Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Illini are back in the Big Dance. And they have a tough draw, thanks to a shaky end to the regular season. They are headed to Portland to play a team that made the Sweet Sixteen last year. But the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers don't have a complete returning roster, and they will face a very tough Illini D.

Although Chester Frazier is a "long shot" to play on Thursday night, Calvin Brock has stepped up, and the Illini are unlikely to shoot as poorly as they did against Purdue last Saturday. If the Illini play their game, they can play another day...or two. The Sweet Sixteen would exceed pre-season expectations, but these guys have been exceeding expectations all season.

But regardless of their tournament performance, this Illini team has been fun to watch all year. Even when the shots aren't falling, they have played hard, passed well and made it difficult for the opponent to score.

The seniors, Chester, Trent and Calvin, have promoted a vastly improved team chemistry, and sophomores Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Demetri McCamey have all made cases for the teams most improved player and future go-to guy. And the supporting cast has surrounded them well. Dominique Keller brings energy off the bench, along with his unconventional shot. Jeff Jordan is developing nicely as a decision-maker and defender who knows how to play within his abilities. And Alex Legion still has promise, and will find his place on this team.

Let's enjoy the last few weeks of 2008-09 college basketball. Go Illini!


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