Illinois Football Daily Bullets
Illinois Basketball Daily Bullets
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Ahhh, here's a nice look back at very recent history. Wow, who would have figured that the Illinois upset would trigger a chain reaction in college football......one so big that Ohio St. is still in the hunt for the national title. Yep, if Oklahoma beats Mizzzou, there's a good chance Ohio St. will go to the BCS title game. And that would mean Illinois would likely go to the Rose Bowl. Otherwise, we'll probably play Florida in the Capital One Bowl down in Orlando.
Either way, who would have thunk it?
Monday, November 19, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
If Weber doesn't shake this team up, then they're going to lose to both Hawaii and Arizona St. It could be a long season.....and a REALLY long pre-season.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
It truly was an amazing victory. First victory against a #1 team in 51 years. First time ever on the road to beat a #1. And it was Ohio St.
If Illinois beats Northwestern on Saturday at home, they'll be 9 -3, and that's just amazing. The experts are saying if that's the case, there's a good chance they'll play Florida in a New Year's Day bowlgame. That would be special.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
What do you think of Herbstreit and Musberger's analysis? I can't wait till they come back for another Saturday prime time game. I see many more in the future. Despite the loss, I still think the program is on the rise. Big time.
Watch this video, taken by a fan (from Illinoisloyalty.com), that shows some of the pre-game and the first series of the Illinois-Michigan game. Wow, the stadium was really electric for the game. The two F-16's flying over with their afterburners on was especially cool. It would have been absolute mayhem if they'd pulled it out somehow. Maybe in 2009.......
The Orange and Blue News provides a great summary every week of Zook's weekly press conference. Here it is.
The Tribune has an article about how Zook is working to improve Special Teams after their disastarous performance against Michigan. Not too much news here, though, except for Zook's statement that he'd like to have Vontae Davis and Arrelious Benn return all kick-offs. But then he made a bunch of excuses as to why that can't happen-- Davis gets tired, and he's worried about Rejus getting injured. Uhhhhh.....I don't get this one.
The Pantagraph has a good article about how Ball St. is no push-over team. They have a potent offense. Their QB has thrown 20 touchdowns and only 3 picks, and his favorite receiver has 55 receptions, 7 for touchdowns. Yikes. This is going to be a real test for our defense, especially our secondary. It's going to be a good game Saturday. In my opinion, the biggest thing we're going to have to watch out for is an emotional let-down after the Michigan game. Zook teams don't have a good history of responding well the week after an emotional game. Time to turn over a new leaf here.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Glenn Dorsey is a beast! That would have been a shame if his knee had been blown out by that totally dirty and unnecessary chop block. Shame on Auburn for that one. That player should have been ejected from the game, if the official saw that one. There's no place for that in college football.
Is there a quarterback controversy at Illinois? Ron Zook says no, but then goes on to explain that Juice will start, but that he'll probably still share time with McGee. And he says that McGee will get more and more time as he gets better and better. Okay, now I'm really confused.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
- No Passing Game! Let's face it...when Juice is in at quarterback, our passing game is virtually non-existant. The weird "Veer Option" that they run fooled people during the first 6 games, but Iowa had enough game tape to watch, and were able to shut the Illini offense down. Two options if the Illini want to win more than 7 games this season: Teach Juice to pass (quick) or insert McGee as the starter. The problem is, Juice is the face of the program and was instrumental in re-opening the Public League to recruiting. So it puts Zook in a tight corner with recruiting. But ultimately, you have to win. The best player needs to play.
- Coaching decisions during the game. I don't want to beat a dead horse here. We all know Zook should have declined those penalties on Saturday. Problem is, I'm not sure he thinks he should have. And that's kind of scary, to be honest. I mean, I really think he thinks he made the right call.
That's it for now. I just got a sick feeling thinking about how close we came to winning that sucker..... even though Iowa fully deserved the W.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Check out the above clip. It's about 30 seconds of action from the Illini basketball team's trip to Canada for their pre-season exhibition tour. Why did I post it? It shows Jeff Jordan's first basket as an Illini. I didn't know he was a lefty. He's only 6'1", but he's got hops just like his old man.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
We thought it'd be fun to take a run through the media maelstrom that has hit Illinois Football and Ron Zook this week. Here goes:
Matt Hayes of the Sporting News examines Illinois' meteoric rise in this article. It's another one of the many incredulous looks at Zook's recruiting magic, which he has now turned in to magic on the field. Yep, of course there's discussion of Zook's tears following the Wisconsin game!
