Thursday, February 17, 2005

What the experts are saying about Illinois!

Not that I totally agree or disagree with these comments; but they're interesting either way:

Illinois continues to roll on with its win at Penn State. There have been shakeups already this week with Kansas and Kentucky both going down on the road. Watch out for Michigan State, a team that has been warming up lately. - Dick Vitale

The top three teams are starting to create some distance. Illinois, Wake Forest and North Carolina have the look of Final Four teams. Kansas has had that at times but couldn't close out Texas Tech. Oklahoma State seems to be on a roll and is headed for a showdown with Kansas next weekend. The back end of the Power 16 is for teams that are playing well this week and that's why Charlotte, Pacific, Utah and Wisconsin deserve praise. Pittsburgh is probably the biggest climber. The Panthers continue to show that they are tougher than most teams, with road wins at Connecticut and Syracuse. - Andy Katz

Illinois should finish the season unbeaten, although it does not matter whether the Illini finish the year with a bagel, one or two losses. This team is good enough to win the national championship, and a few stumbles won't change that. North Carolina is second, but on even footing with Illinois. I like Kansas, because the Jayhawks continue to win, and Wake Forest as my four No. 1 seeds. A few other teams can still sneak out a top seed, but these four are solid. The more you look at the Pac-10 and the SEC, the more you think that this will be the year of the mid-major -- somebody has to gobble up those at-large bids. - Jay Bilas

After Illinois, no team in the upper portion of the Power 16 did much to distinguish itself this past week. But watch out for Pittsburgh, which seems to be back to its trademark sausage-grinder defense. And watch out for Utah, which might have America's best player tucked away in the quiet Mountain Time Zone. And keep an eye on Louisville-Marquette Thursday night, to see if the Golden Eagles can perpetrate a 47-point turnaround of their crushing loss in Freedom Hall. It's not out of the question. - Pat Forde

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