Thursday, March 31, 2005

But His Name's Bruce...

Media Pulse

DeCourcy: DOWN...about as far as you could go...on sports radio today...let's just say he thinks Bruce Weber's last name rhymes with "girl"...when asked which Final Four coach has the most pressure to win, he replied with the name of Tennessee's new head coach...

Gottlieb: DOWN...rather than admit he's wrong, still dissing Big Ten that owns half of this year's Final No.

Mariotti: UP...he's right...'89 Flyin' Illini have their place in Illinois lore...don't ruin it're making us look bad...

State Journal-Register: UP...nice story on Rich McBride...


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Media Pulse, Faxes and The Zook

Today's Media Pulse

Morrissey: UP (can this guy get any better?)...check this article

Doyel: EVEN (but starting to trend down)...he gave Weber props yesterday and dogs us today...schizo...

Bayless: DOWN...says he wants UNC-Illinois title game so Illini can be exposed as frauds? Wish I could get paid to make stupid statements...

Tribune sports section: UP...check this sweet spread...DePaul, eat your heart out

Who Is This Guy Again?

Shouldn't this coach be focused on his own team(considering the egg they laid in the Dance) rather than sending faxes?

Boys of Fall

Spring football started yesterday...Brad Bower left the we're down to five QB's...AP has the story here...Sun-Times story here...


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Some Cool Stuff

Now that my pulse is returning to normal after Saturday night and we begin to look forward to our game against Rick "Louisville Is My Home, I Swear" Pitino and his Cardinals I have a few random thoughts...

This team is getting way too much press to post it all here are a few observations...

I was pleasantly surprised to log on to ESPN's basketball website today and see a photo of our guys...

Gregg Doyel is doing a feature on each of the Final Four he has a nice article on Bruce Weber...

Speaking of Weber, I'm sick of the national radio folks talking about Pitino, Roy and Izzo and then saying something like, "and then there's second-year Illini coach Bruce Weber"...maybe it's just me but it makes it sounds like he has no experience...after 18 years under Keady and his tourney runs at Southern, we all know better...I mean, I seriously think he's ready for his own recruiting commercials sponsored by American Express...

Even though it's a day old, nice article in the Peoria Journal Star by Bill Liesse on Luther...

The Unversity has a full slate of events, including a sendoff at the baseball field Wednesday night, a watch party at Assembly Hall if Illinois makes the title game and a celebration at Memorial Stadium April 5...

Finally, spring football practice started today...I'm looking forward to seeing what the Zooker is going to do with the program...


Monday, March 28, 2005

Not too shabby, not too shabby at all...

What a great weekend of basketball! That may have been the four best regional final games of any NCAA Tournament I have watched. One game close to the end, two games with overtime, and one game with double overtime. What more could you ask for?

Two Big Ten teams in the Final Four (and almost three!). Not too shabby for a league in a so-called down year. Kudos to the Wisconsin Badgers for taking North Carolina to the wire. They put up a great effort but came up just a little short. And a big time congratulations to the Michigan State Spartans on beating Kentucky. After watching them take out both Kentucky and Duke in a three day period, they certainly have impressed this basketball fan.

If you read my post from when Illinois and Michigan State were preparing to play earlier this season, you would know that I didn't think the Spartans had a run like this in them. They just never seemed to come through in the big games this year and didn't seem to have the heart and determination that our beloved Illini have demonstrated all year. At the time, I believe that was an accurate and fair assessment. However, I think it is obvious that observation is no longer valid. Coach Izzo and his players deserve credit for how much they have improved since Illinois last played them.

Hopefully, Illini fans took time to savor and enjoy Illinois's amazing comeback victory on Saturday. Now that we are beginning a new week, we can look ahead to next weekend. While the team must be focused on Louisville, we have the luxury of also thinking about a potential matchup with either North Carolina or Michigan State. Don't get me wrong, Louisville is not going to be an easy game and they should not be overlooked. But as fans, it is fun to think about Monday's possibilities.

As a Big Ten fan, I will be rooting for Michigan State to beat North Carolina on Saturday. However, I believe that I will probably be in the minority when it comes to this. In fact,'s Stewart Mandel is begging for an Illinois-North Carolina title game. People have been salivating over a potential Illinois-North Carolina matchup. And who can blame them? One game between the two teams that have been considered #1 and #2 virtually the entire season to decide the National Championship. It is certainly appealing, and if it happens, I won't be disappointed. It would be very satisfying to knock off an ACC team that some people have viewed as being better than Illinois. Very satisfying! But I just can't bring myself to cheer for UNC so Go Spartans and GO ILLINI!!!


Sunday, March 27, 2005

"It's Not Supposed to End This Way"

I have to admit, with four minutes to go and down 15, I looked at Skinny Sweetcheeks and told her it was over. I didn't just say I thought it was over. I told her it was over.

Well, Skinny Sweetcheeks was a cheerleader in high school and she replied, "Never say die, honey. I just don't think our season is supposed to end this way."

She was right.


What's left to say about the starting five other than that I love to watch them play.

As for the bench: I know people have dissed Rich McBride all year. I've thought all along he just needed encouragement to stay with his shot. Now I know he only hit one shot (a three-pointer) but I'll tell you what: he doesn't hit that shot, we don't win. Hopefully that encourages him.

Carter was huge off the bench and so was Jack. Carter will be huge next year at Illinois...Jack will be huge in Europe (if he wants)...or as some braniac electrical engineer somewhere.

How many times must I say it but I'll say it again...Weber is genius.

Who else saw Ron Zook sitting behind the Illinois bench? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I saw Bill Murray too but I was more excited to see Ron Zook showing his support for the basketball team. School spirit...TV face time...helps recruiting...helps the all feeds on itself.

I'm proud to be an Illinois fan. Out here at Illinitalk East, when the big local school--The University of Marland--gets a win like this they burn couches in the street and riot all night. In Illinois, our fans line the overpasses to cheer on the team bus as it drives home from Chicago.

By the way, they are still in shock today in the middle of ACC country.

I can't tell you how many e-mails I got as soon as that game was over. Many fans of other Big Ten schools telling me they are pulling for us (gotta love the Big Ten family). Even had a Duke fan congratulate me. (Is Satan ice skating?) Still haven't heard from Young Man, though.

Reads: Tupper's blog...Dawson's blog...Morrissey...Downey...Mariotti...

Video: CBS Sportsline has nice video highlights...


I'm so pumped I don't know what to call this post!!!

No words can describe what I am feeling right now. The best I can do is say I am pumped, excited, wired, jacked, relieved, tired, amazed, in awe, and thankful plus about a million other adjectives. What an unbelievable game. That was probably the most exciting and memorable Illinois game I have ever seen. To come back like that after being down double digits and time running out was simply amazing. If anyone had any remaining doubts about this team, they should now be gone. The Illini proved again tonight that the possibility of bringing home Illinois' first national championship remains very real.

I watched the game with Oskee Mom Mom, the Illinette, Red Rock (one of my brothers who is also an Illinois alum), and other members of my family including my parents, 2 other brothers, and my grandparents. The room was pretty grim at the 3 to 4 minute mark. I think almost everyone in the room thought the game was over and Illinois was going to lose. (Warning: What comes next may sound a little cheesy but I don't know how else to describe/explain my feelings during this time) Doubt was creeping into my mind as well but every fiber of my being screamed that this was not how this season was supposed to end--I held on to one tiny strand of hope and belief that some way, some how, the team would find it in themselves to pull this game out. AND THEY DID!!!