Are you wondering what Kirk Frerentz thinks of the job Ron Zook is doing at Illinois? If so, then you have to check out this article. Of course, Frerentz acts like he's not surprised that Illinois is suddenly an awesome team.
It looks like Zook's on the field success is going to help his bank account. Illinois is allegedly trying to lock him up through 2012. They're looking to bump his already over $1 million annual salary by a couple hundred thou' a year. Zook, of course, claims he's not sweating the contract stuff at all. He just wants to win, baby.
InsideIllini.com posted a decent article that attempts to analyze why the Illini are "so good" so far. The article is kind of all over the place. It hypes their young talent, especially Martez Wilson. It gives most of the credit for the team's success to good coaching and to the players being tired of being doormats, however. The article claims that the most important game of the season so far was the Syracuse game, and credits that game with being the catalyst for everything that has happened since.
Here's an article from the Daily Illini that says the Illini are in now way going to overlook the "stumbling" Hawkeyes. Let's hope not! Iowa REALLY stinks!
The Detroit Free Press has posted an article titled "The Big Tennys", in which it dishes out mid-season awards. Illinois earned the title of "Biggest Surprise". Surprise!
Mark Tupper (we call him the Tubby Tuppster) writes a hype article about Illinois' bowl projections. Tupp Doggy Dogg can't resist injecting that Rose Bowl hype. Awesome!
If you want Zook's take on Saturday's game at Iowa, here is a condensed version of this week's press conference.
As you can see, the media wires are just FLOODED with Illinois stories. It's about time! Many of them still express cynicism about Zook. Emphasis is on how he's a great recruiter, so good, in fact, that his talent gathering abilities make his "bad coaching" meaningless. I don't buy any of it! I mean, look at Charlie Weis over at Notre Dame. They've had some good recruits come in there over the last three years. And Weis is in his third year just like Zook. Yet Notre Dame is a miserable 1-5! I think it's high time Zook start getting some credit for his coaching as well as his recruiting. Maybe it's that stupid "swinging gate" thing he has the Illini do on extra points. Stop doing that play, Ron, and you'll start getting the credit you deserve!
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Sunday, October 7, 2007
FLASH TRAFFIC! FLASH TRAFFIC! FLASH TRAFFIC! THE SPORTING NEWS ANNOINTS ILLINOIS AS BEST TEAM IN BIG TEN!
Ha Ha! I bet recruiting will really take off now! How long till the drum beats for a national title run?
Friday, October 5, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
"Watch out for Ron Zook"!!!!!!!!
I can't believe it! It's finally happening!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
1. Mark Tupper (Decatur-Herald & Review) writes a glowing article about the Illini post-Syracuse. He comments on how explosive the offense was, and how Juice seems to be coming in to his own. The one thing he doesn't address-- Juice's inability to find consistency in the passing game.
2. John Supinie of the Peoria Journal-Star writes about how the Illini are officially "trolling for a bowl". He points out that a win Saturday at Indiana would mean the Illini are halfway to bowl eligibility with 3 wins. Since they'll likely be favored later in the season against Ball St., Minnesota, and Northwestern, the possiblity of 6 wins seems well within grasp. That's IF, of course, they can beat the Hoosiers on the road Saturday.
3. John Decker from HoosierNation.com writes an article titles "5 days and counting" that breaks down some numbers going into Saturday's Indiana/Illinois Match-up. He places focus on Juice Williams' 60.5% completion rate so far this year, and also makes mention of the 8 true freshman who have played so far this year for the Illini. To be sure, he also mentions the number 2-- the total number of Big Ten wins the Illini have achieved in the last four years.
He also makes mention of how Illinois is 10th in the Big Ten in turnover differential, at -4. That number is a result of the 5 turnovers they experienced vs. Mizzou. Thus, his conclusion is that Illinois isn't really turning the ball over every game a ton-- but at the same time, they're not forcing turnoves either. Contrast this with Indiana's turnover ratio of +6. Yep, the Hoosiers have forced a total of 5 interceptions and 5 fumble recoveries in the first three games. If that trend continues, it's going to be lights out for the Illini on Saturday.
