Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dance Card has the Illini in the Dance

The dance card website has a 93.7% accuracy rating in predicting which teams get a NCAA bid, and right now they have the Illini safely in the dance. Link

Rivals has Illini in the big dance

The Illini's NCAA hopes look pretty secure, but they probably should beat Iowa in the regular-season finale or win at least one Big Ten tournament game just to be sure. Link

Monday, February 26, 2007

ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Illini in NCAAs (Projected)

This video on ESPN shows that now the Illini are projected to make the NCAA tournament by Joe Lunardi, their bracketology guru. They are thought to be one of the last four teams in the field based on the latest game information. Video

Bruce watches 6' 7" Jereme Richmond Play

Last Friday Bruce Weber went to the Chicago area to check out the play of Illini verbal committed recruit, Jereme Richmond. He is only a high school freshman, but at 6' 7", opposing teams are using a box and one defense to try to slow him down. That says something about his presence on the court. Article

Bill Cole scores 32 against Normal West

Illini recruit Bill Cole is really scoring well in his senior year, looking forward to seeing him in Champaign this fall. Article

Quinton Watkins scores season high 29

Illini recruit Quinton Watkins is really coming on from a scoring standpoint, just scored 29 points in one game for his team, article.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Will the Illini make the NCAA tourney this year?

Still a big question mark on whether the Illini make the cut this year, even though I think they deserve it, seems like the experts are leaving them on the bubble. The RPI for the Illini is supposedly around 30, so with 34 at-large berths, why are they on the bubble? Especially if they win their final game at Iowa and finish at third place in the Big 10 conference. It's the intangibles that worry me this season, since the NCAA Committee might try to leave the Illini out due to the DUIs, the Chief controversy, etc. My take is we need to beat Iowa and beat someone good in the conference tourney to make sure we are in this year. Anyway, the breakdown of the numbers in play with the Committee:

-31 Automatic berths (30 conference tournament champions plus Ivy League regular-season champion)
-34 At-large berths for the men's tournament
-65 Total Teams in the tourney

Coach Weber attacked by Chicago Media

The Chicago Media is taking shots at Coach Weber, just two years after he took the Illini to the championship game. How soon they turn on you in Chicago. Not sure if this columnist guy has any real credentials, and he works for the Sun-Times, so not surprised with his conclusion reached in this column:

"The truth is, I don't think Weber is going to have this job much longer."

Well, the truth is, I'm not sure how much longer Greg Couch can be employed by the Sun-Times, writing pieces like this.

-Is Weber responsible for the players drinking that night?
-Is he supposed to monitor their activities every day?
-Can we let the legal and university processes take place?
-Do you realize Smith is suspended for the season?

I did some checking on who Greg Couch is and there is not much out there, but it does look like he is trying to make a name for himself, even though he is not notable.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nice Road win at Penn State

That was a nice road win today, even though the W was expected, they looked sharp on offense and defense, rebounding etc. The front line of Pruitt, Randle and Carter finally looks healthy, and they can be really competitive within the conference now. They even dunked the ball on several occasions in the game, nice for a change. With the current situation of fewer players, Weber seems to have gotten away from the 3 guard set, and we are better off without it, in my opinion. On to the game at Iowa, which we need to win so we can lock up a spot in the tourney.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Big Ten Finish for Regular Season

Well, the Illini won tonight against Northwestern, and with very few games left, I looked over the schedules for the top 8 Big 10 teams, and project the following finish for the regular season:

Ohio State, 15-1
Wisconsin, 14-2
Indiana, 10-6
Iowa, 10-6
Illinois, 9-7
Purdue, 9-7
Michigan, 8-8
Michigan State, 7-9

Northwestern/Minnesota/Penn State in the cellar

I have the Illini beating Michigan and Penn State, but losing to Iowa in their last regular season game. The game of the year seems to be the Wisconsin visit to Ohio State, and it seems hard to believe that Ohio State will lose it at home.

