writing the IlliniBoard, so on July 31, 2000, IlliniBoard was unveiled to the masses as a sort of continuation from IlliniHOOPS. Without the support of Dave O’Neill and Mike Pegram (you probably know him better as Peegs), who initially hosted the message boards through his Sports Midwest site, the IlliniBoard would never have existed.

As far as where the idea came from, there really wasn’t any large epiphany. I wanted to learn more about running web sites and developing since I was thinking of doing that as a career instead of your traditional ECE job. I just wanted to get the experience to see if I actually would enjoy doing this as a career.

From there, the site just continued to gain steam as more and more people were coming to the Internet to follow their favorite sports teams.

Illinitalk: Recently you just split from the Scout network. Tell us a little about that relationship: What led you to "merge" and why did you split off recently?

Brumby: In both instances, the decision to join and to split from Scout were very personal in nature. A little over three years ago when I signed the contract, I was in a personal state of flux with my career, and the best way for me to handle that and still be able to run the IlliniBoard was to ensure that I had someone else that would be able to help me. Scout provided the ability to have that second person helping me in running the site as they already had Kedric Prince running their Illinois site.

At this point in my life, my career is in a much more stable place. I am where I want to be in terms of living (at the time of the initial move to Scout, I was still living in Kansas City), but the IlliniBoard was not quite where I wanted it to be in terms of my vision for the site. I thought the focus on the message boards and in content had gone too much towards in the minutiae of recruiting, and not focusing more on the on-court action.

I have never liked to follow recruiting, but I have even more disdain for it now than I did three years ago. In fact, I am to the point where I don’t really care about what is happening, nor do I follow it until someone commits to Illinois. Then, I will care about their name, and what position they play, and how I think they will fit in with the Illini teams. I thought it was unfair to people that were subscribers to the IlliniBoard that one of the main people who ran the site had a disdain for the piece of information they are looking for the most. So it would not be fair to them for me to continue to run a site that had a key focus on recruiting when I ignore all aspects of it.

Now that I am where I want to be with my career and in my personal life, and with my initial contract running out, I thought it would be a good time to bring the IlliniBoard back under my sole control.

There was nothing that Scout could have done to keep me, and there was nothing they did to run me away. In fact, I still have a great working relationship with many of the people in Scout, and I still consider Kedric Prince a friend. It was just time to make the split because I didn’t think I was holding up my end of the bargain for fans who were visiting the site, and now I think they will have two great Illini sites to visit, all be it with each covering the Illini in a little different manner.

Illinitalk: What are your future plans for the IlliniBoard?

Brumby: The future plans for the IlliniBoard are still in a state of flux right now. I don’t know where exactly the site is going to be headed in the future, but I know it will be in a direction that I think it should go. Will I be right? No one knows right now, but that is a chance I took. I have a few different ideas that I am throwing around in my head for what direction the site can go, but nothing is set in stone.

I think I am going to get back to using the IlliniBoard as a place for me to hone my skills as a web developer, and get back to having fun following Illinois sports. Following Illinois over the last two years has become more of a job than something I have fun doing, and that is never what I want Illinois sports to become for me. I have a day job, and if Illini athletics ever became a job to me, I would lose my one great releases.

The IlliniBoard itself has changed as I have changed, and it will continue to evolve throughout the years. Hopefully I will be able to keep it close to the vision that I have for how a web site should be run.

In terms of the content of the site, the only real thing that I control is what articles I am able to post on the front page. I don’t know which direction that will head in, but I think now I will let my cynical personality come out a little more when I am writing, and use more dry humor as I discuss the Fighting Illini sports teams. I did that a few times in some articles recently (before the split from Scout), and I there were some people that really liked them, and some people that really hated them. I had the most fun writing those articles, so items like that is probably where I will spend the most time.

In terms of honing my skills as a web developer, expect me to use the IlliniBoard to figure out how to do some things that I may not be able to use at work right away, but I want to learn what how to do them in case I need to for my “real job.” I am not quite sure what exactly these new ideas will be, but I have thought a lot about social news, and how to make the Daily News Links into a combination of what they are today with all the great links that posters provide on the fan forums every day.

Illinitalk: Internet message boards that focus on college athletics seem to be the hottest on the Web. What kind of affect have they had on college sports? Specifically, what impact do you think the IlliniBoard has had on Illinois athletics?

Brumby: When it comes to what effect Internet message boards have on college sports, I think people claim they have more effect than they actually do. Internet message boards are this decade’s version of sports talk radio, something that has been created to give the fans a way to voice their pleasure or displeasure in a public setting. The same things people were saying at their local bars or just while watching the games, they are now posting on the Internet.