Well, that's about all that's cookin' within the sports media on Tuesday before the Indiana game. So far, we're not getting much media attention beyond the usual local coverage, and the mandatory Chicago coverage. Look for things to pick up if Illinois beats Indiana. If that happens, the Illini are suddenly a true turn-around story.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Well, Pat Forde published a "slam" article against Ron Zook this week. I can't understand why so many people treat Zook like a punching bag. I think it all goes back to that infamous website that a "Debby Downer" Florida fan started as soon as the Gators hired Zook. I don't know. In my opinion, though, here's the case FOR Zook:
1. The guy can recruit, right up there with the best of them. There's no doubt about this one.
2. He has loaded the Illinois program with coaches much like himself-- they can all recruit just like he can. Mike Locksley deserves a lot of credit for snagging Aurrelious Benn and some of the other offensive stars that are wearing the Orange and Blue.
3. He's attempting to run the program with integrity. That's right-- he wasted no time in kicking Derrick McPhearson and Jody Ellis off the team when they were caught stealing laptops by Champaign Police.
4. He's demanding a high level of performance from his team, in only his third season-- despite still being in the midst of a HUGE re-building process. Yep-- Zook has put his foot down this season, and he's calling out players by name when they don't perform.
Some minor complaints about Zook:
Okay, we didn't really want to go here, but here are two minor complaints about Ron--
1. He runs up and down the sideline like a frenetic maniac throughout the entire football game. Wasn't it Vince Lombardi who talked about "Grace Under Pressure?"
2. He has the team do some sort of crazy "swinging gate" thing every time they kick an extra point. We just don't get this maneuver! I mean, why not just kick the extra point! Let's get the fundamentals down pat, and then, maybe, every once in a while, we can do something resembling a trick play.
All in all, those are minor complaints. I guess Zook is the Rodney Dangerfield of college football coaches. But, that is only to Illini outsiders. To IlliniNation, he's getting closer and closer to a blue-chip coach.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Nevertheless, we here at Illinispace maintain strong faith in Bruce Weber. He will lead Illinois back to basketball glory, there is no doubt about it.
Unfortunately, the Debbie Downers in IlliniNation will probably wave this article like a red flag, whining and crying and wailing.
I can't wait for the season to start, so that we can start talking about results on the court!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Illini SHOULD win big against Western Illinois....that's SHOULD (just ask Michigan about "should"....)
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Saturday, September 1, 2007
You could see flashes of the explosive potential of Illinois' young talent. We actually forced some turnovers in this game! Eddie McGee wowed everyone with his poise and execution.....despite the fact that he had three turnovers. While he made the plays that cause the loss, he also made the plays that had Illinois in the game up to the last minute.
The most glaring weakness during the game, however, was Mizzou's ability to pass into the seam between Illinois' linebackers and their secondary. Mizzou was able to play pitch and catch for most of the game. Only late in the 4th quarter, when the defense started blitzing and getting pressure on the Missouri quarterback, did they have any success in shutting down their passing game.
All in all, it hurt to lose, but Illinois came out of this game on an upward glidepath.
Final note-- on that last pass by McGee that ended in an interception, it looked like he would have had Arrelious Benn wide open streaking to the endzone if he had just gone through his reads. But, hey, that was his first college game, ever.
Illinois could easily be 2-1 heading into week 4......all in all, the future looks brighter now than it did yesterday.
Friday, August 31, 2007
He brings up some really good points in the article-- read it and digest it Illini fans!
May this season be the turning point!
Monday, August 27, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Mike Nadel, the chicago sports columnist and blowhard, absolutely laughs at the prospect of a winning season for the Illini. He thinks 5-7 would be absolutely amazing! Now, this guy's not the most knowledgeable sportswriter in the world....but is there a chance he's right on this one? SI is predicting a bowl bid.......but the jury's still out. Especially with the Chicago media! We'll know a lot more after the Missouri game, though.
