Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kelvin Sampson possibly in hot water (again)

Interesting-many of us would even say not surprising-story out of Indiana today. I've never understood why IU hired a guy who had trouble following the rules to begin with. At this point, there is such a cloud over the program, I actually hope they keep the guy because I think it helps us.

But the big question in my mind is, what will the NCAA and IU do? After all, the allegations say Sampson misled IU as well. That doesn't bode well for him in my opinion.

I wonder what Eric Gordon and his dad think? Or what they know. Hmmmm.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Road Show

The Illini welcomed Tubby Smith to the Big Ten with an impressive show on the road -- definitely a treat this season. And it really was a show: 84 points, nearly 60% shooting, Trent hitting 3s, a double-double for McCamey, the Orange Krush in the balcony -- and a 24-point victory. The Barn is one of the few places in the Big Ten where the Illini shine.

The Illini closed out this game with authority and balanced scoring. Even with Randle and Pruitt on the bench with fouls, the team passed for the open shot and defended intensely. The team played well for 40 minutes. Hopefully this road win (the first since Hawaii) will help the Illini make a strong run to finish the season.

Tubby is making great progress with his new team, and he is likely to help them break the Illini 18-game winning streak over the Gophers, but for now, we'll savor a strong conference win.

Go Illini!

P.S. Good Hope Orange, I agree that Rick was way off base...



Monday, February 11, 2008

An Open Letter to Rick Morrissey

Dear Rick,

Normally I enjoy reading your columns in the Chicago Tribune. However, every once in a while you decide to write something that is just completely, off the charts ridiculous. That would be the case today in your column entitled:

Illinois fans can consider Bob Knight
Orange you glad that former nemesis Bob Knight might be available to coach in Illini colors? Or is that just a nightmare?

Now I know that at least part of your job is to write things that get people talking in order to sell more newspapers. And I know that I may be helping you out by highlighting this article in Illinitalk and drawing more attention to it.

For that Rick, you are welcome. But come on, are you kidding me? While you seem to realize what you are writing, you end by saying "You'd be silly if you didn't consider it." I take that to mean you are at least partially serious.

I have to tell you, of all the things that crossed my mind when Bob Knight resigned as coach of Texas Tech, consideration of him as a possible coach of the Illini never crossed my mind. It will/would not happen for so many reasons I could not list them all here.

However, please allow me to explain the most important reason why it will not happen. Unlike some Illini fans, I strongly disagree with those who are calling for Bruce Weber's job right now. Like you, I believe he is a kind, decent man and a very good basketball coach. And like others, Illinitalk has been critical of some of his recruiting failures in the past. As we all know this has been a very difficult season for Coach Weber and the Illini.

But for those with a long term view, it appears to me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Next year, Alex Legion and Jamar Smith will presumably be able to play while promising freshman Demetri McCamey and Mike Tinsdale will have a season under their belts. In 2009, Coach Weber has verbal commitments from four very good to great recruits. In 2010, he already has verbal commitments from two more very good to great recruits.

After the Gordon situtation, Illini fans won't take anything for granted until the commitment letters are signed but the future looks very promising right now for the Illini. Making a coaching change now would jeopardize all of these verbal commitments and potentially put the Illini back to square one. If that coaching change was to Bob Knight, I guarantee that not all of those recruits are coming to Illinois. In addition, Knight is not a long term solution for anyone, including Illinois.

Enough said. Please Rick, no more columns about Bob Knight as a possible coach for the Illini. Thanks for your consideration of this request.

Best regards,

Good Hope Orange

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Profanity and the Illinois-Indiana rivalry

I was talking to a good friend of mine yesterday who is an Indiana fan. He told me he felt like we deserved to win the game Thursday night. I told him actually I didn't think so.

Pruitt's poor free throw shooting aside (a senior not icing the game from the line is reason enough for me to say we didn't deserve to win) our team, coaching staff and perhaps most of all our fans acted in a pretty classless way. That should not be Illinois basketball. Win or lose.

