Friday, March 16, 2007
Sure the officiating was lousy down the stretch. It doesn't get much worse than what transpired in the last 5 minutes of that backyard brawl. The men in stripes burried their whistles, thereby abdicating their authority and control over an NCAA sanctioned event. What a shame. This used to be the greatest of all the NCAA championships. In reality, we now know that March Madness is little more than a supersized reality TV show. Want fries with that?
Don't get me wrong, we had our chances to close the deal down the stretch and didn't capitalize. We missed free throws, open shots, fast breaks, and open three-point looks. Tonight was a microcosm of the entire season. How many times did we turn W's into L's? With the exception of two bad lossses to Ohio State and Purdue, the other ten were basically missed opportunities. Tonight's loss reminds me of Maryland, Xavier, Michigan State, Indiana, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Iowa all over again.
Oh, to have Dee Brown back in the starting line-up just one more time. His ball - handling leadership was missed immensely last night in Columbus, and all year. In the end, Frazier and Meachen (both sophs) just collapsed under the full-court Hokie pressure. We simply don't have a realy ball-handler at the point right now, someone who can breakdown the pressure with the dribble and shoot foul shots at a high rate of efficiency. I'm not saying that Trent or Chester can't be those guys next year, but right now I just don't know. Here's hoping that Demetri McCamey (4-star 6'4" / 190 lb. PG prospect out of Westchester, IL) can fit right in next year and make a difference right away. Next year's squad will look a lot different after Carter and McBride move on. It will be interesting to see how the 2007/8 Fighting Illini come together as a team under Weber. He has a knack for getting the most out of a wide range of talent. My expectations for next year: be competitive in the BIG10, win a few conference tourney games, qualify for the BIG DANCE, and reach the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney. Anything more that this will exceed my expectations. Anything less, ........ugh!
In the end, I guess I should have expected such an outcome. We had too many off-the-court distractions this year to be a worthy team. What goes around comes around. We simply weren't worthy of advancing beyond the first round. Quite honestly, it's hard to see how we made the big show. We didn't have a quality road win all season.
Tonight marked the end of a nine-game NCAA first-round winning streak. That tends to happen when you miss your last seven shots and mix in three turnovers. What a shame. We held the Hokies to 36% shooting for the game. "Coach always says that life isn't fair," Carter said. "But we sort of put ourselves in this situation. We just couldn't crawl out of it."
This blog is over, at least for this season. I may never put finger to keypad again. Simply put, I'm spent. It's been a very very long hoops season in Champaign this winter, with so many highs and lows (usually more lows). It can be said that this team underachieved at times. It can also be said that this year's squad also overachieved considering the nightly variation in talent that took the court. It was hard for Coach Bruce to field the 5 same starters night in and night out.
So I leave you this night with one simple request, please join me one more time in watching the last dance of the CHIEF inside Assembly Hall. This memorial video is a dedication to more than 84 years of CHIEF ILLINIWEK history and tradition. Oskee Wa Wa Illinois. Hail to the CHIEF.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Friday, March 09, 2007
Saturday, March 03, 2007
To the point, our regular season came to an end today (9-7 in conference) and 21-10 overall. That may NOT be good enough to continue in the post-season. So, here's what it comes down to in my humble opinion.
- If we win two games in the BIG-10 Tourney (up in Chicago) - we're definintely in the big show. No question. Hail to the Chief and go get 'em with that big-time defense! Two more wins would include a first-round victory over Penn State on Thursday and a quarterfinal win over Indiana on Friday. If we get to 23 wins, there is not question.
- If we don't win another game this season - we're pretty at the mercy of the selection committee and I don't like our chances. There are too many good teams across the land sitting squarely on the bubble who can easily make a good claim. Stick a fork in us. You can't lose to Penn State on a neutral court in early March.
- If we win only one game in the BIG-10 Tourney, the I would say we have a 50/50 chance to make the NCAA tourney, but it wouldn't be a sure thing. I don't like sitting on the fence. Honestly, I think this deal will come down to the quarterfinal on Friday with Indiana. Without a convincing conference win this year away from home, the committee will be looking to see if we're worthy of a bid. Many teams have proven they can lose, but the ILLINI need to prove that they can win a big game away from home.
Again, our best wins of the year were at home (Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, and Iowa). And while it's true we don't have a loss outside the top-100, it's also true that our best road wins in conference were against NW, Minnesota, and Penn State - not exacly powerhouse competition this year. So, that' show I see it as the calendar flips to March. Check back in a week or so to see how these predictions turned out.