Friday, January 28, 2011

Illinois: On the Bubble Again

(Photo: Indiana players celebrate Thursday's upset win over No. 20 Illinois: Darron Cummings, Champaign [IL] News-Gazette)

It's become a familiar refrain here at Drive and Dish, but we gave serious consideration to using this blog to predict an Indiana upset over No. 20 Illinois yesterday. Unfortunately, yesterday's beginning-to-end, tightly-packed schedule didn't permit us the time required to write a coherent, quality blog post. But we thought that last night's game looked to be an obvious "trap game" for the always mercurial Fighting Illini: Illinois was coming off a hard-fought, nail-biting, nationally-televised home loss to to No. 1 Ohio State and was expected to make amends by rolling over an injury-riddled, last-place opponent on the road.

As long as the sun comes up in the east, Bruce Weber's Illini can be expected to follow up a heart-breaking loss in which they "choke" at the end of a nationally-televised "big game" against a highly ranked opponent (Illinois' usual "big game" result), with an unforeseen, almost laughable, quickie loss to a lower-regarded opponent. Such "let down" losses are usually the result of Illinois' players overlooking their supposedly "inferior" opponents, and accordingly, forgetting to "show up."

If you're a smart gambler, you always bet against Illinois.

And once again, it's too bad we didn't get the chance to make our prediction, because, true to form, No. 20 Illinois suffered a humiliating 52-49 road loss to struggling Indiana Thursday night in Bloomington, IN.

With the upset win, the Hoosiers notched their mere seventh Big Ten conference win -- and their first win over an opponent ranked in the AP Top 25 -- since Tom Crean became head coach of the once-great, but recently-moribund program three years ago. Making matters worse for Illinois was the fact that the depleted Hoosiers were without both of their starting guards, Verdell Jones and Maurice Creek.

Illinois' record now drops to 14-7 overall, and to an eye-opening 4-4 in Big Ten play. Indiana improved to a meager 11-10 overall, and 2-6 in the Big Ten. What makes Illinois' most recent letdown loss all the more galling for Illini fans is the fact that, once again, Illinois has failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations. Most analysts had expected the upperclassmen-laden Illini to compete for the 2011 Big Ten conference title and to be a major player in the NCAA Tournament in March. But now with the Big Ten title out of reach, Illinois finds itself in an all-too-familiar place -- sitting directly atop the NCAA Tournament bubble.

College basketball fans may remember that Illinois was widely expected to do big things last year. However, the 2009-2010 team spent the season with a figurative ball and chain affixed to an ankle after it sauntered its way into back-to-back embarrassing upset losses at the hands of Utah and Bradley in the 2009 Las Vegas Invitational Thanksgiving Tournament. Despite high preseason expectations, the 2010 Illini muddled their way through what turned out to be a challenging schedule, and limped into the final week of the season as one of the most high profile teams on the proverbial NCAA Tournament "bubble." Ultimately, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee left Illinois out of the Tournament field, and the Illini ended their disappointing 2010 season with an ugly home loss to Dayton in the N.I.T.

This season was supposed to be different. Heading into the inaugural 2010-2011 tip-off, Illinois looked good on paper. First, they had the distinction of being the tallest team in college basketball. Their roster had two players who stood at least seven feet tall, and they had a returning starting front line that went 7'1", 6'9" and 6'9," respectively. Second, Illinois featured a promising coterie of experienced upperclassman, talented sophomores and highly-touted freshmen from the much-hyped 2010 Illini recruiting class. But perhaps most importantly, Illinois entered the season with the ace-in the-hole of being led by a standout senior point guard, Demetri McCamey. And that seemed to bode extremely well for the Illini, since point guards are the lifeblood of college basketball. Want to look like a genius when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket? Pick teams that are led by tough, experienced, standout point guards. Your brackets will thank you.

Unfortunately for Illinois, all their size, talent (or purported talent) and experience hasn't been enough to turn their fortunes around from last year. First team All Big Ten senior point guard Demetri McCamey, senior power forward Mike Davis, senior center Mike Tisdale and senior forward Bill Cole have loads of experience, but they have yet to exhibit consistent toughness, intensity, competitiveness and determination to win. That amounts to a lack of leadership. And it shows in the results, as the Illini are quickly spiraling their way out of being in legitimate NCAA Tournament contention.