The Associated Press is reporting that Illinois is forcing Jamar Smith to redshirt the upcoming season. This should restore Illini Nation's faith in Bruce Weber. Jamar has A LOT he has to deal with in the next year. This will allow him to meet his obligations, get himself into a healthy physical and mental condition, and prove to everyone that he is serious about being a scholarship student-athlete. Jamar-- we don't feel the least bit sorry for you, but we do wish you the best of luck.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
What a bunch of boozehounds! The sippy-cup warchant.....wow! Get rid of the plastic cocktail cup, and at least grab a styro-foam tomahawk!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
Sunday, July 8, 2007
I remember watching this game. What a great feeling it was to see the Illini break Michigan's heart like that with a last minute pass into the endzone! Here's to more moments like that, starting this season......
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I can only guess that Jamar Smith was in an alcohol induced blackout state as a result of his apparent binge on beer and tequila. I bet he doesn't remember too much about the night, if he even has a hazy recollection. I mean, he was apparentley 0.174, and this was hours and hours after he had consumed his last drink. Yikes. Yes, he's at fault, but whoever else was partying with them and let him leave to drive a car with a passenger inside it, in the state he was in, can't be considered an innocent bystander either. I'm not talking legally, cause I'm not sure what the legal implications are of that aspect. I'm just talking from a moral perspective. I don't know if other players were partying with them or not. If they were, then that's just a shame. I hope not. But as tempting as it is to do so, I don't want to put a "basketball" spin on this whole thing. Because this is not a basketball tragedy. This is a human tragedy.
I don't blame Bruce Weber for this, but I do think he needs to determine the root cause and attack it from that perspective. Is abuse of alcohol a problem with the team? I don't think we should use the excuse that "every college basketball team uses alcohol, just like every college kid does". We've got to address what is going on at Illinois, and that's it. We shouldn't worry about what other schools are doing or not doing.
Well, maybe getting back on the court Wednesday night against Michigan will begin the slow healing process. I'm not even worried about or thinking ahead to an NCAA tournament birth at this moment in time. I'll think about that later.
Monday, February 12, 2007
6-6 in the Big Ten with 4 games remaining. Will 9-7 be good enough to get the Illini into the Big Dance?
Now, on to the last 4 games. We're looking at Northwestern and Michigan at home. We SHOULD win both of those games. Weber has Bill Carmody's version of the Princeton offense pretty much figured out. Michigan might be a tough game, because it's do or die for them as well. Plus, they're going to be playing extra hard, knowing that their coach's job is at stake. But Illinois should beat both of these teams, considering the home court advantage.
What about the two road games? Well, we can definitely beat Penn St. at their place. That is no gimmee game, though. Penn St. has been underachieving so far this year. But just as with all teams, they're probably going to be playing their best ball in this last part of the season. Plus, Penn St. seems to play well against our system. Witness last year's shocking upset at the Assembly Hall. So this game is going to be tough, and will likely come down to the bitter end. And Iowa will be even tougher. Both of these games are winnable. I just think they'll both be tough games.
Anyhow, 9-7 might get us in to the tourney. In fact, historically, a 9-7 conference record is a pretty good bet to get in for a Big Ten team. In this weird year, though, where the media is in love with the mid-majors, and really down on the Big Ten, then it might mean only a 10-6 record gets us in. So let's win all 4 of the remaining games just to be sure! Also, there's always the Big Ten tourney as a last hope. Remember what Syracuse did last year in the Big East tourney.
Friday, February 2, 2007
1. Defense was the key to victory on Tuesday. Kudos to Rich McBride for hounding Drew Neitzel the entire game.
2. Sean Pruitt is playing very consistently in the post these days. He is steadily racking up double-doubles each game. However, he is really stinking at freethrows. Man, how many did he miss during crunch time against Michigan St.? As he becomes Illinois' main offensive threat on the inside, if not as a whole, then he is only going to get fouled more and more. Hack-a-Shaq will become Hack-a-Sean. He MUST get better at shooting those free throws.
3. Jamar Smith is slumping so badly, the Illini almost can't afford to play him any more.
4. Chester Frazier played a solid game. He hit some big time shots in the second half while driving in to the lane with the shot clock running down. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. His defense was solid too, especially considering his turf toe status. If he can get healthy, and learn to always play within himself, he will be a pretty serviceable point guard.
