Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Although that's what the Illini Men's Basketball team was doing until they showed some fire against Iowa Sunday, I'd rather focus on actual tumbling. Or gymnastics.

The Illini Men's Gymnastic team, currently ranked #3, fell narrowly in a dual meet to #2 Penn State last Saturday. But throughout this season, the talented Illini have been hovering at the top of the rankings. As a team, they are first in the country in both parallel bars and high bar. These boys are worth getting excited about, as senior Paul Ruggeri prepares routines to compete in the Big Ten and National All-Arounds and freshman C.J. Maestas continues to wow judges and win Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.

Head Coach Justin Spring, Illini alum and Olympian, acknowledges that the Illini haven't found the consistency as a team that he would like, but as the season goes on, he expects his guys to be ready for a strong post-season showing. And since the Conference championship meet is the first weekend in April, Illini fans have something to look forward to after the madness of March.

Keep your eye on these guys. Go Illini!



Monday, February 06, 2012

Another One That Got Away

That was a game that the Illini could have (and should have) won. Yes, the Princeton offense and zone defense are challenging to figure out, but protecting home court is essential to remaining competitive in the Big Ten race.

Credit the Wildcats' Reggie Hearn for a fantastic game. He rarely missed, and was an unexpected boost to his offense with a career-high 20 points. And John Shurna led his team as usual.

But the taller, more athletic Illini lost the rebound battle to the smaller Northwestern lineup, and they had more turnovers, too. And even though Meyers Leonard had a huge advantage in the paint, the Illini just couldn't figure out how to get him the ball every time. Ugh.

This loss is a big disappointment, especially after the win over Michigan State. The Illini have a brutal road schedule coming up, and they need as much confidence as they can muster to play tough and steal a couple games.

There's still plenty to like about the Illini, despite the needed improvement:
The question is, can they improve as they play through February so that they are in a strong position to play well in March? Let's hope so!

Go Illini!



Friday, February 03, 2012


Congrats to the two Illini who will be on the field for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night. Guard David Diehl will do his best to keep Eli Manning on his feet, while punter Steve Weatherford will do what he can to keep the Patriots pinned deep. I enjoy cheering for Illini at the highest level - so all the best for a good game on Sunday, guys!



Thursday, February 02, 2012

Beckman's Signing Day

Coach Beck and his new staff completed their first Illini signing day Wednesday, with 19 players sending in their National Letters of Intent. With two guys already on campus, and a committed walk-on, 22 guys will join Beckman's first Illini team.

These boys are mostly 2 and 3 star recruits, but that's to be expected with a coaching transition. Beckman's influence is evident in that 6 guys are from Ohio, but the link to Florida remains strong, with 5 players from that state.

It will be interesting to see if Beckman places a greater focus on Illinois kids in the coming years. Four players are from Illinois, as was the one that got away, an Edwardsville product who chose Nebraska. The Iowa Hawkeyes took a couple suburban Chicago kids, as did Northwestern.

This class includes 3 running backs, a couple linemen from each side of the ball, a wide reciever, a tight end, 9 defensive players, a kicker and a local longsnapper (the committed walk-on). After seeing how the defense has played the past couple years, I look forward to seeing if Beckman's team can get the same kind of production out of these kids.

ESPNU ranked the Illini recruiting class at the bottom of the Big Ten, and based on the success of the top-tier teams in the conference (Michigan, Ohio State, MSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, etc.), it will likely take a couple years to see if Beckman can build a competitive team.

But the players are genuinely excited about playing for Coach Beck in orange and blue, and that counts for a lot.

Welcome to Illini nation, boys! Go Illini!



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