Illinois Football Daily Bullets

Illinois Basketball Daily Bullets

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Two steps backward at Purdue

Well, it was a rough game today at Purdue in Mackey Arena. The whole game reminded me of the second half at Michigan St. Basically, Purdue exerted and put tremendous ball pressure on our guards for 3/4 the length of the court. Our guards crumbled, and were unable to run the offense at all. That's about all I have to say about this game.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I wonder what was going through Weber's head right here?


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.

Go Illini!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rough waters ahead for Illini, but there is still hope

Well, Saturday truly was a tough loss for the Illini at the Assembly Hall. It was probably the best game of the season effort wise for the team. Everybody on the team played really hard. The only guy who looked lost out on the court was Jamar Smith. He's just in the slump of all slumps. At this point, I'm concerned about his future within the program. He kind of reminds me of that pitcher for the Cardinals a few years back who was on track to be a superstar, but then suddenly couldn't even throw a strike during the postseason and he had to be sent back down to the minor leagues. Seriously, Jamar is in that bad of a slump. But here's to hoping he'll pull out. I listened to Bruce Weber on the radio this morning, and he really sounded down. I haven't heard him like that before. That tells me he is really concerned about this team. But he hasn't given up on them yet. He talked about how resilient kids are, and that they'll bounce back before fans or the news media will. At the same time, he said that Randle is doubtful for Tuesday's game against Indiana, and that even worse, Pruitt is "day to day" due to a twisted knee. Yep, that's the same knee he hurt at that crucial point in Saturday's game. So, it's going to be tough on Tuesday against Indiana. Weber believes Indiana is playing the best ball of any team in the Big Ten, or so says his scouting report. They are playing some tough, team basketball. And so here is my prediction for Tuesday night:

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.

Go Illini!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What the smart money says about Illinois vs. Wisconsin

You know the old saying "Well, the smart money says....." A buddy of mine gives literal credence to that old saying. He can pretty much call games better than most I know, and usually puts his money on the line, to good effect. Here's his text message I just got this morning, after I told him that my heart says an Illinois victory, but my gut says a 15 point loss:

"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

Illinois plays strong first half in away win against Golden Gophers

They say that good teams do "routine things routinely." Well, the Illini showed glimpses of this in the first half tonight against Minnesota, and were able to pull out the closest thing to a "routine" road win as there is in the Big Ten. The team looked good in the first half. In particular, they looked good early when they were crashing the offensive boards, and actively trying to move the ball around in order to get it to the big men down low. Once this started working, the outside opened up. Meacham and McBride had a fairly good shooting night from out there, which gave the Illini a balanced attack in the first half. Additionally, the transition game worked well for the Illini. Add all that together, and you get a big halftime lead.

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

One step forward, two steps back for the Illini

Well, Sunday at Michigan St. was a tough game to stomach, particularly that second half. I still think the team had a breakthrough against Iowa, and in the first half against Michigan St., it looked like the team was picking up where they left off. Upon closer examination, however, it is clear that Brian Randle and Jamar Smith both struggled for both halves against Michigan St. McBride and Pruitt both seemed to have good games, and Carter played okay too. But when 2/5's of the line-up is hurting you, that's never going to add up to a victory on the road, especially in the Big Ten. Jamar Smith is becoming a major source of concern for the team. He is being relied on heavily for his outside shooting, but he is absolutely in one of the worst slumps I've seen an Illinois player go through in quite a long time. All in all, though, I think Weber is sorting things out as each game passes. He admitted that he made some mistakes against Michigan St. in the second half. I think Weber's biggest struggle this season has been his rotation of the players in and out of the game. Due to injuries, he hasn't solidified a starting line-up and bench rotation to support it. And we're four games into the Big Ten season. That's a big problem. With the rhythm necessity of the Weber motion offense, his teams have to have a solid rotation, and everyone needs to understand their role. And yet, this team still does not have those things solidified. To make matters worse, no one has stepped up to be the leader that this line-up and rotation can first gel and then solidify around. We need for this to happen.