Of course, no one involved in athletics actually likes the voice of the fan; it is just something they have to put up with to make sports a profitable enterprise. The traditional media (print and now radio) is also not happy about Internet message boards because they are taking away their influence as the sole source for sports information, thus they try to play Internet message boards as the bad guy when actually all they are doing is enhancing their coverage by broadening the audience who reads or listens to their opinions and then comments on it.

In terms of direct relationship with IlliniBoard and Illinois athletics, I think it has had an overall positive impact. I mean, when you look back at how many Illini fans congregate on the message boards, and how many of those fans have been able to get to Illinois games on the road thanks to people posting on the message boards, the impact is positive. I think people keep saying things are negative, but with the bad that everyone sees, also comes a lot of good people ignore.

I have had people e-mail me telling me that the IlliniBoard has reinvigorated their passion in Illinois sports. But, I have also had people e-mail me telling me that the IlliniBoard is why they hate Illinois fans, so it goes both ways, but the good far outweighs the bad.

Illinitalk: How much time do you spend working on the IlliniBoard each week? Do you make money off of it?

Brumby: Honestly, more than I would like to admit. If I am sitting around at home, I am probably doing something related to the IlliniBoard, be it either reading the message board, writing some dopey article, or developing.

Yes, I have made money off the IlliniBoard while it was with the Scout network thanks to the way they handled the premium subscription model, but my primary source of income is my day job.

Illinitalk: In addition to message boards, sports blogs have become hot on the Web lately as well. What impact do you think they've had in the sports world?

Brumby: Blogs are much like message boards and sports talk radio in that they give the fan another way to get their voice heard. Unless the blog is something like Deadspin (run by Illinois graduate Will Leitch), I don’t think it has any real impact on anything more than any other way fans can discuss things.

I mean without Deadspin, who would know that Kyle Orton is a sloppy drunk who likes Jack Daniels and Iowa City coeds, and who would know the immortal phrase, “You’re with me Leather”? These are the important things that impact my daily life, and I hope they impact the daily life of everyone else, too. A world without Carl Monday is not a world I want to live in.

Though if you want to say that they have an impact, the one place they do have an impact is removing that extra layer of security that newspapers and large sports talk radio stations have about spreading rumors that could be potentially harmful to the people involved. Despite my liking to read the crazy rumors about what is happening around the country with sports players, I don’t think removing that extra layer of security is a good thing for the athletes and coaches. Just look at what happened to the personal lives of both Jerome Bettis and Nick Anderson when the traditional media jumped on false accusations against them. Now, you have bloggers all over the world posting rumors about people because they can, and while most of them are benign, there can be that one that will tarnish someone’s reputation for the rest of their lives.

Illinitalk: What do you think about the future of sports blogs? Specifically regarding Illinois sports, what would you like to see from blogs like Illinitalk?

Brumby: The future of sports blogs is whatever the contributors want to make it. Some blogs can become valuable sources of information, and other blogs just become more noise that people have to filter through.

What would I like to see from blogs? Personally, I like finding different viewpoints that are interesting and provide me with a different way to follow the sports teams that I love. The “blogs” I read all the time are Desipio (Cubs / Bears), Goat Riders of the Apocalypse (Cubs), and then general places like Kissing Suzy Kolber and Mark Cuban’s blog, not to forget Deadspin either. They provide me with a different viewpoint on what I saw on the court, or what the news of the day is, and that is what I look for from blogs, something that I would not have thought of myself.

So from an Illinois blog, I would like for the person to look at a different aspect of Illinois and become a commentator on it, or provide a new and interesting way to look at what we see on the court every day.

Illinitalk: Let's turn to your thoughts on the current state of play regarding Illini sports:

Weber and Zook seem to have opposite problems with their teams. For football, Zook is proving to be a fantastic recruiter but questions remain about his coaching whereas for basketball, Weber is proving to be a fantastic coach but questions remain about his recruiting. Do you think these are legitimate concerns at this point in their coaching tenures or are they overblown for now?

Brumby: First, let’s look at Weber’s basketball team. Yes, he has had a lot of high profile recruiting misses each year he has been in Champaign, and the talent level of the team has seen a drop from where it was in 2001 – 2004 to now.

Is recruiting a concern? Yes, definitely.

When will it become a concern on the court and in the won / loss record? It already has.

The only way to know for sure how much an impact the recruiting misses will have on the Illini is how successful they are on the court. A great coach can coach up talent only so far.

