Saturday, January 17, 2009

Disappointment in East Lansing ...

I mean come on already. For the second time this year we let one get away in Michigan - this time to Sparty. Ugh! We owned this game all night but gave them the win down the stretch thanks to empty possessions (turnovers and bad shots). Nobody turns victory into loss better than Illinois. Nobody.

We played a decent but not great first half to earn the 34-27 lead at the break on 48% shooting, making the most of turnovers with 18 points including 18 off the bench. Somehow we posted 9 second-chance points even though they killed us on the glass all day. But the second half was another story after putting their backs up against a 27-game home-winning streak.

A. Legion was huge for us off the bench with 15 points, and were it not for some easy misses he would have had more. He's only shooting 32% from the field after joining the team in late December. That should and needs to improve over the next few weeks. McCamey (0-9) was shaving ice all night and was a non-factor on offense most of the game. Same for Meachem (1-7). It was good to see Brock and Davis contribute with Alex.

I see three areas we need to improve in going forward: running the court, offensive boards (playing larger than we are), and a go-to scorer down the stretch when the game is in doubt. Right now we have several guys looking around for someone like McCamey, Tisdale, Davis, Meachem, or Legion to step-up and fill that role.

Sparty closed the game on a 12-3 run. It was a night of runs for them that got them back in and then over the top to earn the victory tonight in one of the strongest home-court advantages in CBB. And it doesn't get any easier this week as we head back to Champaign to host Ohio State and Wisconsin before a road trip to Minneapolis next week. Such is the life in the BIG-10.

For now, we're plus one (+1) in conference after earning the road win in West Lafayette earlier in conference play. I fear that we should be at least +2 or +3 at this point in the season. January is all about building the March resume. And for mid-pack teams like Illinois it's important to be positive in conference if you expect to earn a bid and do damage in the big dance. We have quality wins against Vandy, Mizzou, Purdue, and Michigan. Quality losses against Clemson, Sparty, and Michigan won't hurt. But, we're still in seach of that break-out / season-defining victory to launch us into the top-25 and the national debate of legitimate title-contenders this year. Losing 10 of our last 13 conference road games, we're on the outside of that discussion looking in at the big-boys.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

HNY - Chief Does the Bowls!

Happy New Year to all (HNY 2k9)! Here's hoping for a better year all the way around than 2008. As the bowl games wind down and the serious depression sets in knowing that pitchers and catchers report shortly, the Chief has decided to offer up a few words on the 2008/9 grid-iron season.

First of all, there is no better team game than CFB. Pro sports have nothing on CFB. Yeah CFB! Every game matters. Every outcome is an ending and a new beginning. I know the game has its detractors, especially during bowl season. And while the game would benefit from a proposed 8-team BCS playoff, it's still the best thing going. To those who say CFB has the worst post-season I say hogwash. Bowl season was never designed to be anything more than an exhibition display, a reward for regular-season excellence, a consolation for work well done. What modern advertising, corporate sponshorships, and media have made it is another story for another time.

The BCS is the BCS, nothing more or less. It was designed to give us #1 verus #2 in a 'championship' game. That's it. And, unlike our government or corporate partners, it succeeds in doing just that more than 50% of the time. Don't get me wrong, a playoff system in CFB would be a great thing and take the game to another higher level of achievement. But, we all know that won't happen quickly. Hopefully it will happen in my lifetime. Dont' hold your breath.

CFB needs to do two things, and the sooner the better, to improve the state of the game - taking it to the next level. #1, reclaim New Year's Day. That used to be the best day in all of sport with at least 8 or 10 great bowl games. No reason to have so many games before or after. Actually, I would like to see only BCS games after January 1. Come on, the International Bowl? Really... those games should all be played in December or on January first. #2, implement the 8-team playoff system. Three rounds of DIV1-A playoff action would generate billions for the economy and make for some of the most exciting spectacles in sport. Finally, we could say with some measure of integrity, that we have a true national champion. Make every game count. And settle it on the field instead of some cache memory.

As for the bowl games this year, here are my highlight and lowlight moments of this season. I'll go with the good, the bad, and the ugly format:

The Good -
  1. Notre Dame won a bowl game. Notre Dame won a bowl game. Notre Dame won a bowl game, ending a 9-game slide. 89 teams have won bowl games since the Irish beat A&M in the Cotton Bowl. The Warriors from Hawaii were no match for the disciplined Irish attack.
  2. How about the very good? Let's give it up for the Hokie 'D' and Beamer Ball. How many coaches have a type of play coined after their personality? VT plays defense as a unit, the total being much greater than the sum of its parts. Coach Zook should take note.
  3. Pat White of WV - only player in modern times that I know of to win all four of his bowl games as QB. Very impressive. He'll go down as one of the game's best - ever!
  4. Iowa for the BIG-10. At least we won't go winless in bowl games. Heck of a game.
  5. PAC-10, Gulp! - I know, it's hard for me to admit it, but the PAC-10 may just be the 3rd or 4th best conference in the land this year behind the BIG-12, SEC, and ACC. Hard to argue with 5-0 in bowl season. Although, the conference usually matches-up quite well with equal or lesser bowl competition - almost always on the west coast or in a true home environment. Most impressive to me were the Ducks who beat a game Poke squad from Stillwater in the Holliday Bowl - always a great game.
  6. And how 'bout those Utes? The biggest disappointment in bowl season has to be GT. But the biggest shocker in terms of results was Utah over Bama in New Orleans. Wow! And the way Utah did it was impressive - with speed. Utah took it to Bama from the beginning to end. Speed on the defensive line and speed on offensive play execution. Utah played more like an SEC team tonight than Bama did. 13-0 this season with 8 bowl wins in a row. Congratulations on a job well done.

The Bad -

  1. Central Michigan losing the Motor City Bowl to FAU. For CMU playing at Ford Field, that was a tough loss to an upstart Owls club coached by Schnellenberger who remains undefeated in bowl games.
  2. What is with ABC / Comcast? The Rose Bowl shifted in and out of HD all afternoon, much like the Penn State offense. Very disappointing.
  3. The Badger nation - what a terrible season. Things started off well in September with a good road inw over Fresno State, but quickly went down hilll after a bad loss at Michigan. Team hasn't been the same since. Champ's Bowl effort with FSU was more proof.
  4. BIG-10 just 1-5 in its first six attempts this year. Although, losing to USC in Pasadena is no crime. NW and Sparty gave Mizzou and Georgia a run for the money. Still, no excuses. Conference is down this year again.....Wisconsin being the latest example.

The Ugly -

  1. Did you see the Sun Bowl this year? Had to be one of the worst games ever played. I guess you can say the Beavers won it. Or did Pitt just not win it? Deep thought ....
  2. GT losing in Atlanta to a mediocre LSU club. Ugh! The Ramblin' Wreck of GT lived down to their namesake. I think they opened up the champagne a few hours early.
  3. Anybody playing USC in the Rose Bowl besides a Vince Young - led Longhorn club. I mean really. Come on. USC should be forced to play either Florida, LSU, Bama, OU, or Texas next year in a BCS game no matter what. Let's just go ahead and schedule something now.
  4. WR DeAndre Brown of So. Miss who broke his leg on an extremely freaky pass-play early in the 1st half of the game with Troy. Here's to a speedy recovery young man.

web site counters
ISP unique hits since Aug. 2k6

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?