Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm Glad It's Over

Everyone who was holding their breath during the last few minutes of last night's game please raise their hand. I have mine raised--I was a little worried the Illini just might let UNC steal this one. For some game summaries, check out these articles in the Sun-Times, Trib, and the Daily Herald.

Not a lot of time to write today so here are some observations.
1) This was a nice win on the road in a tough place to play. The UNC fans were loud and this was a good early season test for the Illini. Illinois won the game as they should have against a very young Carolina team. On a side note, this is going to be a VERY good UNC team a year or two down the road.

2) I am still spoiled from last year's team. I keep having to remind myself that it is going to take this team some time to gel and come together. The defense in the first half was the worst I have seen from an Illini team in some time and we looked extremely out of synch at times on both ends of the court.

3) On the positive side, I think this team has some huge potential once they get more familiar with one another. Jamar has one of the nicest shots I have seen in a long time and it was great to see McBride shooting well again. Randle really is an athletic freak--what a block in the second half plus some key rebounding and scoring. Although I wish he could have/would have played last year after his hand healed, it sure will be nice to have him around as a fifth year senior.

4) Dee's shooting will come around--one of the biggest adjustments for him is going to be gaining trust in his new running mates. He, Deron, and Luther knew each other so well last year and it is going to take time for him to get comfortable with the other guys on the court this year. However, I loved how he was coaching the other guys on the floor and his two free throws to seal the game are why you gotta love having a senior All-American on your team.

5) Augustine played well and have a good game overall. However, I think he could dominate so much more than he does and I am just waiting for it to happen. This Beacon News article conveys what I am getting at.

6) Finally I am glad this game is over. I knew it would bring up a lot of discussion about last year's title game and that loss still stings a bit. As everyone pointed out, these are two completely different teams so it really wasn't a revenge or payback game. It was a nice win but I think all Illini fans would trade it for a victory back in April.

Quick Takes:

*The Big Ten/ACC Challenge is tied at 3 games apiece. I wish Wisconsin could have pulled off the upset against Wake Forest last night but Justin Gray was too much and the Badgers had no answer. The Big 10 has never won the challenge but let's hope that changes tonight. Northwestern vs. Virginia may be the key game that determines which conference comes out on top.

*Same old Dukie V. Some things never change--there should be kissing sounds every time he talks about the ACC and its teams on a broadcast.

*Coach Weber--Hope your foot starts feeling better and heals fast.

*Go Bears--8-3 with the 2-9 Packers coming in this weekend. Who would have thought that would be the case at the start of the season?

*Nice 4 game winning streak for the Bulls. They look like a playoff contender again this year.

*Congrats to the White Sox on resigning Paul Konerko as well as getting Peoria native Jim Thome in the trade with the Phillies. Konerko and Thome are two of the good guys in major league sports and I am glad they are in Chicago.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Gordon for THREEEEEEE!!!" and Preview of the Tar Heels

"Eric Gordon for THREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I think Illini fans will have no problem getting used to hearing that phrase out of the public address announcer at Assembly Hall for the next few years.

The media is giving Bruce Weber and the Illini major love today with regards to his recruitment.

Check out this story from the Tribune.

Couple things worth noting from the story:

--This quote uses the past tense: "Bruce Weber looks like he certainly can coach at a high-major level—the question was (emphasis mine) whether he can recruit at a high-major level," said Jerry Meyer, a national recruiting analyst.

--When he came to Illinois, Bruce Weber installed the motion offense. It's better for developing NBA talent. Translantion: it ain't the hi-low. Take note: "He's a great fit for Illinois and vice versa, because they run a pretty fluid offense. They don't run sets where the point guard dominates the ball. He's going to be fantastic in that offense."Indeed, Illinois' track record with developing and utilizing the likes of Deron Williams and Luther Head to their maximum potential was a driving factor."He knows coach Weber has a good system for guards," the elder Gordon said. "He can play one, play two, he doesn't feel he'll be pigeonholed in either one."

--Bruce Weber's honesty will pay off in the long run (it already is) as he builds a national championship contender year in and year out at Illinois: Illinois' honest, no-frills approach apparently won the day. As did the Memorial Stadium crowd chanting Gordon's name when he was in attendance for the Penn State football game, leading three buddies to tell Gordon he'd be loony not to play in Champaign."Maybe coach Weber isn't as slick, and isn't going to tell you whatever you want to hear to get you on campus," Gordon's father said."Some kids might bite on [slickness]. I think [Weber] is a pretty sincere and genuine guy."

Also, Tupper story here.

Analysis for Tonight

This is gonna be a great game. Illinois should have the advantage on paper but the game is in Chapel Hill so I'd say it's close to even. However, Illinois has more experience with Dee and Augie back so I'm gonna pick my beloved Illini by three and cringe as I have to look at the ugly Carolina baby blue (sorry Michael Jordan) and listen to Dukie V blather all night.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon verballed to Illini coach Bruce Weber late Sunday, according to the Indianapolis Star.

This is huge for the following reasons (sportswriters, especially Bruce Weber recruiting naysayers, take note):

--Gordon is a top ten recruit (via Rivals and Scout).

--Gordon is considered by many as the top shooting guard prospect in the class of '07.

--Gordon was considering Duke (I think he had an offer).

--Gordon is possibly the highest-rated out-of-state recruit ever to commit to Illinois.

--Gordon is friends with Derrick Rose, another huge Weber recruiting target in Chicago.

--Gordon's dad said the following:

"The No. 1 thing is just the coaching staff," the elder Gordon, also named Eric, said of the Illini, coached by Bruce Weber. "They recruited him since he was younger. They've shown so much interest in him."

The elder Gordon also cited the proximity from Indianapolis to Illinois' campus in Champaign, Ill., and the way Illinois developed guards Deron Williams and Luther Head, both playing in the NBA. Both were keys in Illinois' national runner-up run last season.

Williams was the No. 3 overall pick by the Utah Jazz, and Head was the 24th overall pick by the Houston Rockets. Williams is averaging 13.6 points as the second-leading scorer for the Jazz, and is the team leader is assists at 5.1 per game. Head is averaging 9.8 points and shooting 49.0 percent from 3-point range.

Analysis: This is a huge get for Bruce Weber and Illinois. It shows that excellent coaching will land big-time recruits. It also shows that Weber isn't the recruiting wanna-be the media has made him out to be.

Seriously, when was the last time an Illinois coach landed a recruit who was this highly ranked out of state? Not Henson, not Kruger, not Self.

Not only that but he beat Duke to do it and Gordon committed before he said he would (he originally said he was going to wait until summer I believe).

Time will tell if this starts a landslide for recruiting (i.e. Weber lands Derrick Rose) but for now it's a huge get. Word on the street is Gordon and Rose talk regularly so I'm hopeful.

By the way, this is what Gregg Doyel had to say. Memo to Doyel: this isn't Weber's "first big-time recruit." Please see Brian Carlwell, Richard Semrau and Shaun Pruitt. Must you trash the man every time you write something, even if you're trying to report positive news for the Illini?

Beef with sports reporters in general: Please get some investigative abilities. Seriously. If political reporters can investigate Jack Abramoff, why can't sports reporters do more of the NCAA's dirty work? We all know the NCAA is soft when it comes to enforcing it's own rules and regulations but this would force them to get tough.

Mark Tupper raised some interesting questions regarding the recruitment of Sherron Collins in his 10/18/05 post on his blog. I think they are valid. I wish he would have sourced some comments but I think he had some valid points. Why can't anyone actually investigate? Do a Freedom of Information Act request for phone records, bank statements etc. Go after it. Good grief.


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