I am not used to the various teams that I root for finding a way to win games like that. But this Illini team did. It speaks volumes to their make-up, heart, and character that they never quit and managed to do what seemed almost impossible to most of the fans watching. It just shows once again what a special team we have been so fortunate to be able to watch this season. Everyone contributed tonight but special recognition has to go to Deron and Luther for what they did during the final few minutes of regulation and in overtime. It was simply amazing. They put the team on their backs and would not let them lose. Talk about leadership and a will to win.

Playing in a game like this can only make the Illini better prepared
for what they will face next weekend. But let's not think about that just yet. Enjoy this moment Illini fans. Savor every bit of it. We have plenty of time to worry about Louisville but tonight and tomorrow, just let all of this sink in. FINAL FOUR, BABY!!! The special season continues.



Saturday, March 26, 2005

If this was a down year....

If this was a down year for the Big Ten Conference, I can't wait to see an "up" year. We now know which teams have made it to the Elite Eight. From the Big Ten, we have Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. How many teams do we have from the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Conference USA, and the Pac 10? One apiece. That's right, one apiece. The "down" Big Ten has three times as many teams in the Elite Eight as the vaunted ACC, Big East, and the other power conferences. Hope all of the so-called "experts" are enjoying their crow this evening.

In all seriousness, I hope this shows people that the Big Ten was a good league this year, at least at the top, and that it gets the league a liitle more respect. Illinois should feel even better and more confident after seeing what has happened so far in the NCAA tournament. Not that the team needed to have what they accomplished during the conference season validated, but I think it is nice to have some vindication.

I am very proud to have three teams in the Elite Eight with a chance for all three of those teams to make it to the Final Four. The odds are against all three of them advancing but most people never thought we would have anyone but Illinois in the Elite Eight.

Some upcoming game thoughts (but no outright predictions--wouldn't want to jinx anyone):

Illinois and Arizona. This will be a tough one Illini fans and there are certainly concerns about Luther's hamstring. But the Illini have come up big in every major game this year and I don't expect that to change. It will be a close, hard-fought game, but as I have said all year, I believe.

Louisville and West Virginia. Louisville has to be the favorite but whoever thought West Virginia would make it this far. They seem to hang around in every game. Louisville has a good chance of advancing but this game may not be the blowout so many people think it will be and could even turn out to be the upset of the weekend.

Michigan State and Kentucky. When the tournament began, most people, including me did not expect Michigan State to make it this far. However, they are playing great right now and I believe that have a very good chance of beating Kentucky. It could go either way but as a Big Ten guy, I would love to see Michigan State get another victory.

North Carolina and Wisconsin. After watching North Carolina barely squeak by Nova, I am not sure they even deserve to be in this game. Nova missed some great opportunities but give Carolina credit, they won the game. As much as I would love to see the Badgers knock off the Tarheels, I think that may be asking too much. But then again, they have been underestimated before.

A couple Illinois thoughts:

Deron Williams play in Thursday's game once again illustrated how masterful he is at managing the game and serving as the glue that holds the Illini together. He just makes so many good decisions and runs this team so well. I can see why Coach Weber has said he is the one guy the team could not afford to be without. Even when he isn't scoring, he has a huge impact by making everyone else around him better. If you haven't paid attention this year, just watch how the team functions when he is on the court vs. when he is on the bench. This is not a knock on any of our other guys, just a compliment to our great point guard.

Finally, make sure that you are taking time to enjoy this run and each game. I know it is the tendency of fans, including myself, to always be looking ahead to the next game or the next step, but don't forget to enjoy the moment. This has been and continues to be a special season--make sure you are taking the time to savor and appreciate what this team is accomplishing.

Good night and Go Illini.


Friday, March 25, 2005

"That Guy's Nuts"

The Illini took care of business and Bruce Pearl in the process last night. It was a solid win. I'm continually amazed at who steps up in each game. All they need to do is step up three more times and the goal for this season is achieved.

Review: Tupper on Luther's hammy...Morrissey...Downey...the entire Tribune sports section is loaded with coverage...Sun-Times: Mariotti...Rapaport...Telander...Daily Herald sports ain't bad either...

Question: Is there a sports reporter in Chicago who isn't covering the Illini?

Elite 8: We're off to the Elite 8 at O'Hare Rosemont Chicago Illinois USA where we meet Arizona(again). For those who need a refresher, check out this story on Lucas Johnson's experience with Arizona Coach Lute "That Guy's Nuts" Olson. (This storyline is much more tolerable than Pearlgate.) Any chance, since it sounds like Lucas will be at the game, that we could get him a seat right behind the AZ bench?

Duke: As for me, after watching the tourney on T.V. and seeing all the coverage of the commercials, with short breaks to show basketball in between, I've decided to enroll at Duke and get myself an American Express card.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Today's Game, Pearlgate, Price and Photos

Today's game

Tupper blogs about All-Dark Arena here...Tribune's Garcia examines the match-ups...most are turning this into David and Goliath...

Media has been all over this story this week.

Why not?

It's a tale of intrigue...tape recording phone conversations...bribery...cover-up...whistleblower...scandal...

The coverage this week by the national pro writers sounded like they were covering Watergate all over again.

The only difference is this: If Bruce Pearl is Deep Throat...i.e. the guy who blows the top off a massive scandal...why were his tapes the ones with the gaps in them ala Richard Nixon? Just a question to ponder.

Everything you want to know about the controversy here.

Since the Journalism Department at the U of I did such a bang-up job uncovering the identity of Deep Throat (their project has its own website here and they were also featured on Dateline NBC) perhaps they can use their wisdom and ace investigative reporting to set the record straight from Pearlgate.

Jay Price
Looks like he's interested in the job at Eastern IL...can't say that I blame him...he's a very good assistant who will make a major program a very good coach someday...and let's face it, the better Bruce Weber and his teams perform, the more interest there will be in his will be interesting to see if Weber's assistants ourperform the great coaching offspring of Quin and Tommy

They tell a story in and of themselves. Here are some of my favorites running on the wire today (I know some are more than a day old but I still love 'em):

Dee I ...Dee II...Pruitt is HUGE and will be a beast...Luther...Looks like Weber is losing his patience with McBride's shot..."Hey ref, congratulations, ya finally got it right"...


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Beloved Coach K

Just saw the following in an article on MSNBC's website (PLEASE NOTE: The author is not listed as being Dick Vitale but I believe it is him. He is just using a pen name):

"On the one hand, it’s a testament to the importance of coaching in the college game. When we get all moist talking about the Krzyzewskis of the game, there’s a reason for it. He is every bit as good as his press clippings say he is."

Sarcasm Alert:
I don't know about you, but I always get misty-eyed when talking about Coach K.
End Alert

AAARRRGGGHHH! Makes me gag.

For those of you who really want to read the article, here is the link. The Coach K remark is on page 2 of the story. WARNING: When you first click on the link, PROCEED WITH CAUTION. You must be careful not to be blinded by the picture of Illini public enemy #1 (i.e. he who shall not be named).


Illini Win More Awards

Congratulations to Dee, Deron, Luther, and Coach Weber on being selected for more post-season awards. Dee and Deron were both selected as second team AP All-Americans and Luther was selected for the third team.

The Sporting News selected Dee as their player of the year and Coach Weber as their coach of the year. Dee was also selected as a Sporting News first team All-American and Deron was named to the second team.

These awards are all well-deserved. Congratulations to these three players, Coach Weber, and their teammates who helped them achieve these awards.


Who They Are

I just had to post this must-read story tonight. It's not your ordinary sports story but shows the heart of this team. I particularly loved the part about Dee and his scrapbook.