Bruce Weber walked into an unenviable situation at Illinois, but he is paid a lot of money to deal with it. He came to Illinois at a time where expectations were sky high, and he has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations since the day he took his job with the results on the court. These on-court results have made the Illini fans want to keep the level of winning to that National Championship-caliber level, and right now the recruiting is not at that level.

We just finished the best six-year stretch in Illinois basketball history, but one thing has eluded Illinois fans: a National Championship. Until a coach wins one at Illinois, there will still be people who want and need more, and right now the only thing holding Bruce Weber back from leading Illinois to a National Championship is his ability to land the top recruits.

When it comes to Zook, I definitely have some questions about the overall performance of his coaching staff in regards to on-the-field decisions. Zook and his staff came to Champaign and installed the spread offense on a team that did not have the right personnel, but they are filling the roster with those players now in recruiting.

I still think there will be plays every game that have all of us questioning what Ron Zook or Mike Locksley or Vince Okruch were thinking, but the talent level they are bringing in should be able to overcome many of their tactical mistakes. In football, talent can win you a lot of games, but coaching becomes an issue when teams are evenly matched (see Illinois’ losses to Ohio and Indiana this year).

Yes, the concern with Zook is his coaching ability, but even with that concern, there is no reason why Illinois cannot win seven to eight games every season and end up in a bowl game. Once that happens, then we can start to be concerned that Illinois is just missing out on BCS games instead of not even making the Motor City Bowl.

Illinitalk: Where do you see the basketball team headed this year in terms of the conference and (hopefully) in the tournament? How good do you think they can be as they get back to full strength?

Brumby: This is the worst Illinois basketball team since 1999, but that goes right now to say just how good Illinois has been since then. This team is an NCAA Tournament team due to its coaching and talent on the inside, but the guard play is just not there. Back at full strength, this team should end up finishing third in the Big Ten Conference behind Ohio State and Wisconsin, and should probably make an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament before bowing out.

Illinitalk: Do you think the football team can make it to .500 or better next season and go to a bowl?

Brumby: Yes, but the schedule-makers did not make it an easy path for the Illini. The games against Missouri and at Syracuse are not looking too good for padding a win total in the non-conference season.

Is a bowl game out of the question next year? No, the talent level on the team is enough that Illinois should be playing in some sort of bowl game in December. I also think the experience of the additional practice from a bowl game is necessary for this young team. Is spending your Christmas in Detroit anyone’s idea of a good time? No, but the game is just the dessert, as the real benefit to a bowl game is the practice it allows a team to have between the final regular season game and the bowl.

Illinitalk: Who is the best team in college basketball right now in your opinion? Who do you see as the title contenders?

Brumby: The best team in college basketball right now is UCLA. They have proven the most on the court, and Ben Howland is probably the most underrated coach in college basketball. All that guy does is win basketball games. When everyone was focused on the Roy Williams / Bill Self / Bruce Weber coaching change in 2003, they all seemed to ignore that UCLA just hired Howland away from Pittsburgh in what was the start of the renaissance for the UCLA basketball program (Jamie Dixon stepped right in and continued building upon the foundation Howland left at Pittsburgh).

The other contenders for the National Title this year in college basketball are the obvious names: Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Pittsburgh. Some of the sleeper candidates that could make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament are young and athletic teams like Georgia Tech (the Final Four is in Atlanta this year) and Texas. To make this a round list of eight teams that can win the National Championship, let me throw in Arizona.

Illinitalk: What are your thoughts on the issues surrounding Chief Illiniwek?

Brumby: I think the whole Chief Illiniwek debate has created a black cloud over the university itself, and brings down the school as a whole. I know many people love Chief Illiniwek, and I know many people hate him, but I think the issue should be around the betterment of the University.

I love the university more than I do the Chief, and if improving the University of Illinois means removing the Chief, then I am all for it. I think the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees backed themselves into a corner that now has them either having to vote to keep or remove the Chief in a manner that will make one side extremely unhappy. The solution to this “debate” could have been a win-win situation many years ago instead of burying its head in the sand to the issue by having years and years of exploratory meetings on the impacts of the Chief.

The bottom line now with the situation is its time for the Chief to be retired, Illinois to move on past this whole debate, clearing away one of the biggest black clouds surrounding the Champaign campus right now.

And without the Chief, that means Illinois can bring in the one true and right mascot to lead us into the future, Illie!

Illinitalk: Who is your favorite Illini basketball player of all-time? Football?