Well, I'm looking forward to the Minnesota game. If Illinois can play well, then a victory will put them at .500 in the Big Ten. A favorable schedule the rest of the way means that the NCAA tourney is still within reach.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I was absolutely wrong in my prediction about tonight's game against Indiana! And I'm glad! While it wasn't pretty, the Illini toughed and grinded out a great victory against Sampson and the Hoosiers. Effort wise, it was a strong performance across the board. The main players of the game, in my opinion, in order of effectiveness, were: Pruitt, McBride, Carter, Frazier, Carlwell, Brock, Meacham, and Smith. Smith continued to struggle, but I understand that Weber is just trying to show confidence in him by playing him a lot of minutes in the hopes that he'll fight through these tough times. Illinois won this game through defense, defense, and more defense. Neither team shot very well for the game, each team making less than 20 shots total for the whole game. Gut check time came with about 5 minutes left in the game. Once again, Illinois held a small, tenuous lead. And once again, they started to falter offensively. Too much dribbling around at the top of the key by Frazier, and suddenly, Indiana had the ball and looked like they might start a seeminly inevitable game closing run, a la the Wisconsin game. This time, however, Illinois had some people step up. The big basket came from McBride, who got the ball and dribbled in to nail a clutch 15 foot pull-up along the baseline. Nice job Rich! It was a free throw battle down the stretch, and even though they missed their fair share, the Illini were able to make enough to salt away the game. So, now we're 3-4 in the Big Ten. There's nine games to go, and each of the nine games are against teams that we can definitely beat. Remember-- we don't have to play Wisconsin or Ohio St. on the road this year. So things are looking up. Maybe my prediction of an 8-8 record was too conservative. How about 10-6? Definitely 9-7 is within reach. I think 10-6 will probably get us in to the tourney. If we finish 9-7 in the Big Ten, then we might need to win at least two games in the Big Ten tourney to ensure an NCAA tournament birth. Here's a few other notes from tonight's game:
1. Looks like Brian Randle will be out for up to ten more days due to his "plantar fasciatis" condition. This is an apparently extremely painful condition that makes it difficult to even walk around slowly.
2. When is Jamar going to snap out of this slump? Weber has decided to go "all in" with Smith. There's a lot of coaches out there who would have benched him by now. I respect Weber's decision to let him play through this slump. If he benches Jamar, the kid may never recover from something like that.
3. Frazier had mixed results as the point guard tonight. He did an okay job handling the ball at times, but he still struggles at passing and distribution. He tends to loiter at the top of the key, getting himself trapped at times and also in shot clock trouble at times. Sometimes, when he does dribble to his left to mix it up, he gains a lane inside, but then he has a tendency to put his head down. Once his head is down, he usually dribbles into a dead end. At the dead end, he usually can pull of a pretty credible dribble-stop-head fake-pump-pass or something like that, and he's able to pass it to Pruitt or Carter down low. Other times, he ends up throwing up a wild shot or getting tied up down there. Either way, I have to remember he's a sophomore, and is ever improving. He sure does play hard, though, doesn't he? He played 35 minutes tonight, and was working so hard on defense that his legs were cramping up in the huddle near the end of the game.
4. McBride can help Frazier run the offense once the team is in the half court. Yes, we need Chester to bring the ball across half court. He does a good job with the dribble. But at times it seems like McBride can create more in the half-court than Chester can. He has better court vision, and had a few good passes down low tonight to the Big Men. He's especially dangerous when he dribble-penetrates and hits those pull-up jumpers. That really opens things up on the inside, cause he's already a threat to hit from 3-point land. Throw in the mid-range penetration, and he's going to be able to get a lot of assists by feeding Pruitt and Carter down low.
5. I'm glad Bruce Weber shook hands with Kelvin Sampson. Quite frankly, I'm over the whole recruiting thing. I could care less who Sampson is getting or got, or how he recruits. Winners don't spend their time obsessing over what the other guy is doing. They spend all their time prepping and executing their own winning plan. Let's let the other guys worry about what we're doing-- on the court.
Things are looking up for the Illini. If we can get healthy this week, then we can really attack these last nine games. We should just take one game at a time and see what happens. Next, we have Purdue away, on Saturday I believe. It'll be tough to get a W in West Lafayette. But a win makes us 4-4 in the Big Ten. I'm looking forward to watching, once again.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Illinois is going to lose by 8 points. Taking a wild shot at it, I'm going to go with a 65-57 final score. I believe it'll be a dogfight until the last 8 minutes of the game, when Indiana will pull away. I sure hope I'm wrong, and I have to be honest, I'm such a partisan fan that I almost always pick Illinois to win. But for some reason, I just have a feeling we'll lose Tuesday.
