Friday, December 30, 2005

Bowl Mania Mid - Wrap!

What can I say - things looked so good early, despite a 3 - point set-back as Kansas took care of Houston in the Ft. Worth Bowl. What was I thinking there? After that, the flood gates broke open and we've all been looking up at Hamilton's not so sunny side ever since. He's running away with the contest this year. But first, a few comments:

1) What the hell? I mean, there is bad officiating and then there are the guys who called the Nebraska / Michigan game (Alamo Bowl). I mean, why not just say we're corrupt. We're going to give the game to the Huskers. Needless to say this was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen. Just about every major call and no - call went against Michigan and FOR NEBRAKSA. Don't get me wrong, the HUSKERS played a great game. Where was the flag late in the game when Michigan was driving for the go-ahead score on 4th down and the Nebraska defender had his hands all over the Michigan receiver? Why did the Wolverines have to burn timeouts to get instant replays? How long does it take to spot a football anyway? And, why wasn't there a flag against Nebraksa on the last play of the game when their entire time stormed the field of play while the ball was till in play? Ugh! It went all down hill from here.

2) Thank you GA TECH, you suck! How can you lose to UTAH? Ugh!

3) Same for Oregon and Minnesota. Hello, finish what you start. What was I thinking for putting any points on a team with a LEAF on it. These last few games cost me 27, 24, and 23 points.

It doesn't look good for the rest of us if we want to catch Hamilton. He has a healthy lead. Nice job on putting those high points on some of the early games. We'll have to wait and see how things shake out over the next few days. Will I win another game this year? With the Miami loss to LSU, that makes 7 straight misses in a row for me, ouch.

Minnesota, NW, and South Carolina all blew big bowl leads in the 2nd half of action. Hamilton still looks really strong as he approaches 200 points and 97% heading into action on New Year's Eve. Can anybody catch him? Here's hoping Va TECH, Auburn, Georgia, and Texas find ways to win their games.

So enjoy the best video clips of 2005 (click on the link above). I think this year's winner looks a little like Freiley in his cube on a Sunday morning (Neuman - Neuman kid, sorry Doug - couldn't resist).



Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas to All - SI's Pix of 05!

These are some of the most amazing shots I've seen in a while. Here are a couple of teazers. What a great year in sports, 2005. I remember Gore at the US OPEN on the hallowed grounds of Pinehurst #2. Note, some of these are quite inspirational while others are quite grotesque. Enjoy the shots. Here's hoping 2006 stacks up to be just as great - and even a little better. I think there are 12 amazing shots in all.

Merry Christmas to all .... and to all a good night!

Bonus Coverage: Quotes of the year!

"My wiener has never been so exhausted." -- NASCAR's Kurt Busch after outlasting three other drivers to win the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile race at Lowe's Motor Speedway

And if you liked those shots, you might also enjoy the 10-SPOT by McEntegart. Lisa Guerrero is 41 years old in case you're wondering - wow! He does have a good point about Brent Musberger - that guys is annoying at times. And you guys all know where I stand on a play-off in college football, DIV 1-A.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Braggin' Rights Remain in Champaign!

The ILLINI looked pretty good tonight against a weaker Missouri squad. Honestly, this one was a little bit of a surprise given the nature of this rivalry (BUSCH BRAGGIN' RIGHTS and the border war). Dee and James were too much for the men from Columbia, Missouri. With 6 wins in a row over the tigers, the #6 - ranked ILLINI take their game into BIG-10 play looking like a top - team to beat.

This was the biggest margin of victory in the 25-year clash for braggin' rights. And, it wasn't just about Dee hitting the 3-ball or James down low. Randle had 12 points and Jamar Smith added many more from downtown. It was a balanced attack of low-post and perimeter with a little run and gun to throw in the mix. At 12-0, we're in good shape, but there is more work to do to get better, especially from the free-throw line. We can also improve in the half-court game, from say 8-12 feet.

I'm going to the SE Missouri State game in Champaign next Wednesday night (12/28). That should be a spectacle of ~ 16K Orange Krush faithful.

BIG - 10 play starts on 1/5 at home against the SPARTY. Then we travel to IOWA CITY to face the HAWKEYES on 1/7. We get Michigan at home on 1/14 before a road game in Bloomington against the Hoosiers. That will be a tough stretch where we need to go at least 2-2 as we defend the home court.

But for now, we're 50 for our last 51 including a few big blowouts of late. The team looks balanced and relaxed - having fun in the process. Nobody gets more out of his players than Bruce Weber - even when the talent isn't quite all there.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Separating the Pretenders from Contenders....

I know it's only December, but as the year draws to a close it's time to stake stock of the unbeatens in college basketball. Grant Wahl of SI does a good job of breaking down who's for real and who has yet to be tested beyond cupcakes.

Check out his article and see where your favorite unbeaten squad ranks amongst the rest of no-loss teams to date.