In terms of the NCAA, it is really hard to project which teams make it to the tourney, since the depth of the conference is not that impressive to me, even though we have two top 5 teams in Wisconsin and Ohio State. Indiana seems like a lock, and Illinois and Purdue seem like they are bubble teams. Iowa seems like it would normally make it based on their projected finish, but their computer rankings look low. Michigan looks low in the computer rankings as well. A further anomaly is Michigan State, since their projected record is not impressive, but computer rankings are solid. It will be interesting to see how my projections end up and how many teams get in from the Big 10. Certainly this year the conference tourney will be important.

Smith Carlwell Accident, filling in the blanks

I have not commented on the auto accident yet, since like many, I have been trying to figure out what happened. After spending some time reading the Illinois Loyalty site, I have an idea of what happened on Monday night.

Jamar Smith and Brian Carlwell were at Jamar Smith's apartment in the Sterling Apartment Complex at First Street and Curtis in Savoy, IL. Jamar Smith was giving Carlwell a ride back to his dorm, sometime around 10:30 or 11:00pm that night in his 1996 Lexus ES 300 owned by his grandparents. On the way home, driving north on First Street, the car crossed the median and hit a tree on the west side of the street around 2021 South First Street, Champaign, IL. Jamar Smith drove the car back to his apartment complex and parked it in the parking lot, with Carlwell still in the car. Someone called the police, and soon Carlwell was removed from the vehicle and brought to Carle Foundation, along with Smith. Smith was treated and released, while Carlwell was in critical condition.

The only facts unknown involve Smith's condition at the time of the accident. It was snowing that night, and the accident could have been caused by the weather, but it is likely Smith had been drinking. Reasons for this speculation: he has hired an attorney, he is not playing basketball for the rest of the season, he drove back to his apartment after the accident, there is much speculation of alcohol, etc. Smith is only 19 years old, and in time there will be more facts announced about the accident.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Everything but a W for the Illini today

Wow, that was a well-played game by the Illini today. It generally makes me more optimistic about the team's chances for the remainder of the season, even though the victory slipped away. Box Score

Almost everyone played well today, except Shaun Pruitt, who ironically has been the most consistent player until this game. Though our front line had some foul problems in the first half, the bench came through with some solid minutes and the rotation used by Weber looked good most of the game. The Illini had some height advantages against Indiana (Carter and Randle to be specific), but could have capitalized on this more it seemed. And the lack of a basket down the stretch kept the Illini from closing out the game. And who would have expected Marcus Arnold to shoot and defend so well, and Carlwell to get the dunk at the buzzer. If they only would have had Carter take some interior jump shots down the stretch instead of those three point shots by McBride..........

Well, I had this one as a "L" anyway, but when you have it set up down the stretch, it hurts to finish that way.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Road Win! Illini 58, Northwestern 43

That was a really solid game, in my opinion. Box Score

Not much more to say about it, kudos to Coach Weber for having the guys ready to play tonight in Evanston. They worked the ball inside, shot well from outside, moved the ball around, and killed Northwestern on the boards. The difficult part is figuring out how much of this is Illini improvement, and how much is the struggle of Northwestern, which seems short on talent again this year.

Next up, game at the Indiana Hoosiers, a really tough place to play for a road win.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Tickets Available for Northwestern Game in Evanston

The Illini play in Evanston on Wednesday night at 6pm Central time. Even though I understand it is very cold in Chicago right now, it would be great if Illini fans show up in big numbers to support the team. Tickets are still available, I just checked the NU box office online. Link There are upper deck seats available for $20, so let's pack in the place as usual.

The Illini need a road win, and with all of the fans in the Chicago, this is probably the most friendly road venue the Illini will see all season.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Roger Powell should be in the NBA

Roger Powell is an excellent basketball player, and he showed this again by scoring 46 points in a developmental league game on Friday. Article Roger Powell is playing for the Arkansas D-League team, the Rimrockers. Utah is still considering bringing him back to their club based on recent reports.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Illini win at home against Minnesota, Smith Back

Nice 59-49 win tonight against Minnesota. Box Score

Plus side for Illini:
-Jamar Smith showed he can shoot from the outside again, apparently he recovered from the flu earlier in the week
-Another good game for Pruitt, who was active inside against Minnesota
-Defense was solid, forcing low percentage shots by Minnesota
-McBride look good overall, including long range shooting
-Randle looked healthy and actually dunked the ball after a steal