This past Saturday, llinois gave undefeated, No. 1 Ohio State all it could handle in the friendly confines (for the Illini--not so friendly for visiting teams) of Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL. But predictably, Ohio State's much-vaunted inside game, led by super freshman Jared Sullinger, wore the Illini down late in the game. And ultimately, the Illini came up short of pulling off an upset win over the No. 1 team in college basketball. That wouldn't have been a problem for Illinois if the Illini had come out of Bloomington, IN, with a "W" last night (as they were supposed to do). Close losses to good teams don't hurt you in the eyes of the Tournament Selection Committee when you've got a good record, you have plenty of impressive wins over good teams, you have a string of road wins, and you win the games that you're supposed to win. But close losses to good teams won't help you get you into the NCAA Tournament when you're bogged down with multiple embarrassing losses to bad teams, when you don't win games on the road (Illinois is currently 1-3 on the road), and when you fall to teams that you're supposed to beat.

Illinois was supposed to be good this year. But once again, they've failed to live up to expectations. And once again, they're in big trouble with regard to their prospects for making it in to the NCAA Tournament.


drunk idiot said...

itz 2pm on friday and im lit like bukowski, son!!!! got mah drinky on when i woke up at noon. blew off all my classes this mornin cuz i was hungova from last nite. got my party on last niiite like i was charlie sheen with a bathtub fulla Jack Daniels, a wheelbarrow of blow and school bus fulla stippers and hookers. wuz spittin game at all tha shawtiez!!! hooked up wit a couple wicked hott chixx, kidd!!! i even got one of their phone #'s!!! woot!!!! LOLZZ!!!! im a pimp, son. im ur pickup artist sensei, kidd!!!! holla!!!! LOL.

hoosier hank said...





HOOSIER DADDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Logan Square illini said...

My Illini crapped their shorts last night. Tisdale always looks like he just pitched a loaf in his pants.
Season's basically over.
Looks like NIT again.
Get rid of Weber.
Hire Jerrance Howard.
We suck.
I need a drink.
Think I'm either gonna get falling down wasted tonight to forget about the season that just went down the drain or I'm gonna get shitfaced and find a slump buster to help my Illini get off the schnide.

wrigleyville illini said...

The Illini are really disappointing. It's almost not worth it to be an Illinois fan anymore. It's nothing but one letdown after another. this year's team was suppose to be the real deal, but since the UIC debacle, its obvious that they haven't improved at all since last year. It's just so frustrating. Both last year and even more so this year, we've had so much promise on paper, but we pissed the bed when it really mattered.

The upperclassmen dont' play with intensity or consistency. The players don't seem to care as much as the fans do. At the end of the day, that's on Bruce Weber and the staff. I know that the coaches aren't happy with how the team plays, and obviously it's not the coaches fault that some players don't have heart. Just look at Weber, he's aged like 15 years since the '05 Final Four. Obviously, he's not happy with what his teams have been doing on the court. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with Weber.

I've been a Bruce Weber supporter for the longest time, but enough is enough. It's time to promote Jerrance Howard to head coach.

Cornholio said...

I am the Great Cornholio! I need T.P. for my bunghole! Are you threatening me? My people have no bungholes! Wee need T.P. Bunghole! Holio! My bunghole has no T.P. Are you threatening me? Titicaca. T.P. I am Cornholio.

cedar falls hawkeye said...

illanoy suxx

cedar falls hawkeye said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sister Therese said...

Dear Readers,

We are having a Strawberry Social at St. Cletus Parish on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m.

600 W. 55th Street
LaGrange, IL 60525

No need to rsvp. Please bring friends. It will be a hoot!

Warmest Regards,

Sister Therese

Dr. Rockso said...

C-c-c-hey sista.......Dr. Rockso c-c-c-appreciates the invita-tion, baby! But Dr. Rockso ain't goin to no church social on Saturday nite, if ya know what I mean. DR. Rockso already got somethin to do on Saturday nite ....... Cocaine!!!

I'm DR. Rockso, the rock n' roll clown. I co cocaaaiiine!!!!

Sister Therese said...