With quality wins over Xavier, North Carolina, Oregon, Wichita State, and Georgetown -My ILLINI are definitely exceeding early-season expectations. You don't just hand the DUCKS a 30-point loss at the Garden in front of 16K fans, the worst loss in Pape` Jam history, unless you are for real. Right now we're trending as a #3 seed in the big-dance come March. That could improve as the year matures and more pretenders are removed from the pack of unbeatens.

Starting out the pre-season ranked ~ 20th, we're currently at #9 and moving up fast. Our next big test comes against Michigan State in early January.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Get your Pape` Jam Here!

Jen and I attended the Pape' Jam Saturday night between Oregon and Illinois. It was great to sit amongst the orange and blue with Karl, Mary Jo, Dan, Kristi, Dan, Stacey, and kids. Dee Brown and Richie McBride led with way with 3-point bombs all night long. Oregon had no answer. This game was over about 10 minutes into the first half.

We enjoyed an 18-point lead at the break and pulled away to a comfortable 89-59 victory in the beautiful Rose Garden. Section 207, Row 0, seats 14 and 15 will never be the same again. Lots of Orange and Blue adorned the Garden tonight. It was a beautiful sight. With this win we should crack the TOP-10 in all polls come Sunday.

Dee was amazing tonight in leading the way for the ILLINI with 26 points. Oregon shot only 35% for the game and 26% in the first half. Ouch - not good. The Ducks really struggled with shot selection all night - not taking too many good ones.

Friday, December 09, 2005

10-0 and Ready for Oregon in the Garden

I'm going to the Pape` Jam on Saturday at the Garden. Look for me on ESPN or whoever carries the game. I'll be the crazy lunatic in Orange and Blue. Go ILLINI. At 10-0 and fresh of a home victory against Georgetown, the hungry ILLINI look to make it a prime number performance against the mighty DUCKS from Eugene.

We were up by as much as 15 points at one point, but hung on to win 58-48 in the great Assembly Hall of Champaign. That place rocks as one of the largest home court advantages on campus in the game. Hail to the chief!

Dee had 16 and James had his 4th 2x/2x of the season to lead the way. Senior leadership - can't beat it. We were up 28-13 at the half. Can you say defense? Bring on the ducks....we're game.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Your BCS Match-Ups Broken Down!

Mirek covers the 4 BCS matchups this year in only the way that he can. Here we go:

1) In the grand daddy of them all, I like Texas over SC in what might be the best game ever played - at least it has the potential. This should be the best title game we've seen in years. I like the defense of Texas to prevail against the offense of USC down the stretch. Texas has to use ball control to keep the mighty Trojans and Reggie Bush on the bench, much like the Irish did a few months ago. Bowl Mania Tip: Pick Em.

2) In probably the most curious match-up this season, I like Penn State in a close one over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. How do you figure FSU? This is a trap game for Penn State. They should win based on everything we know today. But, Bowden knows how to get his squad up for big games, especially in the BCS where they make their 6th appearance in 8 tries. This is the first visit for Paterno. Some are already calling this the AARP bowl. I really like this match-up. Both teams are loaded with young talent at the skill positions. Who will make the least mistakes? Who will make the biggest plays? Both teams play great defense giving this game an potential instant classic status. Bowl Mania Tip: Take Penn State in a close one.

3) I don't know whom to take in the Fiesta - the BUCKS or Notre Dame. Doug has to be happy that the BUCKS made it there over Oregon. I think the BCS worked out well in this regard. Everybody wants to see Ohio State take on Notre Dame. This should be a competitive game and may go down to the very very end. Both teams have strong offenses, but the edge has to go to Ohio State's defense and the fact that they played in Tempe 3 year's ago when they won the whole enchilada. I'm looking forward to that ND offense against the Ohio State defense. Bowl Mania Tip: don't put a lot of points on this pick either way.

4) In what has to be the worst match-up in the BCS this year, I like Georgia big over a young and not worthy WV squad. WV had a great year only losing to VA TECH. But, they are not at the same level as Georgia and others. What about Auburn? What about Miami? What about Oregon? This is the least appealing BCS game to me by far. Bowl Mania Tip: You may want to put 28 points on this game. Go DAWGS!

Other bowl games which interest me and should be awesome if both teams show up:

a) Wisconsin / Auburn in the Capital One Bowl (Citrus)
b) Texas Tech / Bama in the Cotton Bowl
c) Miami /LSU in the Peach Bowl
d) Oregon / Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl
e) Michigan / Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl
f) Northwester / UCLA in the SUN BOWL

Final Note: Auburn is the best team not the BCS. SEC speed against the BIG-10 strength. I like the SEC in this one. Go Tigers.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

How I would fix the BCS - Mirek Style!

