Monday, December 01, 2008

Big Challenge

The Illini basketball season is off to a solid start. The Illini are undefeated after just escaping against Kent State and Tulsa in South Padre over the holiday weekend. But they proved they could come from behind and survive overtime to win. That's a bit different than what we saw last year, and it's very encouraging.

So this week the Illini will face undefeated Clemson, an up-tempo, high-scoring team, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Illini have been relying on defense thus far, and the Tigers like to run. The Illini will be helped by being at home, but this will be a tough game for this team.

It's still a bit early to get a really good feel for this Illini team, but there's a lot to like early. They can make free throws, shooting nearly 75% on the season, which is much, much better than last season. Although they have been out-rebounded in some games, they still crash the boards fairly well. And they play hard. Chester Frazier, who played the most minutes of any Illini in South Padre, played with a deep thigh bruise that made it hard for him to walk, let alone run around for two games. These are elements to build a season on.

But the Clemson game will tell fans a lot more about this team. This is likely the best team the Illini will have faced so far, and they are coming off a weekend they just survived. Bruce and his boys will need a supportive crowd. Go Illini!


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