Young Man Dr. Rocks,

Your behavior is atrocious. You mock your elders and show no respect. Now you will pay the price. I will call your mother! She will take your internet away and wash some soap in your mouth.


Sister Therese

Pooh McGee said...

illini poopey stuck with kernels need metamucil for clear path out of tight spot into tournament bowl

Dr. Rockso said...

C-c-c-sista Theresa.....Dr. Rockso ain't livin' at home with his folks. Dr. Rockso is a grown man, c-c-c-I mean grown rock n' roll clown. Dr. Rockso's a balding (underneath the wig and the hat, baby), middle aged rock n' roll clown, baby. Been a rock and roll clown since just after the days when David Lee Roth was singin' Yankee Rose, and Axel Rose and Slash were just findin' their way around the jungLe, baby!

Used to be a rock star in the 80's baby! But after I got kicked out of Zazz Blammymatazz for doin' too much cocaaaiiine, and after my solo career bombed, Dr. Rockso hit the birthday party clown circut, baby. Kids' birthday parties ain't exactly Dr. Rockso's kind of party, if you know what I mean!!! But it keeps the greenbacks comin' in so Dr. Rockso can keep on keepin' on with hookers and (clown) nose candy, baby.

I'm Dr. Rockso, the Rock N' Roll Clown. I do cocaaiiine!

Lionel Richie Forever said...

yo dr. rockso! you rock dude! did u see Slash's performance at the Super Bowl?? kewl schiznatt!

Butler Bob said...

well I be beein back in them serbian club for them jacks session. I be tellin them that they be needin be sendin them kids up to them good school. let me tell yall about them team that be not be beein in them bubble. aint no bubble that be burstin on them. uh huh. uh huh. that be Butler. Butler be consistint in them tournament. Butler be graduatin students that be makin them world better. Butler be cuttin down them nets. there be beein something special in them Butler area. Im gonna dust them ole tux off in them attic and relive them hey day from them square dancin when I be livin it up with my wife. uh huh. uh huh. We Be Cuttin Down Them Nets. Teee Heeeeeeeeeeeeeee. WE BE CUTTIN DOWN THEM NETS!!! *Dancin in them livin room* Then they be playin them One shinin moments and them rightchoos kids from Butler be wearing them crown. Bertha Jenny be busy with givin them Peacon Pie to them Dick Vitale and be out them house and I be smoochin with them Shelley Smith. Teeee Heeee WE BE CUTTIN DOWN THEM NETS!!! *Doin summersaults* WE BEEE CUTTIN DOWN THEM NETS!!!!

Dr. Rockso said...

Lionel Richie. . .

C-c-c-Dr. Rockso wasn't watchin' no Super Bowl last nite, baby!!! The only bowl Dr. Rockso was watchin was the one Dr. Rockso was c-c-c-smokin' cocaine from. Think smokin' a bowl is just for reefer? Then you ain't seen Dr. Rockso get down, baby! Dr. Rockso wasn't c-c-c-screwin' around with no Jamacian bunk reefer last nite, man. C-c-c-Dr. Rockso was usin' a bowl to smoke c-c-cocaiine...Charlie Sheen-style, baby!!!

Dr. Rockso heard about Slash though. C-c-c-Heard it through the grape line, I mean grape vine. So Dr. Rockso jumped on Toki Wartooth's laptop and checked out the video on YouTube this mornin. That was rite before Dr. Rockso started comin' down from last nite. Dr. Rockso was c-c-c-messed up in the worst way after last nite, baby. Like Axl and Slash used to sing, "when you're high you never Ever want to come down, so down,So down, so down, so dooooowwwwwn."

And don't I know it, baby! Why's my nose been bleedin' today??? Must be cuz I fell down!!!

Maaan, Slash rocks, but he looked messed up last nite--even more than usual. Slash looked like he just came down from the "jungle," if you know what I mean baby. Looked like he got brought to his n-n-n-n-knees, knees.