Full Disclosure Alert: I found this story while visiting the Illiniboard. Some of the comments about it there are pretty funny. Allow me to summarize: Could you see the players' names in the story replaced with "Felton" or "McCants"? Exactly.

By the way, speaking of Illiniboard, I remember reading John Brumbaugh's analysis after he got his first glimpse of Dee, Deron and Augie in Orange and Blue at Midnight Madness when they were freshmen and he said Dee was going to be a player Illini fans would enjoy watching for years to come. My was he right!


Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Okay, the Illinette is at home right now so the more mellow Good Hope Orange is on vacation this morning. I read a few comments yesterday that bothered me a little bit at the time but the more I thought about them, the more irritated I became. The two comments that annoyed me the most are: 1) Illinois is the most likely #1 seed to get knocked off this weekend and 2) Something to the effect of "perhaps Illinois' wins over Wake Forest, Gonzaga, and Cincinnati during the season be viewed as less significant since all three of those teams lost in the second round."

The first comment was made by Stewart Mandel on and is just plain ridiculous. I understand a potential matchup with Arizona or Oklahoma State is going to be a tough game for Illinois but what about Washington and Duke? Washington is playing well but faces a Louisville team in the Sweet Sixteen that should have been higher than a 4 seed and is playing equally well. Duke did not look good over the weekend and they face a solid Michigan State team and then possibly Kentucky.

In the same article Mr. Mandel also said Illinois and North Carolina remain the teams to beat and that he is keeping Louisville, UNC, Duke, and Illinois as his Final Four picks. If that is the case, then wouldn't logic dictate that he believes Washington is the most likely #1 seed to get knocked off? Does he read his own articles? Apparently not.

Unfortunately, I could not find the article again where I read the second comment. I believe it was on one of the major sports websites but not positive. That statement is beyond ridiculous. It is just plain stupid. As the first four days of the tournament showed, there is a tremendous amount of parity and 8 of the 16 top seeds got knocked out. Wake lost to West Virginia in DOUBLE OVERTIME in a back and forth game. Cincinnati, a #7 seed, lost to #2 seed Kentucky. Gonzaga's MO the past few years has been to get a really high seed and then lose in the second round. To try and discredit Illinois' regular season wins over these teams because the teams lost in the second round is outrageous. I believe North Carolina lost to Wake during the regular season so what does that say about them?

What about the fact that Michigan State, who Illinois beat once, and Wisconsin, who Illinois beat three times, are in the Sweet Sixteen? Doesn't that also say something about Illinois? I am fed up and have just plain had it with the lack of respect being given to the Big 10. The Big 10 has 3 teams left in the Sweet Sixteen, which is tied with the ACC for the most of any conference.

How about the following (not a comprehensive list, just what I can recall off the top of my head)? The Big East has lost their top teams in Syracuse, UConn, and BC. The ACC has lost Wake and Georgia Tech. The Big 12 lost Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. The SEC lost Florida, Alabama, and LSU. Who did the Big Ten lose? Iowa and Minnesota, neither of which was considered one of the Big Ten's top teams this year. The Big Ten may not have been the best conference this year but it had a great team, two very good teams, and then several solid teams.

The Big Ten has a realistic chance of putting 3 teams in the Elite Eight and possibly 2 in the Final Four. It may not happen but it is time that the Big Ten gets some respect. Illinois has been a great team this year and nothing that has happened in the tournament so far should diminish that fact. If anything, it should enhance it.

Fact of the Day:
Illinois' winning percentage the last five seasons is .811 (137-32). This ranks them second in the country. The only team ahead of the Illini? Duke at .851 (148-26). Wouldn't it be fun to beat them for the National Title? Go Illini!


Monday, March 21, 2005

8 of 16

8. That is how many of the tournament's top 16 seeds survived the first weekend. Four number 1's, two number 2's, one number 3, and one number 4. Casualties included 3 out of 4 of Good Hope Orange's final four picks. Ouch, that hurts. Thankfully, our beloved Illini are still standing.

Against Nevada, the Illini finally started to look like the team we've watched all season. Big time shout-outs to James Augustine and Jack Ingram for having career-high games for points scored. They stepped up big time. Deron Williams also had a great all-around game. However, if the Illini want to make it to the Final Four and win the Championship, they are still going to have to bring their play up to a higher level. Greg Couch has an interesting article in today's Sun Times about how well North Carolina played and the importance of Illinois getting back to what they were the best team in the nation at doing earlier this year: PASSING. Jay Mariotti also has an article on Illinois today about how they are crashing/can crash the college parity party.

Overall, there were some outstanding games this weekend. My favorite was West Virginia's double overtime upset of Wake Forest. That game should be showing up on ESPN Classic for years to come. NC State's win over UConn was a close second.

Looking at next weekend, here are some thoughts. North Carolina's Syracuse bracket got a lot easier with the 2, 3, and 4 seeds being eliminated. However, give credit to the teams that did the eliminating. Villanova is a solid team that won't play scared nor will NC State or Wisconsin in the game after that if the Tar Heels beat Nova. Don't concede this bracket to North Carolina just yet, although they definitely have to be the runaway favorite.

In the Austin bracket, Michigan State should be able to give Duke a game. Duke did not play all that well this weekend and will need to step up to survive State and a possible showdown with Kentucky in the Elite Eight if Kentucy survives a solid Utah team that knocked off Oklahoma. This bracket is up for grabs but I would make Duke a slight favorite.

In the Albuquerque regional, I would be shocked if the winner of the Washington-Louisville game does not go on to the Final Four. That should be an outstanding game. No offense to T. Tech or W. Virgina, but the winner of that game has to be the favorite for this region. Your guess is as good as mine as to which team it will be. Washington looked really good this weekend and so did Louisville. I will give the slightest of edges to Louisville but only because that may be a little of my bias against the Pac 10 coming out (Washington probably hasn't gotten the respect they deserve in most circles, including from Illinitalk).

Finally, the Chicago (Rosemont) regional. Of course, Illinois is the favorite here. The Illini should be able to take care of business against UW-Milwaukee and their coach (this is a you know who free zone today). The Illini should not underestimate this solid Horizon League team but it would be disappointing if they don't win this game convincingly. Then it will be on to play either Arizona or Oklahoma State. Both are very solid teams with different challenges for the Illini. It should be a good game between Arizona and OK State and, hopefully, they will wear each other out before one of them advances to play the Illini. I don't have a strong preference about which team Illinois plays but would lean toward Arizona as it would be very satisfying to beat them as payback for a few years ago when they beat us in San Antonio to go to the Final Four. In addition, in my opinion, they have fewer weapons, are weaker defensively, and are not as experienced as Oklahoma State. On the other hand, Oklahoma State does not have as much size and SIU gave them all they could handle. Either way, Illinois is the favorite in this region.

Illinois is not getting a lot of love right now compared to some of the other teams that are left, especially North Carolina. That should be some extra motivation.

Finally, here is an additional perspective about what could happen in the four regions. Remember that you can now comment without having to sign up or log on to the blog. We appreciate those of you who have started to comment (interesting perspective on Kansas' Wayne Simien under my Saturday post). Keep them coming.


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Pearl and Other Thoughts

Quote of the Weekend

"I just hope we have a city when we get back to school," said Mountaineers guard J.D. Collins. "It might get burned down."

In case you haven't heard, WVU proved Wake doesn't play defense. (I suspect this is one of the reasons Good Hope Orange didn't think three ACC teams would make the final...he's starting to look right even though he didn't pick this particular upset.)

Now our game...

Illinois looked to be in midseason form. Except for Augie. He's better. The guy is a beast. And getting better. I told Goop Hope Orange at halftime: "Great. Now he'll want to go pro too."