I believe that Tuesday's loss against Indiana will be rock bottom. Illinois will then have to stare into the Abyss, knowing that gaining an at-large birth is all but out of the question. I think that they will face this fact well, however. I think they'll pull together as a team, and that they'll rally around Weber as a coach. They'll finish relatively strong in the Big Ten, at 8-8 overall in the league. I think they'll win their last 3 or 4 in a row going into the Big Ten tourney, though, as Weber will have them peaking at just the right time. Then, in the Big Ten tourney they'll have to run the table to go to the Big Dance. Odds of that happening at that point? I'd say about 1 in 5. But, hey, that's 20%. It'll be an exciting challenge.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
"Understood. The spread is small at 2. Even though they chalked an L vs. MSU, they looked pretty strong and physical on the road. Wisc looking kind of weak lately, just skating by some sub-par teams. My money is on Illini to pull off a shocker in Assembly Hall! Put that in your blog and post it."
And so I just did. For the record.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Then the second half came, and after a decent start to it, the Illini seemed to go to sleep. Minnesota actually closed the gap to ten at one point, but that was as close as they came. Still, the Illini did not put the Gophers away like they should have. Of course, this is nothing new, as weak second half play has plagued the Illini in the Big Ten so far this season. It's almost like the team has a collective case of Attention Deficit Disorder or something. They do seem to be aware of this problem, as Warren Carter adressed it in the postgame interview. He is well aware that he needs to take a leadership role by forcing himself to step up his intensity so that he can help the team maintain an attacking style of play. For this game, at least, he assumed what has become a rotating leadership role amongst the Illini this season. I thought McBride had snatched that role permanently during the Iowa game, but since that time his play has been steady, but his active and vocal leadership has been lacking on the court. I just don't think it's in his personality. As long as Rich keeps playing a steady game of basketball, I'll be happy, though. If he can step up and be the active team leader, so much the better. For the time being, however, it seems that Warren Carter is going to have to assume that role. He can do it. He's a talented player, and so far has really stepped up the level of his game play this season.
Well, Saturday brings the Wisonsin Badgers and the number 2 team in the nation into town. It should be one heck of a game. The students are back, and the Illini will surely be playing like a team with its figurative back to the wall as it strives to stay in contention for an NCAA tournament birth. Don't look now, but if the Illini can somehow win against Wisconsin and Indiana at home, they'll be 4-3 in the Big Ten, with a rather favorable Home and Away schedule the rest of the way. I really think we're going to need to have a 10-6 Big Ten record to ensure a tourney birth. Definitely anything less than 9-7 would mean the NIT. I really think the team can do it, but they still need to take several big steps during the next two games.
Here's how I see the starting line-up now:
PG- Trent Meacham
SG- Rich McBride
SF- Brian Randle
PF- Warren Carter
C - Sean Pruitt
First off bench: Brock, Frazier, Arnold Deep on bench: Hicks, Jackson, Smith
Monday, January 15, 2007
Anyhow, I still hold up hopes for this season to end with an NCAA berth. The next three games will be critical. The Illini, however, need to just take one game at a time from here on out. Let's get a win at Minnesota on Wednesday! Here's how I see the starting line-up now, subject to injuries of course.
PG - Chester Frazier
SG - Rich McBride
SF - Brian Randle
PF - Warren Carter
C - Sean Pruitt
Bench: Brock, Meacham, Arnold, Carlwell
Other: Smith (I don't think he should play until his ankle sprains are totally healed), Jackson (When he plays good in practice, will Weber give him some game minutes?)
Well, keep your spirits up Illini fans.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Well, enough preaching. Here's a few blurbs from the game:
1. McBride woke up from his season long slumber. He had a real break-through tonight. He played hard, he yelled at the guys, he huddled them up on the court. He led the team out there tonight. And his positive attitude translated to his shot. He hit some key threes. And he let them come to him, through the flow of the offense. The best thing about his game, though, was his leadership, and the energy level he brought to the team. He has to sustain this now. Even if he has a bad shooting night, he needs to keep his head up, and keep leading this team.
