Saturday, February 25, 2006

We Needed It - And Got It! 71-59 ILLINI over Iowa

I can't wait for March. Horton is killing me in the Pick-Off. But, I'm getting an idea of who's for real and who's a pretender as the big tournaments draw closer. Lots of bubble teams out there on pins and needles, but there is still a lot of basketball to be played until the BIG DANCE starts in 2.5 weeks.

Illinois showed - up today on Senior Day for Dee and James. Neither had a great game in terms of scoring, but they both played well for the team in terms of the intangibles and DEFENSE. Defense is what defines this year's ILLNI squad. I don't think think there has been a more consistently solid defense in the nation. Sure we're last in the BIG-10 from the charity stripe and our shooting has been down of late, especially from behind the ARC. But, if we get hot in March for a few weeks we could be dancin' into early April.

Today was redemption day for the bench. Arnold, Carter, and Smith combined for 17 points. But today was about McBride and Randle. They really came to play. Rich had 15 and Brian had 13, but their defense was even better. Randle shutdown Haluska. He really is an athelete on the hardwood. I like the long and lean guys.

At 23-5 (9-5) we're now tied for 2nd place with Iowa behind the BUCKS who are 10-4 in the conference this year. Oh, to have that Penn State game back. Even another second on the clock would have made a difference. But kudos to Augustine and Brown who ended their careers at Illinois with 111 wins in 4 years. Wow!

The road ahead this week doesn't get any easier with games at Minnesota and at Michigan State. It would be great to get one of those games, if not both. But winning at Minnesota and in the Breslan Center against SPARTY won't be easy. The Gophers have been giant killers this year with some monster wins against Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State. But for now, we're in good shape after winning today in a must - win situation.

Here is my top - 10:

5) BUCKS (Ohio State)
6) TIGERS (Memphis)
7) BULLDOGS (Zags)
9) BC

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