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

The Illini regain their footing against Iowa at home

As the buzzer sounded at the Assembly Hall, the orange faithful let out one big collective sigh of relief. Victory, 74-70 over the Iowa Hawkeyes. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but the Illini showed some signs of life after a 3 game losing streak since December 29th that seemed much longer than 12 days to fans that have grown accustomed to nothing but W after W the past couple of seasons. After the Saturday loss to the Buckeyes, short-tempered and fickle Illini fans throughout the midwest began beating the "drums of doom". Embodied by naysayers like Chicago sportswriter Mike Nadel, many fans whined and whined and cried endlessly about recruiting and Bruce Weber and recruiting and Thad Matta and recruiting and Bill Self and recruiting and Wha! Wha! Wha! Cry! Cry! Cry! And what did Bruce Weber do? What he has done since he came to Illinois 4 years ago-- he simply coached and coached and coached some more. You really have to respect his ability as a coach. I mean, after the Ohio St. game, he did a brutally honest self-assessment of the team, and he recognized that they just had no confidence at all. So what did he do? He focused on their confidence and attitudes in practice. He talked to them individually, and he didn't just hammer away on them for their mistakes. He reminded them of what they can do well, and he told them to "have fun and just play basketball." Then, he threw the practice agenda out the window yesterday, and they decided to just have a "fun" day at practice. Don't be fooled, there was hard work galore being done by both the coaches and the players Sunday through Tuesday. But he reminded them that when all is said and done, this is just a ballgame in the end, with 5 men on each side. And so the team relaxed. Especially the upperclassmen. Specifically, McBride and Randle. You know, this is how seasons truly unfold. "Gradual, steady improvement" can happen, but most athletic seasons are marked by "break-throughs" and "A-HA!" moments. I truly believe this Iowa game was one of those for the Illini. No, they didn't play perfect. There were lapses on defense, some poor ballhandling at times, and too many three-point shots that clanged off the rim in the fist half. But overall, they seemed like a team out there. And for that, I am encouraged. I really think they only got their footing tonight. The next step is to walk steadily against Michigan St. in East Lansing on Sunday. Then maybe we can talk about jogging or even running in future games. But, to Mike Nadel, and others like him-- y'all represent the "shallow" side of reporting and fandom. That's cool, I understand you can't change your personality. Y'all salivate over the Jerry Tarkanians, Thad Mattas, Bill Selfs, and Billy Donovans of the world for their "other-wordly" recruiting abilities. Meanwhile, great coaches like Bruce Weber take a group of talented, blue-chip (but maybe not McDonald's All-Americans) kids, and they teach them and turn them into a team. And that's what we're seeing unfold here in Champaign. And I know that the naysayers will quickly say "But Iowa is only 9-7, and you're jumping ahead to conclusions." But I say back to them-- I watch every game, and I see this team, from the pre-season agains SIU-Edwardsville to the Big Ten trench games against the Indianas and the Ohio St.'s and the Michigan St.'s. And I tell you this-- these guys care, and they have heart. And they're finding their way. And they stood up tonight, pulled themselves up by their shoelaces. McBride, Randle, WarCat, and Pruitt-- the upperclassmen. That is the key to this season-- I finally see it. And so does the team. Weber-- he's seen it all along.

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.

Go Illini!

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Thumped at home by the Buckeyes. Where do the Illini go from here?

Well, it was a tough day at the Assembly Hall. And to think the day had started out so promising. There was a buzz in the air as I walked from the parking lot to the stadium. It felt good to see the legions of orange clad fans moving toward the Hall. Yep, everything was going to be okay. Sure, the Illini were coming off two very poor performances in Cincinnatti and Ann Arbor. But now we were back home, in the friendly confines so to speak. The Illini can beat anybody at home, right? A big win over Ohio St. would get everything right in the world again.

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.

Go Illini!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

A letter to Mike Nadel, the Chicago Sports Journalist

Did anyone else read the absolutely ignorant and passively aggressive malicious article that Mike Nadel wrote that was disseminated through the Copley News service? It basically argues that Illinois should have hired Thad Matta instead of Bruce Weber. Here's the link to it if you'd like to read it.

http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews/sports/nadel/197356,2_2_AU04_NADEL_S1.article

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:

Mike,

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.

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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

What did the Xavier game tell us?

Well, it's been 4 days since the huge disappointment in Cincinnatti that was the Xavier game. I had to let that one sink in before I felt like I could comment on it. Let's start with the "good news" first. The good news is that Illinois is 13-3 heading in to the Big Ten season. That's not a bad record at all, at least at first glance. Illinois earned some of those wins (especially against Bradley and Miami (OH)), and showed flashes of having the potential of being a pretty solid team during parts of the pre-season. The bad news is that the Illini really only have one truly "tournament boosting" victory, and that was against Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game. Now for the "bad news". I'm going to limit myself to three "bad news" items, because I'm still feeling kind of down about the Xavier game. Here are the three bad news items:

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

Go Illini!