Brumby: My favorite Illini basketball player of all-time is Frank Williams. I don’t really have a favorite football player of all-time outside of Walter Payton.

Illinitalk: What is your favorite Illini sports memory?

Brumby: It’s cliché, but beating Arizona in the Elite Eight game in Chicago, and then all of the fun that was had later that night after the game just drinking in a bar hanging out with my friends.

Illinitalk: What is your favorite non-Illini related hobby?

Brumby: Watching sports in general. I don’t care who is on, and what teams are playing, but I am always watching sports, preferably basketball.

Illinitalk: Do you think the Bears will win the Super Bowl?

Brumby: No, I think right now they have the best chance in the NFC to get to the Super Bowl, but I don’t think there is a team as good as the San Diego Chargers. Now, luckily for everyone involved, the Chargers are coached by Marty Schottenheimer, and his teams have a reputation for choking in the playoffs more than any other. If the Chargers didn’t have the Marty factor going against them, I would have them as a sure-fire-lock to win the Super Bowl, but since they do, well, who knows who is going to win.

My cynical nature just doesn’t allow me to say the Bears will be the team to win because, well, they are the Bears.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This was a bad loss...

Frustrating, perplexing, and ugly. Three words I would use to describe Illinois' loss to Michigan tonight. This game was important as we detailed earlier today and it got away.

Very disappointing performances from most of the starters. Jamar was pretty solid overall and about the only halfway consistent offense Illinois had. The team has got to find a way to generate better and more consistent offense. Right now, they are too stagnant, neglecting the post at times, shooting too many jump shots, missing layups, missing free throws, and forcing bad shots.

The defense was very good early during the first ten minutes of the game and was decent at other times but it was not where it had to be throughout the game in order to win a Big Ten game on the road against a decent opponent.

Randle just doesn't look right to me and I am sure that is because he is still healing from surgery and trying to play his way back into form. As a whole, the various injuries suffered by multiple players this year have prevented the team from having the practice time together that it needs. Unfortunately, we are at a time in the season when there are not long breaks to get that practice time in. The team is going to have to maximize what time they do have between games and learn on the fly in the games themselves.

I still believe this team is much better than it has shown so far this season. However, they need to start proving it. If not, then maybe I was wrong with the expectations I had going in. It is gut-check time. Ohio State is up next on Saturday. Illinois will have to play better than it has all season if it wants a chance at knocking off the Buckeyes and avoiding its first three game losing streak under Coach Weber.


USA Today On Zook

Ron Zook comes across as extremely gracious in this USA Today story. Reading this, you can tell he really cares about the athletes he recruits. It's no wonder guys like him so much and want to play for him.

Check out this excerpt:

One of Zook's biggest recruits was quarterback Chris Leak, who was a highly touted star from Independence High in Charlotte. Leak took over the starting job in 2003 as a freshman and will wrap up his playing career against Ohio State.

"I had a great relationship with him, and he really cared about my future," Leak says of his former coach.

Leak graduated a semester early, receiving a degree in sociology Dec. 16.

"Chris called me that (day) and told me he had graduated, and he thanked me," Zook says. "I said, 'Don't thank me. You did it.' I'm proud and happy for him."



I can't believe I am going to say this, but tonight's game at Michigan is a virtual must-win game for the Illini. I hate saying this since it is only the first Big Ten Conference game. Apparently, Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald is thinking the same thing.

Illinois' first six games are going to present a major challenge and winning against Michigan is very important when you look at what follows: Home vs. Ohio State, Home vs. Iowa, At Michigan State, At Minnesota, Home vs. Wisconsin. Despite being at Assembly Hall, Ohio State and Wisconsin will be very tough games for this team. Winning at Michigan State is a major challenge and Illinois almost always seems to struggle playing at Minnesota.

Thus, the importance of the Michigan game is magnified. Illinois has never lost three games in a row since Bruce Weber has been coach but that will be a very real possibility if they don't beat Michigan tonight. I don't believe that a loss to Ohio State is a given but Illinois has yet to show this year that they are capable of beating a team like that, which is a concern. So let's get the win tonight and then go from there.

Finally, if you want to know what the Tribune and Sun-Times have to say about the Illini, check out the articles here and here.

Until later, GO ILLINI!!!

P.S. Sorry if this post seems a bit on the gloomy side. It may still be the frustration from the Xavier game coming out...


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Poll: Which Finish is Better? (Register your vote in the comment section)

This one:


Or this one?


Time to Retire the BCS

How much more evidence is needed?


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