Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chief is on Fire (Illinois over Purdue)

Tell me another team on the country that is closing 2008 playing better basketball? Answer, there isn't one. First, we whacked, and I mean whacked Mizzou in a tourney setting under the arch. We followed that HUGE win up by defending the home turf against a very gamey Eastern Michigan club. And tonight, on the Deuce, in front of the world, we scrapped, we crawled, we battled, and defended our way to a monster resume-building victory over #11 Purdue in Mackey Arena (on Keady Court) in West LaFayette. All - in balls -out huge! 13-1 on the young season (1-0 in the mighty BIG-10 with five in the TOP-25).

To be totally unbiased, we take so much pride in our defense it's not funny. I honestly don't think there's a better (intensity) defensive squad in the nation. We take each point we give up personally. It hurts. We hate to see it. But don't trust me, look at the figures - each team we play has its worst offensive output of the season. No exceptions! This team has the soul, the spirit, the cajones of its head coach, Bruce Weber.

For those of you unfamilar with BIG-10 arenas, Mackey Arena is as hostile a home environment as they come. They hate us. We hate them. And it only gets worse from there. Trust me, I've been there it's a miserable place to be a road team. It's a snake pit, a hornest nest, a gladiator's den. The Boilers play hard each time out for Coach Painter. If you enjoy old-school, hard-nosed, physical basketball, where every possession matters, then this was your game. At times it wasn't pretty, but it was always intense. And if you plan to go deep in March, you have to execute efficiently in the half-court game and play stout defense.

With 10 minutes to go in the game, the Tribe only had 4 turnovers (averaging 14 / game). Thank you Chester Frazier. Frazier and Meachem are senior difference makers that 99% of teams only wish they had. We went 16 minutes spanning two halves between #4 and #5. We had 21 assists on our 30 field goals and committed just six total turnovers on the night. What a way to open BIG-10 play in 2008/9, on the road.
  • Tisdale continues to impress me: another 18 points tonight.
  • We ended Purdue's 16-game home winning streak with tonight's win (39-4 since 2006).
  • Purdue was just 15-27 from the charity stripe, 38% from the field.
  • And with the W (# seven in a row), we're the first BIG-10 club to thirteen victories (13-1).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chief is on Fire - 11 and 1, top 25?

I know it's only December, the heart of bowl season. But don't look now, the basketball tribe is 11 and 1 on the young season, just a few seconds and one shot away from being undefeated. It was a great Busch-Braggin' Rights performance tonight in the Scottrade Center (St. Louis). Anytime you can make an athleteic team like Mizzou look average, slow, and confused you've done your job. Until tonight, the TIGER's lowest point total was 71. They were in the top-5 in the nation in several categories coming into this one. Mizzou had their worst game of the season tonight at the hands of the CHIEF, by far!

And how about the big 10 this year, combined 96-22 versus the other BCS conferences this year. No question in my mind that the conference is marching in the right direction, with the possible exception of Indiana. Purdue, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are clearly at the head of the class. But Minnesota, Ohio State, and Illinois are right there. With the BIG EAST, we're one of the two top conferences in the land this year followed by the ACC and BIG-12. The SEC and PAC-10 are down this year.

McCamey is a controlled beast for us this year. He can do it all with the rock from shooting, passing, and coming up with the tough rebound. Frazier has become a field general in his senior year. I hope he becomes a head coach some day. When he's on the floor, it's like having Coach Weber right there with us. Davis can score with the best in the nation, down low or from the outside. Meachem and Tisdale round - out a good starting five. We're shooting and distributing the rock well these days, while minimizing turnovers. It hasn't always been easy for us this year, but I like the direction of the 2008/9 edition.

What I see / what I like. We're making teams play our game each night out. The opposition is playing outside of its comfort level on most occasions. As in most things, that's the key to winning consistently in college basketball. Make them do things they don't do well or do very often. On the flipside, we're executing well on offense in the following ways:

  • We're organized against the press (able to break it down most times).
  • We're executing to tempo, stop and pop or pulling it back out for the offensive reset.
  • We're making free throws these days, all starters at least 70%.
  • We're making precision interior passes.
  • We're knocking down three-pointers in rhythem, opportunistically.