My good friend replied, "If they win the title I don't care."

True that.

Speaking of midseason form, Dee was so quick, he got the runs. But he sunk his free throws when they counted.

Now, if Weber can just quaranteen him so he doesn't infect the rest of the team. If I was the university, I'd have Dee flown back to C-U on a private jet.


Next opponent

This season has it all. One hundred years of Illinois basketball. Big Ten regular season and tourney titles. Undefeated in non conference schedule. Just one loss in the Big Ten. Weber wins Coach of the Year, Dee Big Ten POY...and now the chance to put a severe beat-down on Bruce Pearl.

If you don't know Peggy Noonan you should. She used to write speeches for Ronald Reagan. I don't care what your politics are...all you need to know is Preggy Noonan knows what she is talking about. She had a column this week in the Wall Street Journal about Terri Shiavo. (Please keep readin--this is going somewhere.)

In her column she said that every situation has a legal angle, public relations angle and political angle. Same goes for the upocoming game between Illinois and Milwaukee. The players in this case control the legal angle. That would be the final score.

But others control the political and public relations angle. If I was the public relations folks for the Illinois athletic department I would start backgrounding reporters today about Pearl's actions 15 years ago because that will be all we hear this week.

I don't want Weber to slip one inch to Pearl in the PR department or with recruits or even calls on the court because Pearl is portrayed as a good guy whistleblower.

He is not.

Don't think this could happen? Just read this story from the Washington Post yesterday.

Pearl needs to be seen for the fraud he is. Illinois did nothing wrong.

Finally, I would have a few folks from that era come in and brief the players. Let them know what this guy did to their beloved program. They all have such a strong allegiance to Illinois that it should work to our advantage.

This is also good because it will take the focus off of them for the week and throw it on something else. Less pressure that way.


Would someone please get on the phone to Visa or Ford (since K has GM), or somebody and get Weber an endorsement contract?

I mean is this what its come to? Recruiting is now gonna be fought out partly by not only who's on ESPN more but also which coach has is face on TV advertisements during the tournament?

Seriously, Duke folks are genius but it really does disgust me.

I for one would like to see Weber do a Visa ad where he says, "its everywhere you want to be" in front of the Assembly Hall.

Seriously. If K can walk onto his floor at the end of one of his ads, we should be able to do it too. Weber is the National Coach of the Year after all.


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Um, about those picks....

Syracuse losing to Illinois in the national title game? What, are you kidding me? Who would pick Syracuse to even make the title game? Well, unfortunately, I did. I knew I had a good reason not to post my picks before any of you who are in pools (purely for entertainment purposes of course) had to turn in your sheets. At least Chief had Syracuse in the Final Four so I don't feel quite so bad. I thought Vermont would play them tough and give them a good game but didn't think they would prevail in the end. You try to go with someone other than UNC or Duke and that is what you get I guess (although I am still not convinced both or maybe even one of those teams will make it to the Final Four let alone the championship game--not saying it won't happen,just not sold on it yet).

I was also disappointed to see Iowa and Minnesota lose. As a Big Ten fan, I was hopeful they would each win their first round games, especially Minnesota. Kansas losing to Bucknell last night made me feel a little better about Syracuse and the two Big Ten teams losing. I only got to watch the end of the game due to CBS choosing to show me the Michigan State game (which was fine since they are Big Ten) while Kansas was playing, but in watching the real-time score updates, Bucknell was ahead or tied almost the entire game.

At the end, I was thinking that if Simien's shot went in, we would be seeing it during tournament time every year from here on out just like we see a certain former Duke player's shot against Kentucky from a few year's ago. But it didn't go in, and no matter what happens from here on out, that is a game Bucknell's players will remember forever and tell their kids and grandkids about. I was sorry to see a great player like Simien end his career that way but Bucknell deserved to win.

I imagine Coach Bill Self's seat is feeling a bit toasty today. From what Chief has heard, there is quite a bit of outrage being posted on Kansas' message board. I have no desire to rip him on this blog today (no sense kicking a guy while he is down) but I do wonder if he ever wishes that he hadn't left Illinois. I am glad we have Weber, though. Self is a great recruiter but Weber is by far the better bench coach based on my observations of the Self years vs. the Weber years.

Illinois plays Nevada today. Don't underestimate the Wolfpack. They are a solid team and played very well in the tournament last year so they have experience. The real Illinois team needs to show up this afternoon, not the one we saw Thursday. They need to get back to playing a full 40 minutes of hard-nosed defense and team oriented offense. Lately, they have been doing enough to win but their recent play won't be enough to get it done against better and better teams. I still believe in this team and hope to see a great peformance today. Go Illini!


Friday, March 18, 2005

Austin Peay It Wasn't...But I Wondered

It's something I've told myself all season. These are young men. And we are hoping, expecting and trying to will them to perform the extraordinary.

Sorry folks, but I refuse to call them kids. A kid is someone who you take to the park and push on the swing. Or push in a stroller. Or tuck into bed at night after reading them "Goodnight Moon."

A young man is someone who can live on his own and pay his own bills...even if his parents are helping him through college. Too bad the males in the NBA who are "young men" age in my book behave like "kids" most of the time.
End Sidebar

Anyway, back to the Illini. Their victory last night over Fairleigh Dickinson was more hard-fought than we expected it would be--especially for the good guys. But what game isn't in the Big Dance? Certainly nothing past the first round by any means.

Am I concerned that that Illini can't seem to hit the broad side of a barn the past few games? Of course.

But was I concerned that the death of Bruce Weber's mom would be a distraction that stretched from the Big Ten Tourney all the way through the early rounds of the Big Dance? Sure. But we still won the Big Ten Tourney Title.

And fighting through adversity and big stage jitters when you're 21 years old is part of winning the title.

Remember, these Illini have been here before. Dee Brown hated losing to Duke and Notre Dame the last two years on this stage. Last night was the wake-up call. He won't let it happen again. I'm just glad we didn't see something last night that would make the loss to Austin Peay a few years ago pale in comparison.

Welcome Hamburglar's Hideout and Ieron as regular readers...Rick Morrissey rocks the house today as usual...


Thursday, March 17, 2005

St. Louis or Bust

There are a ton of good articles in the papers today but unfortunatley, I am tight on time and won't be able to highlight them here. However, if you click on the newspaper links on the right hand side of Illinitalk you will be able to peruse them at your leisure.

Now the important stuff! This should be a good competition between Chief and I. Let me preface this by saying that I decided to take my own path on this and ignore some of the so-called "experts" and conventional wisdom. Also, I know some games have already been or are in process of being played--as such, I have not looked at any score results yet so as to be completely fair to Chief. Here we go--NCAA Tournament picks:

Sweet Sixteen
IL over BC
OK State over AZ
First round upset (going with Chief on this one): Nevada over Texas

Georgia Tech over Louisville
Wake Forest over Gonzaga
First round upset: Creighton over West Virginia (sorry Chief--I have Pacific)

North Carolina over Florida
UConn over Kansas
First round upset: NC State over Charlotte

Syracuse over Duke
Oklahoma over Kentucky
First round upset: Iowa over Cincinnati and, in a minor upset, Miss. State over Stanford

Elite Eight (here are the shockers)
Illinois over Oklahoma State

Georgia Tech over Wake Forest

UConn over North Carolina

Syracuse over Oklahoma

Final Four
Illinois over Georgia Tech
Syracuse over UConn

National Championship
The Fighting Illini of Illinois destroy the vaunted Syracuse zone defense to win the title

I know some people are going to read this and think I am crazy for only having one #1 seed in the final four and no team from North Carolina (NC, Duke, or Wake). In the interest of full disclosure, I spent last night filling out three different brackets trying to decide what I wanted my picks to be. In some of those, my final four picks included either Duke, Wake, UNC, or even Louisville. Those are certainly some of the best teams in the country. However, you can find those picks by any expert. I wanted to offer something that was different but highly possible.

