Saturday, December 29, 2007
Gearing Up for the Game
College football fans around the nation have questions about the Fighting Illini and how they got to the Rose Bowl. They are 13.5 point underdogs -- the biggest spread in any post-season event. Do they have the speed to play USC? The strength? The coaches? Will Mendenhall go pro? When will Mike Locksley get a head coaching job?
We don't have all those answers yet, but with the Zooker, senior leaders like All-American Martin O'Donnell and J Leman, and the freshman confidence of Arrelious Benn, there is plenty of reason for optimism within Illini nation. Benn believes in the Illini -- and he clearly is comfortable that he choose the 9-3 Illini over the 3-9 Irish. And after all, will the Rose Bowl be any tougher than the Ohio State game? What we do know is that Ron Zook never stops coaching or recruiting. Since the Ohio State game, the 2008 recruiting class has improved significantly, so the Illini are gearing up for much more than just one Rose Bowl appearance to cap off an unbelievable season.
I'm gearing up, as well. My tickets are in hand, travel arrangements confirmed, and bag (almost) packed. I look forward to ringing in the Illini New Year at Universal Studios Hollywood with my Illini family. And I can't wait to watch the Illini play in January! See you in Pasadena...
Monday, December 24, 2007
We'll Take It
It was a typical, physical, hard-hitting Braggin' Rights game. Both teams had sloppy moments and plenty of turnovers. And the refs played a role with questionable calls that went both ways.
It was either team's game to win, but the Illini defense came up big in the last minute, and preserved Weber's perfect record in this game. So Merry Christmas!
Let's turn our attention to Pasadena...
Saturday, December 22, 2007
We've got a scorer
"I really like the motion offense they run," Legion said. "Coach Weber is a terrific coach and is a confidence-giver. I also have a very good relationship with (assistant coach) Jerrance Howard."
BTW, I like Alma Mater's optimism but I'm bracing for a very tough game tonight. Funny how both schools are supposed to be known for hoops and their football programs are outshining the boys on the hardwood this year.
And for the record, I believe fans who are calling for Bruce Weber's head need to have their heads examined. If you didn't see the troubles we would have this year coming, you've been living under a rock.
Eric Gordon punking us had devastating consequences. Weber also had a number of recruiting misses, some of which could be argued were his fault.
However, he is bringing in some serious studs and may have even more on the way (Luther Head's brother). And Weber has shown that he knows how to coach studs, especially guards.
If he was still struggling in the shark-infested waters of recruiting, I'd be ready to advocate for a change at the top but Weber deserves patience from us fans during what is going to be a long 365 days until Alex Legion is able to suit up and a little bit more patience while we wait for the rest of the cavalry to arrive.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Getting Ready to Brag?
So what will happen tomorrow night at the annual Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis? Bruce hasn't lost this game, and regardless of talent level, it's almost always a close one.
To date this season, the team seems to play just to the level of their opponent. Whether against Duke or Arizona, Weber State or Miami of Ohio, the Illini seem to be playing to a level that keeps them in the game. That's why despite the scoring challenges this team has, I'm optimistic that the rivalry game will be a good one...
Labels: Illini basketball
As we mentioned after he won the award last year, Small is a true Illini:
- He graduated from Illinois in 1988 as a leader on the golf team.
- Coached Illini golf to consecutive runner-up seasons in the Big Ten and strong finishes in NCAA Regionals.
- He excels in his own golf game.
- Father Bill won a Big Ten Championship as captain of the 1963 Illini basketball team.
- Brother Andy won a Big Ten Championship on the 1990 Illini baseball team.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
A recent Illinois graduate moved to Dearborn, Michigan for a job.
She had an apartment with a Michigan address, and she winced whenever she looked at her Michigan driver's license. When it came time to register her vehicle she had an idea. She'd get personalized plates and make things right.
The personalized license plate for her car arrived, and she beamed as she installed them. She was so proud she sent an instant message to her father right away.
He too was a proud Illinois alumnus.
'Daddy,' she typed. 'I'm so excited! I got new, personalized plates for my car today. They're University of Michigan plates!'
'WHAT?' he replied. 'You have to be joking!'
'Nope, I'm totally serious. Let me send you the image.' Her father couldn't stop laughing after he viewed the picture of her car:
Saturday, December 08, 2007
In an effort to focus on the positive (as requested by my uncle), there were a few bright spots:
- A quick start. Pruitt made his first two free throws to get the Illini on the board, and he and Randle each scored 6 points before Arizona scored any.
- Forcing turnovers. In the first half, the Illini defense kept Arizona down, and a few key steals in the final minutes gave our boys a couple chances to close out the game. (We just didn't need to even up that stat with our own turnovers in the second half.)
- Passing. The Illini continue to make the extra pass for open shots, and we saw some beautiful assists. (I just hate to see that extra pass go through someone's hands.)
- Pruitt. He had a great game, despite the sprained ankle he suffered this week.
There are plenty of areas that could use improvement, but let's focus on improving that free throw percentage...
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Roses!!!
It has been 23 years since Illinois last played in the Rose Bowl. With tonight's announcement of the pairings for the five BCS games, we can officially say that the drought has ended! With West Virginia and Missouri both losing over the weekend, it guaranteed Ohio State would move into the title game, opening the door for our Illini. I am sure the Rose Bowl folks considered taking Georgia to fill their open slot but I am very glad to see that they decided to keep the traditional Pac 10 - Big 10 matchup.
Since the Illini haven't been to the Rose Bowl in quite some time Terry Bannon of the Tribune put together a little history lesson for everyone. Also, the Sun-Times has an AP article with quotes from Coach Zook as well as Juice that I think you might enjoy.
Congratulations to Coach Zook and all of the players--this is an honor that is well-deserved. USC is going to be a very tough team but if Illinois can play like it did against Ohio State and Northwestern to close the season, it should be fun to watch what happens. It is great to be playing on New Year's Day again in the Granddaddy of them all! I would love to make the trip to Pasadena (I am sure every Illini fan is saying that right now) but don't know yet if that will happen. If you are looking for travel options, check out the University of Illinois Alumni website or click here to go straight to the alumni tour provider. FOR TICKET INFORMATION, which is separate from the travel arrangements, you need to CLICK HERE.
Until later, GO ILLINI!
P.S. I just got done watching the Final Word on Fox 32 in Chicago. Thank you to them for using the Chief emblem when showing the Rose Bowl pairings. This Illini Fan appreciates it!