Until the next set of AP / Coaches' polls are released next week, I'll have to be satisfied with #25 in the ESPN Power Rankings. We open up at Purdue and at Michigan in BIG-10 play next week, brutal. But, that's five BIG-10 squads in the TOP-25. Clearly, this is one of the best conferences in the land this year. We'll see how league play unfolds starting next week.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Week #15 - BCS is set

Short one this week after the championship games made it clear who should play whom in Miami come January 8th. Going into this weekend, I had little doubt as to what they match-up would look like. And after their performances ON THE FIELD tonight in their respective games, both Florida and Oklahoma left no doubt. So, without further delay, here is my latest top-10 pitting the GATORS and the SOONERS for all the marbles. Whichever team bows up on defense first with a few key stops is going to win that game.

And kudos to Army. I know they lost 34-0 today to Navy, but that game is about one thing: tradition. I've never been to an Army/Navy game, but I know I should go someday. All give some. Some give all. Some matter more. How about the camouflage unis? Nice touch. Support our troops.

My New TOP-10:

  1. Florida - Tebow is on fire. His legacy is confirmed as one of the best ever in Gator history. Love him or not, the guy knows how to lead the troops. Under his guide, they owned the 4th quarter tonight against Bama. Juice can learn a lot about leadership from Tebow. Kid is special. Kid is legend. Maybe he should win it back to back? One hell of a 4th quarter.
  2. Oklahoma - I mean come on. 5th straight game with 60+ points. That's never happened before in FBS competition. This team is loaded with talent all over the place. Championship game is going to be something special.
  3. Texas - Left out of the BIG-12 Championship wasn't right. But, it's hard to argue with #2 right now. OU is a worthy BIG-12 rep. BIG-12 is expected to fix its tiebreaker rule for next year, but that does little right now to help Mac's club. Never fear, they'll take out their frustration on Ohio State.
  4. USC - One of the fabulous four (see 1-3 above). But over the past 5 years, these four teams have dominated the CFB landscape. It's arguable, but year in and year out these four programs are the best in the business. And while the offense may be down a bit this year, the men of Troy are probably the best defensive squad in the nation. And defense wins championships. What would we have if they had beat the BEAVS? Never fear, they'll go to their 4th Rose Bowl under Carroll and put the smack down on JoePa's Lions.
  5. Alabama - It's never good to loose. But it's worse to loose late. Another example of a conference championship costing a great football team a shot at something more. The Tide should be proud after last year's 6-6 performance. They were the only FBS team to go 12-0 in the regular season. Their reward, Utah in New Orleans. Never fear, they'll take out their frustration on the Utes. Just too much of everthing.
  6. Penn State - Just one little blemish on the schedule this year in Iowa City. Enjoy the trip to SoCal next month. Disneyland and Lawry's will be fun. Good luck against USC.
  7. Texas Tech - Great year for Leach. He's coming back to Lubbock. Even better for TT. They'll get a chance to impress the nation again in the Cotton Bowl.
  8. Utah - Only non-BCS team to really earn it this year (beat OS, beat TCU, beat BYU, and beat Michigan early). 12-0 is deserving of the chance to get whacked in the Sugar Bowl.
  9. Oklahoma State - 4th team in the mighty BIG-12 South this year. 3 tough losses against the BIG-3 is no reason to hang your head.
  10. Ohio State - Down this year, but the future looks bright with Pryor. Defense will always be a strength here. Now, they add offense for 2009. Uh oh!

Chief on the Tribe - Tough loss a few nights ago at home to Clemson in the BIG-10 / ACC challenge. But, good teams learn from their mistakes. Illinois 76 - Georgia 42. We held them to 19 points in the 2nd half inside the friendly confines of the UNITED CENTER (Chicago). McCamey and Davis continue to do most of the scoring on the young season. This one was no different. What was different was the defensive intensity. 42 points in 40 minutes. That's what I'm talking about. At 7-1 we have no bad losses to date this year. And with 4 of our next 5 at home in Champaign, I like our chances at starting off 11-2 or 12-1 before conference play opens on the road with Purdue. In there is the border-War game with Mizzou on 12/23.

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