The Big East was an outstanding conference this year and both Syracuse and UConn have players with final four and national title experience. Thus, those were my picks. As for Georgia Tech, that one is a long shot and I am going out on a limb. However, once again, they have players with final four and championship game experience. They had a year that was below expectations based on the players they had back from last year but part of that was because of injuries. They have played well as of late and I decided to take a chance on them since I don't think anyone else has. They are the one ACC team no one is picking for the final four.

With regards to the other three ACC teams (UNC, Duke, and Wake), I am just not sold on them. Illinois destroyed Wake and I just haven't been that impressed with them. Plus, they just never seem to fulfill their potential.

Duke is good thanks to Coach K's system but they lack depth and, despite winning the ACC tournament, seem to have given away some leads this year which is very un-Duke like. One bad night from Reddick and they are done.

As for North Carolina, we have heard all year that they are the most talented team in the country. And if we are honest about it, they probably are. There are several NBA lottery picks on that team. The problem is I have seem them play as individuals far too many times this year, even in the games they have won big. I am also not sure they can stand up under the pressure. They are in a brutal bracket with lots of potential for a misstep (is that a word?). I have nothing against Coach Williams but I am just not sure he can lead this team to the Final Four and/or a National Title. I am in the minority on this big time but call it a gut feeling (of course I didn't think UConn would win it all last year so take it for what it's worth). It is certainly a very real possibility that at least one if not all three of these teams could end up in the final four and either Duke or UNC could end up playing Illinois for the title. I just chose not to pick any of them. That is what makes this time of year so fun.

Finally, my favorite team and yours: Illinois
I love this team. I have all year. They have come through in every game that truly mattered. I have no reason to believe that won't continue to happen. I have never been able to pick my favorite team to win it all and truly believe that it was a very, very real possibility. That is what has made this year so special. While I debated on my final four teams, there was no question that Illinois would be my only pick to win the national title. Whether my predictions are right and they play Syracuse or we get the matchup with UNC or Duke that everyone seems to want, I don't care. I just want our guys to be cutting down the nets on April 4th. I believe.

Go Illini.


Chief: I Want Digger's Job

I was pleased to see Digger pick IL for the national title. I think he's finally clued in. Vitale...well, not a bad pick with North Carolina but three-fourths of the Final Four coming from that state? Give me a break! I'm going out on a limb and not picking it to happen.

Here are my picks (how cool is it that I can pick my team with strong confidence to win it all):

Sweet Sixteen

IL-WI-Mil...IL wins
AZ-OSU...OSU wins
First round upset (if you can call it that): Nev. over TX

WA-L'ville...L'ville wins
UCLA-Wake...Wake wins
Other "upset": Pitt over Pacific

UNC-FL...tough pick but I take UNC to win...this could be trap for the Heels
KU-UConn...tough one as well...I almost picked Wis. to upset KU in 2nd round...and if Langford is still out that may happen...I take UConn to Elite 8
Other "upset": NC State over Charlotte...taking Minny over Iowa St. also (sorry Young Man)

Duke-Cuse...Cuse wins...
OK-Kentucky...OK wins...two upsets here...know I'm going out on limb but hey, that's what it's all about
Other "upset": Iowa over Cincinnati...but losing to Kentucky...(sorry again, Young Man)

Also, this may come back to haunt me but I picked all Big Ten teams to win their first round games (gotta show my allegiance). But I only picked Illinois to get past second round.

Elite Eight

IL beats OSU

L'ville beats Wake

UNC beats UConn

Cuse beats OK

Final Four

IL over L'ville and UNC over Cuse



NOTE: I don't care if I'm wrong on everything else...I just want Illinois to win it all. Bad


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Time of Year We've All Been Waiting For

Finally, it's here!!! The NCAA Tournament begins tomorrow (forget the so-called play-in game--the real action starts tomorrow). This is what the Illini and its fans have been waiting for all season. Everything that has happened to this point was to prepare for what really matters to any college basketball team and its fans--a national championship.

If you have been reading the predictions of the so-called experts, casual fans, and even Vegas, you will find that many people believe Illinois will make it to the final four and quite a few believe they will win the title (other than the ACC loving, east-coast biased, too good for the midwest snobs at ESPN--excluding, amazingly enough, Digger Phelps who I hear actually picked Illinois--guess that is because Notre Dame already lost in the NIT). The staff of Illinitalk obviously falls into the category of believing Illinois will win the national title.

Some of today's articles discuss why the Illini are one of the favorites to cut down the nets. Reasons range from this season's performances of the Illini Big Men to their three outstanding guards to the terrific defense Illinois has been playing despite some shooting that is below normal for them. MSNBC also points out how nothing tops experience come tournament time and the Illini have that in abundance. Finally, it appears we have DePaul to thank for bringing the regional to Chicago/Rosemont.

Illinitalk believes Illinois is going to win the title for all of the reason above: Solid play from the big men (who have been underrated all year), three outstanding guards, and terrific defense. Despite all the coverage on the Illini's shooting woes during the Big 10 Tournament, what was overlooked was the Illini defense at the tournament. It was outstanding at disrupting opponents and holding them at or close to season lows in several categories. Defense wins championships. The Illini will have to shoot better to beat the best of the best but we believe that will happen. Thursday's game will help them relax, get back to their crisp passing, and get some confidence making shots. Finally, keep in mind the following, which we posted earlier this year:

"Prior to the Penn State game, people were pointing out that the Illini's scoring was down in the conference games as compared to the non-conference games, other teams like North Carolina were at times scoring over 100 points per game, etc. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been pondering why that might be the case. Here are is my theory. The teams we are playing in conference have now played us multiple times over the past two years and have some familiarity with the Illini offense. Thus, they have a better idea of how to TRY to defend it. That's it. That's my theory. Probably not too deep of one but it is the one that seems to make the most sense. Think about it--the non-conference teams we played had either never played against Illinois' version of the motion offense or had maybe played against it once last season. Only one of those teams challenged the Illini and that was Missouri. However, once you hit the Big 10 season, those teams were much more familiar with the Illinois offense. Thanks to our personnel and a great coach, the offense is never easy to defend but it is at least slightly easier to defend when you have seen it two or more times before and have a little feel for what the Illini are doing. Say what you will about the Big 10 Conference this year but, unlike most ACC teams and a lot of teams from the other power conferences, virtually all of our conference's teams play tough, hard-nosed defense. Illinois has shown it can play any style other teams want--up and down, grind it out, slow it down, you name it. They have won games playing every style and they will continue to do so. Don't worry about a slump from an individual player or the team. They simply know how to win."

I think that about covers it. Tune in tomorrow for picks from Chief and from me.

P.S. I forgot to mention over the past couple of weeks how impressed we have been with the people who vote in the AP poll and the USA Today/ESPN poll. Illinois is back to a unanimous number one in both polls this week. However, the previous week's poll is the one we are most impressed with. So often when a team loses a game, they are knocked down in the rankings regardless of what they have done earlier in the season. Despite Illinois' 1 point loss to Ohio State and UNC's win that same weekend, both polls kept Illinois #1. It wasn't unanimous but they weren't bumped down to #2. We respect the writers and coaches for doing that. We think it was the right decision and we appreciate it. Voters in those polls often get knocked when we are upset so they deserve praise when they do something like this. Let us simply say thanks.