We've been living with this less than perfect system for almost 10 years now. About every other year it gets it right. Compare this to the old system of coaches and sportswriters who got it right every other year as well. I think we can all agree that the BCS is not what we want in America. It may play in France, but this is not Gay Paris. OK, so I offer more than just criticism - I offer a solution. Please, everybody involved, hear my plea and take action. I'm offering up the blueprint this time.

I mean come on. These 'Conference Championship' games are crap. 70-3 Texas. 66-19 SC. 34-14 Georgia. And now it looks like the Orange Bowl will be Penn State vs. Florida State in Miami (AARP Bowl). Bowden versus Paterno. We all know that these conference championship games are just about money - that's it. Otherwise, they suck. I would rather watch Ashley Judd on the sidelines of any Kentucky home game. By the way, the CATS lost a shocker today at home to the TARHEELS, who lost to those ILLINI on Tuesday.

OK, so enough of the diatribe. Here is my solution.

1) Enough is enough - the regular season should end Thanksgiving weekend with all of those great rivalry games: The Iron Bowl (Auburn/Bama), the Civil War (Oregon & OSU), Texas/A&M, etc....let's just make this a delcaration. When November ends, so does the college football regular season no matter how many games they play between August and then.

2) the BCS rankings are not bad. They are a composite of computers and human polls. Sure, we can tweak them more going forward, but the general idea of a multi-variable ranking system is a good one. So, I say let's use it.....

3) Take the top 12 BCS teams at the end of the regular season. Sorry #13 and below - goodbye, your national title hopes are over. Enjoy your bowl game. El Paso is nice in late December - Feliz Navidad! Bowl games are great rewards for those programs who qualify (and their fans, alumni, corporate America, etc). We need to keep the bowls around because they are part of what makes college football so great - if not the greatest sport in the land.

4) Once the TOP - 12 is known, we have 2 consecutive playoff weekends in early December; that's it. In the first weekend, there are 5 regional games that first Saturday involving only teams 3-12 (10 teams in all). The top 2 in the BCS get a first -week bye (hey, they earned it). #3 plays #12, #4 plays #11, and so on. After the first play-off weekend we would then re-rank the teams 1-12. At this point, only the top-8 would be guaranteed a BCS birth in the current format of 4 BCS game: Fiesta, Rose, Orange, and Sugar. 4 schools would be eliminated from BCS consideration but can and should go to other bowl games. For example, this year that first play-off weekend would look like (December 3rd):

Penn State / UCLA (#3 and #12)
LSU / WV (#4 and #11)
Va. Tech / Auburn (#5 and #10)
Ohio State / Miami (#6 and #9)
Oregon / Notre Dame (#7 and #8)

These games would be played at pre-determined regional sites that get announced at least 1 year in advance so there is plenty of time to sell tickets and such. I would insist on spreading these 5 games out across the country: coast to coast in cities like Seattle / Phoenix / Dallas / St. Louis / Atlanta / Chicago / Detroit / you get the idea. Remaining logistics can be worked out.

5) The 2nd weekend (December 10th) would pit #1 against the new#8, #2 against the new#7, and so on. After week 2 of the playoff, we re-rank the top-8 teams in the BCS. At this point, the BCS schedule is set: #1 plays #2 in the championship game, #3 plays #4, #5 plays #6, and #7 plays #8. The Championship game would continue to rotate yearly between the 4 major bowls. This year, weekend #2 of the playoff might look something like:

SC / Notre Dame
Texas / Ohio State
Penn State / Auburn
LSU / Va. Tech

6) There would be no conference alliances with the BCS games. Only the best teams (BCS ranking) would qualify. They suck and must go. I mean come on, West Virginia gets an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl this year? What - that's nuts, the BIG EAST SUCKS. NO offense. They're not even in the top-10 of any poll.

7) While this system has its flaws (not perfect) it would be a better test of college football than what we have today: politics, scandle, more politics, confusion, inequity, frustration, lack of legitimacy in our national title victor, etc....


Good win today over a strong XAVIER squad at the United Center. No way were Brown nor Augustine going to let this one slip away in their last appearance in Chicago as they combined for 43 of 65 points.

XAVIER got off fast to a 19-4 start. It didn't look good down 10 at the half. But, early in the 2nd half Dee led the ILLNI back on a 15-4 run. We battled back and forth for the remaining 10 minutes only to hold on at the end for a 3 point victory. After beating UNC and XAVIER this week (2 good wins for our team early in the season) we might crack the top - 10 again early in December. Not bad for a squad that lost Head, Williams, and Powell to the NBA.

Next up is Arkansas Little Rock and Georgetown before travelling to Oregon at the Garden on Saturday against the DUCKS. This is going to be a busy weeks with home games on Monday and Thursday before the long turnaound out west.

That was shaping up to be a competitive game a few weeks ago but I'm not so sure after the DUCKS lost today at home 71-57 to a game Georgetown squad. Oregon didn't play very well at all . Not really sure why.

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