2. Randle had a break-through as well. He seemed to finally just let go of the injury baggage that has been hindering him. The mental side of injuries is a big part of sports. And his was a particularly sensitive area (the groin/abdomen). Again, you don't "gradually" make a mental recovery from an injury. It takes a breakthrough. Throw your body after a couple loose balls, make a few big dunks. Still fine? Yep. And that's all it takes. Now he has confidence. I think that when he really picked up steam in the second half was when he started getting the ball as he rotated to the top of the key, and he would suddenly make a dribble/slash penetration to the basket, and he would either dunk, shoot, or pass it to Pruitt or WarCat. And when they got it down there (especially Pruitt), they weren't messing around. It was a dunkfest, and that will bring your shooting percentage up REAL fast. Keep it up Brian!
3. Our most effective line-up tonight was:
McBride (PG), Smith (SG), WarCat (PF), Randle (SF), Pruitt (C)
That might be our "go to" line-up until Frazier gets healthy.
Well, that's all for today. Anyways, I know I might sound a little too upbeat, given that we did have some defensive lapses and still need to keep working on our shooting and ball-handling. But this team is going to be fine.
Saturday, January 6, 2007
Well, that's not what happened. Instead, the team suffered its worst loss in the Assembly Hall since 1976, when Indiana blew the Illini out during that magical undefeated season they had. Worst defeat in 30 years at home. It was a tough one to watch.
I'm not going to go through a blow by blow dissection of the game. The bottom line is that our shots just didn't fall. We played okay defense, and moved around on offense enough to get some real good open looks at the basket. But they just weren't dropping. But the shots not falling were just a symptom of something else at work with this team. What is that?
To be honest, I'm not sure what is going on with this team. Here's a short list of some ideas that I have about the team's struggles:
1. The biggest problem right now is a lack of confidence on the team. We've had three bad outings in a row, and momentum is building in the wrong direction at this point. We're accelerating into a downward spiral right now.
2. Brian Randle and Jamar Smith are not playing anywhere near the level expected of them entering into this season. Randle has not mentally overcome his injury. He just looks fragile out there, doesn't he? He's kind of playing like he's walking on egg shells, waiting for his injury to rear its ugly head again. And Jamar has lost all confidence in his shot. He's not just missing his shot. He's missing it BADLY.
3. Weber can't seem to find a rotation that will allow the team to gain some stability and rhythm during games. The reason for this goes back to all the injuries that stunted the team's growth as a cohesive unit during the pre-season.
Well, anyways, I'm confident in Weber's ability to get the team back on track. He's going to shake them out of this funk, and we'll be playing well again soon. Thankfully, the next game is a home game, against Iowa. It won't be an easy game, but winning and playing solid basketball against the Hawkeyes would be a good first step towards snapping out of this malaise that has invaded the Illini lockerroom.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
I'll tell you what, that article just made me sick to my stomach. Granted, it's an editorial piece, but it's just so unfair to Bruce Weber. Good grief, what's Weber's record so far here at Illinois? A few tough losses and the Chicago media and a bunch of rabid fans already are trying to stir up the mob and are readying the guillotine. And people wonder why some kids don't want to come to Illinois! Well, here's the letter I e-mailed to Mike Nadel in response to his editorial:
I just read your column about how Illinois would have been better off hiring Thad Matta than Bruce Weber, and I found it to be a pretty poor piece of editorial journalism. You kind of came off as uninformed, if not ignorant, about the state of Illinois basketball. You focus on one aspect, and that is recruiting ability. You media "experts" place a lot of stock in that, much more so than you do recruiting ability. First of all, the only McDonald's All-American on Illinois' final four team from two years ago was Dee Brown. The best pro, Deron Williams, wasn't even a top 50 player on a lot of people's lists when he came out of high school (The Colony, TX-- just to let you know, cause I doubt you did). So, just to inform you better, Illinois has never really been able to sustain a steady stream of McDonald's All-American level recruits here at Illinois. Illinois HAS been able to get a steady stream of solid "blue chippers", most of them from in-state. Sean Pruitt is a good example of this. He was runner-up to Shaun Livingston for Illinois Mr. Basketball his senior year of high school. Just to let you know, Livingston plays for the LA Clippers now. So get your facts straight, okay? You don't mention some other facts. Here's two to inform you a little better:
1. Bruce Weber coached the team to the Final Four two years ago with Bill Self's players; Bill Self, another so-called great recruiter, coached Kansas to a first round NCAA defeat that same year with Roy Williams players
2. Thad Matta coached Ohio St. to a first round loss in the NCAA tournament last year
So, no, Weber isn't landing 3 and 4 McDonald's All-Americans every year. Name the last Illini Coach that did do this? Maybe you could do some real journalistic work, and investigate other factors that have historically worked against Illinois in trying to lure top 25 nationally ranked recruits to Illinois.