Today's Must-Read Articles

If you call yourself an Illini fan, there are some must-read stories today...Mark Tupper on the Illini's popularity...Tribune's Melissa Isaacson on the PR guy for Illini sports, Kent Brown...will update if we find more...


Finally...An Award Illinois Didn't Win

Yes, there is an award Illinois didn't win this historic basketball season and take my word for it, it's for the better.

GQ announced its list of the Top Ten Worst College Sports Fans. Thank goodness Illinois isn't on this list.

P.S. Busy time for college hoops...unfortunately, it's crunch time at work for Good Hope Orange and I also. Hopefully we'll be up with our tourney picks soon as well as comments about some recent Illini coverage.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Bruce Weber Named National Coach of the Year

Bruce Weber won the Henry Iba Award today...the award is presented to the National Coach of the Year by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Read more about Weber's selection here and here.

To read more about the Henry Iba award itself and for a past list of recipients, click here. Click here to read Iba's bio.

This award is well-deserved in our book, and not just because of the stoicism Weber has shown the past few days with his mom passing away. I don't think this team would not be this good if Weber wasn't the coach...if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Rick Morrissey had a great article on exactly what I'm talking about a few weeks ago. Here is my favorite excerpt:

Please, no stories during the NCAA tournament about Illinois being Self's team too. It's not anymore. It's Weber's team. He did the heavy lifting, turning skeptical players into believers. If a priest had been available last year, Weber would have requested an exorcism to get rid of the ghost of Self.

These are Self's players, but this is not his accomplishment. There is no way of knowing whether he would have produced the same results from these players, but there's no doubt Weber's motion offense is perfect for Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Sunday Morning Update

The Orange and Blue is proudly flying outside Illinitalk East...and will continue to fly until the Illini season is over...

A few morning news stories: Chicago Tribune's Milbert and Downey...Sun-Times' Gould and Mariotti...Post-Dispatch's Burwell and Rutherford...

That's all I have time for this morning...Skinny Sweetcheeks is under the weather...we're hopefully headin' to church together and then on to meet an old fraternity buddy from U of I to watch the game... don't have to be registered with blogger to post comments here anymore...and if you want to e-mail Good Hope Orange and I you can do so at



A Moment of Silence

For all of you that follow the Illini or read Chief's earlier posts, you know the difficult time Coach Weber and his family are going through. Illinois beat Minnesota today and play Wisconsin tomorrow for the Big Ten Tournament Championship. However, the passing of Coach Weber's mom reminds us that no matter how much we enjoy college basketball or love our Illini, it is important to remember that in the end, it is just a game. Wins and losses that seem so important during the year pale in significance to the importance of family.

Bruce Weber didn't have to be on the sideline today. His team, Illini fans, and everyone else would have understood if he had chosen not to coach in today's game. He chose to be there because he believed that is what his mother would have wanted. It was the same choice his brother made last night while coaching his high school team in the playoffs.

Before today's game, the crowd was asked to observe a moment of silence in honor and remembrance of the Weber's mom. Today was not an easy day for the Weber family. Tomorrow will not be any easier. Only time will ease some of the pain they feel right now. Because of that, when you read this column, we hope you will take a moment to remember the Weber family and keep them in your thoughts and prayers over the next few days and the week ahead.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Bruce Weber Shows Us What He's Made Of

So this is what Bruce Weber is made of.

How long would it take someone to realize Weber was raised in a blue collar family?

Well, if they were watching his life the last 36 hours or so, not long. I love this guy. He's a fighter with a tender heart...and his team has shown it all season. My dream is to see them perform in the Big Dance the same way their coach did today...with a humble, tender demeanor but the grit and fight of a champion.

I think the photos and the following stories tell the story much better than I could:


Weber grieving...Pregame tears...Press Conference tears...Hugging Luther...More pregame...Coaching his heart out...Entering the UC...Family support...

By the way...Augustine came to play today...


Fox Sports...Pat Forde (ESPN)...Mark Tupper blog...


Bruce Weber's Latest Rollercoaster Ride (and other items of note)

Bruce Weber will be on the sideline today for Illinois' game against Northwestern. The pro writers have some good coverage on it today:

Tribune's Garcia talks not only about Bruce but his brother Dave who is coach at Glenbrook North, and includes a quote from star player Jon Scheyer (Full Disclosure Alert: The Illini are recruiting, how ironic life can be sometimes)...

...Tribune's Downey has a nice column...Daily Herald's Willhite has condolances from other Big Ten coaches... St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bryan Burwell has a must-read column on Weber and last night...Sun-Times' Mariotti also has a great column today...

...the Orange Krush is putting together a donation fund...

Other Items to Note

Great game photos here (Luther), here (Augie), here (Augie) and here (not a foul by Augie)....

...and for all you Illinois High School basketball junkies...check out the Peoria Journal Star's sports page today...


Friday, March 11, 2005

Condolances and adversity

Illinois beat Northwestern today. That's the good news.

The really bad news is Bruce Weber's mother died tonight at a Chicago hospital.

Chicago Tribune story here...Mark Tupper blog on the early postgame developments here...if you've got ESPN, Erin Andrews is tracking the story and calling into the studio with the latest.

It has to be an extremely difficult time for the Weber family. Everyone knows that family is more important than knows that, the players know that, the media and the fans know that.

But what must be going through his mind right now? He spent the last two years preparing for this month and now he has extreme grief from a huge loss to cope with.

My guess is, the team will pull together. Jay Price has been under Weber/Keady tutelage for a long time. He can handle the job. And athletes always tend to play better when there is serious adversity like this.

Take your time to grieve and heal, coach. It will all be fine.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Updated Tournament Predictions

Here are my predictions for the Big 10 Tournament:

Day 1 (okay, a couple games are already over so those are gimme's):

Northwestern over Michigan

Iowa over Purdue (Sorry to see you go Coach Keady but we wish you the best)

Ohio State over Penn State

Day 2

Illinois over Northwestern (This should be a blowout. Illinois will want to make a statement after losing Sunday)

Indiana over Minnesota (for ESPN analysts view of the inportance of this game to each teams's NCAA tournament chances, click here. I am predicting an Indiana win as they are more desperate than Minnesota, they always seem to win when Davis needs it to save his job, and thanks to a big game from Bracey White)

Michigan State over Iowa (The Hawkeyes don't have enough firepower).

Ohio State over Wisconsin (Hey, I had to pick at least one upset but Wisconsin could very well win this game)

Day 3

Illinois over Indiana

Michigan State over Ohio State (although I would love for the Buckeyes to make it to the Championship game so Illinois could demolish them).

Day 4
Illinois over Michigan State (This should be a very good game but Illinois gets the edge)

NCAA Tournament Predictions

From the Big 10--Illinois is the top overall #1 seed, Michigan State is somewhere between a 3 and a 5 seed, and Wisconsin is somewhere between a 6 and an 8 seed. If Indiana beats Minnesota as predicted, both of these teams could get in. However, not everyone agrees with that part of my prediction, as you will see here.

#1 Seeds
Illinois (Midwest Region and #1 overall)
North Carolina (East Region and #2 overall)
Wake Forest (West Region and #3 overall)
Kentucky (South Region and #4 overall)

Frankly, I am not sold on Kentucky yet but I have to put someone there. Louisville could also sneak into that spot if they win the Conference USA Tournament and Kentucky falters in the SEC Tournament. Arizona is also a longshot possibility. Duke WILL NOT, I REPEAT WILL NOT, get the 4th number one seed unless they win the ACC Tournament and the selection committee decides to take them over Wake or NC. The ACC WILL NOT have three # 1 seeds. I guarantee it (because if they do, something is seriously wrong with the selection process).