Maan, Dr. Rockso got some c-c-c-craazy first-hand stories about Slash, but Dr. Rockso probly can't say nuthin' about none of it here for legal reasons, baby!! And Duff McKagan still owes Dr. Rockso a bottle of Old Crow! But Dr. Rockso gotta say Axl Rose was lookin good and soundin' good last nite, even though his voice sounded a lot lower than it used to when he sang "Sweet C-C-C-Child of Mine," baby. Maan, Dr. Rockso heard Axl had a lot of work done, but Dr. Rockso ain't never expected Axl to look like that Fergie chick from the c-c-c-green assed chickpeas. That's that chick who c-c-c-had to get her nose rebuilt cause she did so much c-c-c-cocaaiiine that it c-c-collapsed. Same chick that had to get porcelain implants for all her teeth cuz she had a b-b-b-bad case of meth mouth.

C-C-C-Axl Rose and Fergie must have the same c-c-c-cosmetic surgeon, cuz Dr. Rockso can't tell the difference between neither one of 'em no more. All them Hollywood plastic people look the same, man. Dr. Rockso used to be a big deal in Hollywood and in the LA scene back in the c-c-c-day, but Dr. Rockso ain't been in a real rock n' roll band for more than 20 years now. Dr. Rockso got c-c-c-kicked out of Zazz Blammymatazz for doin' too much cocaaaiiine. And the solo c-c-c-career went down the toilet when MTV banned Dr. Rockso's videos for showin' off too much of Dr. Rockso's junk through my c-c-c-clown jumpsuit.

I'm Dr. Rockso, the Rock n' Roll clown. I do cocaaaiiine. Ssshh! Don't tell nobody.

Sister Therese said...

Dear Dr. Rocks,

I will tell somebody. The Police! You are a nincompoop to society and yourself. You ridicule your elders and refuse help when it is offered to you!

Your commentary has nothing to do with basketball. Please leave these poor children alone.

I wonder why these blog organizers tolerate such drivel.


Sister Therese

Dr. Rockso said...

Sister Christian, err Twizted Sister, err Sister Therese......Them poor children don't want Dr. Rockso to leave em alone, baby. Them 14 year old rock groupies won't leave Dr. Rockso alone. They keep hauntin' Dr. Rockso's dreams--makin' Dr. Rockso feel like it's still 1981, and Dr. Rockso's standin' on top of the world, dancin' the night away with a 14 year old pretty woman. And the cradle will rock, baby. Maan, the Zazz Blammymatazz reunion gonna make everything OK again, baby. Dr. Rockso finally gonna Jump back on that stage with Zazz Blammymatazz. Been talkin' bout gettin' this reunion thing goin' for years, but this time it's finally gonna happen. Right now. It's about time.

Mann, Zazz Blammymatazz been needin' Dr. Rockso, baby! Just wasn't the same when Hammy Magar was the lead singer. Ditto for Harry LaMone, baby.

Dr. Rockso said...

Oops! DR. Rockso was so busy hooverin' a fat rail of cocaiiine up his clown nose that he finished his last comment and forgot to tell everybody this:

I'm Dr. Rockso, the rock n' roll clown. I do cocaaaiiiine!

valpo vlade said...

Butler not cut down nets this year. Last year team better. This year Butler over rate. Valpo beat Butler in OT on 29 January. I drive from E. Chicago to Valparaiso to watch game. Valpo fans rush court when Valpo win game. I party like when Partizan win NLB League last year. I drink bottle of Popov to celebrate after game. I drink bottle of Popov before game to, but that nother story for nother time.

wrigleyville illini said...

My Illini finally won a road game last night. Granite, it wasn't pretty, but it was a must win game. and it sure beats racking up another L against Minny. At least a W keeps our tournament hopes alive for now. But that prolly changes when Purdue kicks our ass Sunday. Us Illini fans gotta settle for the small pleasures, so right now I'm still riding high from the win (hungover from last night, actually....... beer before liquor = never been sicker). Since we don't play til sunday, i get to spend friday and saturday night celebrating. That's hella better then preparing for the beat down Purdue Pete is about to give us.

wrigleyville illini said...

Holy carp, my Illini screwed the pooch today!!!! I was drinkin the Kool aid after the Minny win thursday, but after we shat our pants against Purdue today I'm resigned to the fact were headed to NIT this year again. Fire Weber and promote Jerrance to HC!!!!!! If your looking for me, I'll be at Murphy's drinking my sorrows away tonight.