I'll take Weber any day over Thad Matta. The proof in the pudding will be the final records this year in the Big Ten. You watch. Illinois will have a better one than Ohio St. I'll buy tickets to see you sit down and physically eat a paper copy of that lazily researched and sourly negative article when it happens. Until then, get your rear end out of the office, and go do some true journalism. Then maybe it won't be a waste of time to read your articles, which are currently garbage. Until then, don't waste the energy of clacking away on your laptop keyboard any more.
Well, I hope he reads that e-mail. But I doubt he'll do a better job in the future. My guess is that he makes a living by stirring up rabid fans. You know, the kind of guy that gets a kick out of spreading gossip on the playground, just so he can stand back and watch the fistfights that arise from these spreadings, all with a sly, knowing grin on his face.
Go Illini! Give Bruce Weber a raise, and a contract extension!
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
1. Illinois has revealed itself to be EXTREMELY weak at the guard position. Frazier is a good dribbler and can get the ball up the court, but his shooting, driving, passing, and free throws are streaky at best. McBride has just been non-existent so far this season. He's played decent defense at times, but he's been passive in all other aspects of his game. I wonder about his desire at times, now that he's a senior and the reality that he won't be an NBA player has hit him square in the face. Jamar Smith has revealed himself to be a work in progress. He's no star, and I'm not sure why some in the media have tried to pin that label on him. I have no doubt that he can shoot the lights out in practice. During games, however, he is very streaky from 3-point land. Additionally, his dribbling, defense, and ability to drive to the basket aren't that great. He appears to be a step slow at times, compared to some of his competitors. True, he's still recovering from an injury, but he's supposedly fully recovered and the problems still remain. Meacham has proven himself to be a good utility subsitute; he has no glaring weaknesses, but is not spectacular in any area, either. His playing time has gone down significantly recently, so I don't have much more to say on him for now. Perhaps he deserves more playing time? I'm not going to lump Brock in with the guards, I consider him more of a "wing" player. All in all, though, the guards have been pretty weak against strong competition. They are the primary reason for Illinois' three losses. Solutions? I'm not sure on this one. I think Weber's going to have to make some tough decisions on playing time. Probably Frazier and Meacham deserve the most playing time. Smith and McBride should only see limited minutes subject to Frazier and Meacham's foul status, until they can bring up their level of play. Maybe a little bench time will wake them up.
2. The Illini lack leadership from their veteran personnel. Enough said on this one, Bruce Weber has made this page 1 sports news here in central Illinois.
3. Brian Randle is not the player everyone thought he was going to be. Whether because of injury, mental obstacles, or he was just over-hyped from the get go, Randle is not yet the player that the experts forecasted he would be. He still has all the potential to be that player, but it remains to be seen if he will ever fulfill the high expectations set for him.
Well, there's a sober assessment of the Illini up to this point in the season. Tomorrow night, we play Michigan at Ann Arbor. It's as close to a "must-win" as an away game in the Big Ten can be, but the schedule does not get any easier from here on out. With only one truly "strong" non-conference win, Illinois is really going to have to get off to a strong start in the Big Ten. I don't think a 10-7 conference record is going to cut it this year, at least not at this point. That being said, I'm still real hopeful. I have a feeling Xavier was a big wake-up call for the Illini team as a whole.
Here's who I think should be in the starting line-up heading in to the Big Ten season:
PG- Chester Frazier
SG- Trent Meacham
SF- Brian Randle
PF- Warren Carter
C- Sean Pruitt
Bench: Guards/Wing- Brock, McBride, Smith (in that order)
Big Men- Marcus Arnold, Brian Carlwell, CJ Jackson