#2 Seeds

These predictions have obviously been fluid and have changed as the season has progressed. The conference tournaments could make for some changes between who is a 1 and who is a 2 but I think these 8 teams will be there in the end barring major upsets. This is what makes March Madness so great. We will have more predictions once the actual brackets are announced.


Big 10 Tournament Media Coverage

The Big 10 Tournament started today. For a look at the positive impact the Big 10 Tournament has had on the conference's performance in the NCAA tournament check out this article in today's Tribune. Skip Myslenski of the Tribune also has an outstanding article on how the biggest advantage the ACC has over the Big 10 is its image. He gives a great comparison between Indiana and Georgia Tech that illustrate his point and he also manages to work in references to Dan Rather, Michael Jackson, and Desparate Housewives, which is pretty impressive considering this article is in the sports section.

Other articles worth checking out include a Tribune preview of today's games and a humorous column by Mike Downey about a few Big Ten tidbits worth knowing. I know, I know, lots of love for the Tribune today but they seem to have the best coverage of today's papers. However, for some balance, let me also recommend today's Daily Herald article on the Illini.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Wow, what a week. March 2nd was an all-time great day for the Good Hope Orange Household. Oskee Mom Mom gave birth to our first child! The Illinette came into this world at 10:37 p.m. and weighed in at 9 lbs. 9 oz. and was 21 inches long. She is amazing and such a blessing.

On Thursday, the Illinette listened to her first Illini game via the radio thanks to AM 670 on the Illini sports network. While I loved our hospital, the fact that they no longer had ESPN 2 was a major disappointment, but I will let it slide thanks to the fantastic care they game to Oskee Mom Mom and the Illinette.

On Sunday, the Illinette and Oskee Mom Mom came home, which probably saved Good Hope Orange's TV from being destroyed as he watched the Illini suffer their first loss of the season. It was very disappointing but the Illinette must already be mellowing her dad as I did not yell nor throw anything during the entire game. It must be all that stuff about how we should set a good example. Oskee Mom Mom was shocked at how well I handled the loss. But as Chief wrote in an earlier column, we just need to keep everything in perspective.

The week brightened again yesterday when the Illinette got a good report from the doctor at her checkup and the Big 10 Conference awards were announced. Congratulations to Dee Brown on being not only the Player of the Year but also the Defensive Player of the Year. Rick Telander of the Sun-Times has a good article on how regardless of the award, it is still a team game for Dee. Congrats also go out to Dee, Deron, and Luther for being 1st Team All Big 10, to Augie for making the 3rd Team, and to Roger for receiving honorable mention (he should have been at least 3rd team with Augie but so it goes--man, I must be mellowing--I would have ranted about that had it been a couple weeks ago). Finally, props to Coach Weber on being named the Big 10's Coach of the Year. He should have received this award last year too but it is certainly well-deserved this season.

Well, that's all for now but check back tomorrow for my updated thoughts on the Big 10 and NCAA tournaments.

P.S. Big thanks to Chief for carrying the load while I have been taking care of Oskee Mom Mom and the Illinette this past week. It is greatly appreciated. Hopefully, everything is about back to normal and both the Chief and I will be posting regularly again. Thank you to our readers for your patience and understanding!


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

How much longer must we listen to this?

The Big Ten coaches had their weekly conference call with the pro reporters yesterday. (I think it'd be clutch if they scheduled a teleconference with bloggers.) Understandably, there were a lot of questions for Coach Weber...

Full Sarcasm Alert
Can someone please tell me if we won or lost this weekend? I've looked in all sorts of papers and surfed the Internet for hours and just can't seem to locate one single story about the game.
End Full Sarcasm Alert

There were a lot of questions for Coach Weber about the loss at Ohio State...which led to there being a lot of stories today (here, here and here) about it (for the second day in a row). No use in writing about something once when you can write about it again, eh?

Fresh Air Alert
Mike Downey's In the Wake of the News column in the Tribune today

I look forward to the day...hopefully it's today...when the media starts looking forward as Downey does. After all, the Big Ten Tournament starts Thursday in Chicago. (That's the day after tomorrow for you pro writers who are as bad at math as I am.)
End Fresh Air Alert

Article of the Day can be found here.

Classic. "I take no pleasure in saying this." "I'm a Bruce Weber fan." "I hope I'm wrong." I just love writers who hate on us by trying to be polite.

Give me a break. Hopefully this goes straight to the Illini bulletin board.

Notice how there is no e-mail address to contact the writer, either?

Vitale Watch
Have to give him kudo's...he said the loss should not affect our seeding in the tourney. Props to Dickie V.


Monday, March 07, 2005


I have to admit, I didn't want the undefeated season bad until yesterday. Maybe it was because all season our players made it look easy. And when things got tough, they always figured out a way to pull it out. However, yesterday they couldn't and you know what? That's ok.

I'm focused more on the national title anyway. That's what matters.

Sure, I was upset. For half an hour. That's how long it took me to get it out of my system. It was made a little easier by watching Kentucky and Kansas both go down as well. But I kept telling myself perspective is what's needed so here it is:

1. Mike & Mike in the Morning. These dudes are studs.

Let me paraphrase Greenburg this morning: This loss should not affect Illinois' ranking or the fact that they are the best team in the nation or that they should still get the number one overall seed or that they have had the best season so far and they don't get the credit they deserve.

Golic (paraphrased): I don't want to hear this nonsense that losing one takes all the pressure off. It doesn't. If they want to win the national championship, the pressure is still there.

(Coach Weber said yesterday on CBS that the team set out to go undefeated in non-conference, win the Big Ten and win the national title. "Undefeated just sort of snuck up on us," he said.)

Greenburg went on to say that the Indy-Chicago-St. Louis path should still be there for Illinois, that the team shouldn't have to get on a plane all tourney and that the fans should travel easily.

Just wait till the rest of the nation sees how well our fans travel.

2. I don't want to hear anyone say we have to win the Big Ten Tournament to keep our lock on the number one seed. Please. We do need to win two games. The selection committee never waits until after the conference title games to make adjustments (just look at last year) and I seriously doubt they will do so this year. (I still want us to win the whole thing of course.)

3. There was some talk yesterday that Illinois may drop in the rankings if UNC beat Duke. I think I recall hearing this during the (surprise, surprise!) UNC-Duke game. I think it may have been Billy Packer who said it. (My sincerest apologies to Packer if he didn't.)

In any case, my feeling is this: You think the loss to tOSU will motivate our guys? Try dropping them a ranking or two and see what happens.

4. I believe if our guys are hungry enough they should still win the title. I believe that in order to do so they will have to find an answer for Sean May and Shelden Williams. If our road to the championship doesn't go through Duke and UNC I would be shocked.

5. Some of my favorite stories for today: Morrissey, Katz and this NY Times piece has a good bit on the adjustment that Weber made at halftime.

6. When tOSU fans stormed the court yesterday, I just closed my eyes. Not because we lost and they were celebrating our misery but because I was hopeful none of our guys would get hurt. Can you imagine if Dee would've broken his leg because he was trounced by an Ohio State fan? Talk about instant hate rivarly...


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Game Day!

The orange and blue is flying outside Illinitalk's game day...and not just any game we could end up 30-0!

Game previews here, here and here.

Jay Mariotti is, well, Jay Mariotti here. (I like his lead, although Jay Bilas has been tolerable.)

