Illinois Football Daily Bullets

Illinois Basketball Daily Bullets

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jamar Smith Felony Charges big concern to Illinois Basketball Program

Well, the last week has not been a good one for the Illinois basketball program. More importantly, it has been a terrible time for the young men who make up the team, especially Jamar Smith and Brian Carlwell. What a tragedy. Thankfully, it was not an even worse tragedy. The news report and report from the prosecutor raise more questions than they answer. Without going into specifics, the biggest question of all is this: were other Illini basketball players involved in this incident prior to 911 being called (thankfully) by the two women at 11:40 pm? I'm not sure what the whole "other players were gathered" at the complex meant specifically in the news article. I wonder who the "other person" was that came back down to the car, looked at Carlwell, and then went back inside the complex. That's just inexcusable! And sad.

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?

Saturday's game against Indiana was a solid effort by the Illini. Wouldn't that have been spectacular if the team had been able to score just 5 more points in the last 4 minutes of the game? When McBride shot that three pointer after the nice dish from a driving Warren Carter, my hopes rose for a split second. But then I saw that McBride "armed" the shot, probably because he was exhausted after a super effort throughout the game. All in all, though, I was really happy with the performance and the effort. Indiana is 13-0 on their homecourt, and except for the Wisconsin and Illinois games, all of those have been easy wins. So take heart Illini fans!

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

After victory against MSU, can Illini sustain a win streak?

Tuesday's victory against MSU at home was nothing short of a "grind it out" victory. Here's some thoughts on the team following that game, and heading into Saturday's home game against Minnesota:

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.