I didn't watch the entire game Thursday night but from what I watched and if even half of what Mariotti says is true, our folks need to grow up. Can we at least lose with dignity?

At least Guenther and Weber issued an apology. But waiting until the day after? Does it take that long for them to realize things were a little out of control? Did Weber not see Chester's chest bump? If so, does he approve of what he did? I don't because I don't want our players to have the reputation of a bunch of thugs.

And as for the fans, I'm fine with screaming at Gordon and Sampson. They deserve it. And that passion is what a rivalry is all about. But please leave the profanity out of it. I'd like to be able to take my kids to the games someday.

Finally, a word to Indiana fans: You guys aren't much better. I'm all for a good rivarly and the arguing that goes with it. And if you want to come over here and talk smack in our comment section, that's fine. But leave the classless profanity out of it or your posts will be deleted.

Incidentally, my friend (who graduated from IU) said he was also ashamed of their fan behavior. He said he's sick of hearing the F bomb dropped at their place. After getting up this morning and reading the comments from the IU fans here, I believe it.

It's time to grow up, people.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008


This meeting between the Hoosiers and the Illini fit well into the ESPN hype around Rivalry Week. And it was much prettier than their first meeting -- though just as intense and exciting. Double overtime, clutch 3s by both teams, outstanding freshman play, painful freshman mistakes, missed free throws (and yes, the Hoosiers missed some, too), missed calls by the refs (these went both ways, too).

The Illini played a great game, even though they didn't close it out. As my mom said, "We can play with anybody, but we can't beat anybody."

McCamey had an incredible game. Chester played like a warrior. Pruitt played strong inside. Brock had key baskets and defensive plays. Randle played solid defense. And Jeff Jordan played a good game off the bench in overtimes when Chester couldn't go anymore. And as a team, they scored against a zone defense.

Of course, according to the talking heads at the Worldwide Leader, the real rivalry here was Gordon v. the Illini Nation he spurned for Sampson. I'm not sure I agree that was the story, (Pruitt v. White in the paint, anyone? What about Bobby and Lou, who both now can put their feet up to watch a game like this?) but it made for good TV. Yes, the teenager has a right to change his mind, but realize that we also have a right to despise him for it. Orange Krush was just as impressive as Demetri, with well coordinated taunts and boos. There's no question they rattled Gordon for at least 20 minutes, and at several points through the rest of the game. I don't think he enjoyed what is likely to be his only trip to Champaign. The atmosphere was fantastic -- and the Illini did everything to look great on national TV except close out the game.

I'm sure Shaun won't sleep well tonight, but the game wasn't just his to lose. I personally blame the clock, which just didn't wind down fast enough during the last 10 minutes of regulation. ;)

Despite solid defense on Gordon, the Hoosiers had too many open 3s. And it only would have helped the Illini to give Shaun the ball a bit more in the second half and the first overtime. He and White were well matched inside, but Shaun played well, and may have been able to give D.J. his fifth foul if he had gotten a few more opportunities.

It was our game to win, thanks in part to impressive 3-point shooting. Demetri actually reminded me a bit of an NBA point guard with one of the hottest teams in the West. (Yes, I think Deron should be an all-star, but I'm biased.) He was on, and the mix of driving, passing and shooting 3s was beautiful. Since he will stick around for a couple years, if he can progress to this level, he may be a better investment than the freshman point guard we thought we would have this season.

The game embodied rivalry. We should have won, no question, but our boys played their hearts out. Hang in there, boys...



Bright Future

Congrats to Ron Zook, who signed 29 to his new class, which ranks in the top 15 to 25, according to various rankings. Zook calls the class a "grand slam" that fills holes at key spots -- including reciever and running back.

Zook's "best class ever"? Time will tell, but while it the 2008 class may not have the 5-star impact that last year's class did, it's probably a bit stronger top-to-bottom. "Quality and depth" describe this class, and that's cause for excitement. So is the fact that we have players from Florida, D.C., North Carolina, and even a reciever from Cleveland who picked Illinois over Ohio State.

The future really does look bright! Go Illini!



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