Story on Big Ten awards ballotting here.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Other stories of note...

Wanna know just how popular Illinois basketball is getting in the Chicago area? Check out this story.

John Mutka of the Merrillville (IN) Post-Tribune has a story today on why the Big Ten may not be as down as everyone says it is.

We missed Tupper in our earlier post today. As usual, he's right on the money. (And so are the players when it comes to staying on message in the media).

Motivation: Thank goodness people in Buffalo don't get it. This article will be great motivation for Dee and Company.

Illini in India? Yes, it's true. Click here.


Dee, Baby, Self and Jamar Smith

We didn't post commentary on Thursday night's win against Purdue because we were still in complete shock after Dee's unconscience performance from beyond the arc.

That, and Good Hope Orange and Oskee Mom Mom had their baby and, as regular readers of Illinitalk probably know, when this blog becomes a solo show, it gets tough to keep up. (Kudos to "Da Wonk" for being able to do so and to "Mrs. Illiniwonk" for putting up with him.) Anyway, The One Baby Fast Break weighed in at 9 pounds, 9 ounces at 10:37 p.m. Wednesday night. Congratulations!

My predition of eight hours of labor was a little short and I missed the gender too (they had a girl). Let's hope my Illini predictions from a few days ago are a little truer to form.

Thoughts about Thursday
1. There is no doubt in my mind that Dee sealed up Big Ten Player of the Year. That was my prediction and I'm sticking to it.

2. You can see the game recap here. I like how the starters were all at 30 minutes or under for the game. Going into the final March stretch, coming off eight days of rest, having a hot shooting night and having all players at 30 minutes or under is a very good thing. It'll keep those legs fresh. For April.

3. With Gene Keady's Big Ten career coming to a close, so does the end of an era of Big Ten coaches. I grew up watching these guys (Lou, Bobby, Gene, Jud, etc.) so it's sad for me too. Mark Tupper has a nice entry on his blog about the new era of Big Ten coaches.

Rick Morrissey
As usual, the Tribune's Morrissey has a couple great columns about the Illini. The latest is dated for tomorrow but is on the Tribune's website today. It's pure speculative about if Bill Self has any regrets that he didn't stay at Illinois. A great read. Here are my favorite excerpts:

Please, no stories during the NCAA tournament about Illinois being Self's team too. It's not anymore. It's Weber's team. He did the heavy lifting, turning skeptical players into believers.


These are Self's players, but this is not his accomplishment. There is no way of knowing whether he would have produced the same results from these players, but there's no doubt Weber's motion offense is perfect for Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head.

Illinois recruit Jamar Smith from Peoria Richwoods must've watched Dee Brown's game Thursday. In a 76-41 win over Pekin in the regionals, Smith was an amazing 10 for 11 from three point land for a season-high 37 points. You can read more about it here.

Seems like Weber is doing fine recruiting so far.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

Gracias Seniors

Tonight is Senior Night at the Assembly Hall as the Illini take on the Purdue Boilermakers in their final home game of the season. It could also be the last time Bruce Weber coaches against Gene Keady on the opposite sideline. (Unless Keady pulls a Tom Davis and gets a position at a school like East Southeast Central Missouri State Tech and Illinois schedules them in the future.)

In any case, the pro writers have a number of articles today on the Illini seniors here, here and here.

Here are our thoughts on each senior player:

Luther Head: Most improved player by far on this team. We always knew he had it in him if he could focus. He's got mad hops and can shoot the lights out. We will miss seeing him running around with his shirt untucked...we've always wondered if that drives the coaching staff crazy. Our guess is his crisp passing and high scoring takes the minds of the coaching staff off his mild wardrobe malfunctions.

Roger Powell: His commitment to core spiritual beliefs translates to commitment to being better on the court...this is apparent when he is undersized on the defensive end yet still produces an outstanding game. We will miss the Rev.

Nick Smith: Chainsaw. A reporter's dream. Like Weber, pretty much says what's on his mind and plays with his emotions on his sleeve. We hear he's smart. Hope he uses it to make some dough when he graduates because also hear he needs a car with more leg room.

Jack Ingram: Stuck with us when his coach didn't. That's commitment...and smarts, which we hear translates to the classroom and an electrical engineering major. Has stepped it up huge in his senior season and become vital off the bench. Scrappy like Lucas Johnson. Who will ever forget his two 3-pointers at Wisconsin?

Fred Nkemdi: If you don't know his story, be sure to read the stories above. Here is an excerpt from the Daily Herald:

"Probably one of my best memories was the day I made the team," Nkemdi said. "Like three days after the tryouts, they gave me the call. I didn't think they were going to call me. When they called me, it was just the greatest feeling."

Nkemdi, who plans to attend law school next year, insists his greatest moment remains the first time he donned his Illinois jersey.

Thank you Fred! Gracias seniors!


Wednesday, March 02, 2005


The dude really went out on a limb this time saying Bruce Weber can't recruit. Sounds exactly like an annoying Duke fan I know. Everytime Illinois wins, he responds with "Weber can't recruit." Such a genius response.

This is like looking at Doyel's third grade essays and saying he's a terrible writer. Actually, he is. In this article anyway. Check out this gem:

"Weber is only seven seasons into his head-coaching career, and only two years into his Illinois tenure, so it's too early to say for sure...

Because he's not recruiting well."

Apparently Doyel didn't take logic classes either. Just as I wouldn't judge Doyel's ability to write by his third grade essays, he shouldn't judge Weber's recruiting in just his second season.

All that said, it is important to note the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated. Yes, it does have a photo of Dee but more germain to this post is the fact that one of Weber's recruits at Southern--Darren Brooks--is listed on the cover as being able to challenge Dee. But Weber can't recruit, remember?
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My logic is this: Illinois' success and publicity combined with Weber's obvious coaching genius will take care of their recruiting needs for a long time.


March Predictions: Round One

It's March. That means basketball. Lots of basketball. In fact, this is one of my favorite times of the year there is so much basketball.

With the beginning of March, here are my predictions through Selection Sunday. I'll do another round after the tournament brackets come out.

Illinois' Remaining games: Finish the regular season undefeated. Take down Purdue by 20 and tOSU by 5. Bruce Weber will ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle into Assembly Hall and present it to Gene Keady as his going away gift.

Big Ten Tourney: As it stands now, the Illini could end up playing Iowa, Indiana and MSU/Wisconsin for the title. I think if they get past Iowa, they win it. The Iowa game is what worries me--playing them three times this year having already beaten them twice. That said, I think Dee and the boys will be up for it. My reasoning? People are still doubting them. I think Illinois runs the table in Chicago. Steve Alford proclaims the Hawkeys as Big Ten Champs (but fails to mention of the lower part of the conference) and is fired immediately afterwards.

NCAA tourney: Number one seeds: IL (1 overall), UNC, Wake and since no one wants the fourth seed i'm giving it to...Kansas (by default-sorry Kentucky). This is what I think will happen...not what I think should happen. Kansas has gotten the benefit of the doubt all year and it won't stop now.

Big Ten PYOY: Dee Brown. This week's Sports Illustrated cover gives him the edge over his backcourt teammates. Seriously. These awards are completely subjective. SI cover is worth a bounce of three points in the scoring average.

All Big Ten First Team: Dee, Deron, Luther, Wilkinson, Davis (Powell and Augie make the second team)

Baby: Finally, Good Hope Orange e-mailed me to let me know he and Oskee Mom Mom were going to the hospital. Sounds like a future Chief Illiniwek may be ready to come into the world. I predict a labor of eight hours and a healthy baby boy.


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