-Had a hard time finishing off the game, almost let them back in it at the end
-Free throw shooting continues to be a disaster
-Warren Carter was cold shooting and is not as aggressive as earlier in the season
-Defensive rebounding seemed weak, letting Minnesota get lots of second chances

Friday, February 2, 2007

Preview of Minnesota Illinois Game

Minnesota comes in after two wins in a row, a home win against Penn State, and a win at Northwestern. Northwestern and Penn State look like the two teams weaker in the league than Minnesota, so we don't want to join them in losing to the Golden Gophers.

The Illini roster looks really thin at this stage of the season. I am really glad Brian Carlwell did not choose to redshirt. A quick look at the roster explains why:

Probable starters are: Pruitt, Carter, Randle (playing injured), McBride, Meacham
Off the Bench players: Carlwell, Brock, Arnold
Others: Frazier (injured), Smith (injured but might play), Jackson, Hicks, Semrau (out for season)

If Randle is hurt, they don't have much of a rotation for the game. I put Smith in the last category since his shooting slump seems to be caused by his ankle injuries. In my opinion, they should rest Jamar until he is able to play like himself again.

The game starts at 7pm Central time, and is being shown on ESPN+ Regional coverage.

Chicago Bears and George Halas

I should preview tomorrow night's game between the University of Illinois and Minnesota, but this is Super Bowl weekend, so it seems more important to reflect on the history of the Chicago Bears and Illini alumnus, George Halas. Like most Illini fans, I am pulling for the Chicago Bears this weekend, hoping they can win another Super Bowl. The win in 1985 seems like it was not that long ago, and I recall the beating taken by the Patriot's (also ex-Illini) quarterback Tony Eason, who was rushed all game by the Bears front line. George Halas graduated from the University of Illinois in Civil Engineering, but went on to build a football franchise rather than buildings or bridges. I only remember George Halas as the owner of the Chicago Bears, but his background as a football player, football coach, team owner, war veteran, etc. is really incredible. An excellent story in the Chicago Tribune elaborates on his amazing life. I only recently realized that Halas brought the Illini's blue and orange colors to his first football team, that became the Chicago Bears.

Let's hope for a good Illini weekend, with wins by the Illini and the Chicago Bears.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Mike Tisdale to be back on February 7th

According to the State-Journal Register, Riverton 7-footer Mike Tisdale, who has a broken pinky, is expected to be cleared to play Feb. 7, according to Hawks assistant coach Luke Johnston. It isn't certain if Tisdale would play that night against Mount Olive, but he is expected to be ready against Manteno in the Riverton Subway Shootout on Feb. 10.

Quinton Watkins Scores 20 Points in Big Win

A recent LA Times articles mentions that Quinton Watkins, Illini recruit starting this fall, scored 20 points. Watkins is playing forward for his team, and was the leading scorer for that game with Gahr.

Watkins scored 20 points in the prior game, and seems to be the leading scorer for Dominquez most nights.

Loss of Boozer might elevate Roger Powell

Carlos Boozer, who has been the leading scorer of the Utah Jazz this year, is expected to miss the next month due to a slight fracture detected in his left fibula. No announcements yet by coach Jerry Sloan in terms of roster changes, but Roger Powell, who was released by the Jazz in early January might be brought back to the team, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune article.

Maui Invitational Tickets for Illini Boosters

I was able to buy a package today for the Maui Invitational this fall, with tickets to the Illini games. I dialed the phone number for the travel agency several hundred times and it was busy until late in the afternoon. It is not sold out yet, and they expect at least 250 fans from Illinois. Apparently, the orders this year are not as high as years when Kentucky is in the tourney. Kentucky travels with their team more than any other school, per the travel agency. The Hyatt is highly rated, so we will stay there. This is my first time attending the Maui Invitational, so I will look forward to it in November. Also, it represents a nice preview of the 2007 Illini, with McCamey, Watkins, Cole and Tisdale added to the roster.

Details on ticket packages are here.