Living with the ranking
The overtime win for Illinois has led to concerns about how the Fighting Illini are holding up (most teams get concerned after they lose; this team gets concerned when they win close rather than in a blow-out). In his Friday Decatur Herald & Tribune column
, Mark Tupper said the performance has the Illini wondering when they're first loss will come.
Bruce Weber blames the circus atmosphere surrounding the team and moves to shield Illini from spotlight
by cutting off their availability to the media until after Tuesday's game at Wisconsin. More on that topic here
Perhaps the most disturbing report comes from Tupper's blog
. Most of the others are simply pundits who are giving part of the pack opinion. Tupper on the other hand, is a seasoned observer of the Illini who's opinion can not be ignored. After the Iowa game, Tupper blogged:
I believe being No. 1 in the country was an absolute ball for the Illini players the first three weeks or so. But now, I think it’s beginning to take on a little weight. I think there are some subtle pressures building, not the least of which is the media circus that has beginning to surround this team.
Bruce Weber says the players have mostly made fun of it so far. But I can tell at practice that they may be growing weary of being asked the same questions and of seeing more and more tape recorders and microphones being poked in their faces. On Thursday, the media room in the basement of the Assembly Hall was packed to the gills. It was nuts. And it’s going to get even more nuts as national writers and broadcasters show up to take a peek at this unbeaten, top-ranked team first-hand.
We'll have to watch how the Illini respond next week.
UPDATE: Pat Forde of ESPN.com has more on Illinois fighting to stay on top
UPDATE #2: Mark Tupper has even more on how the Top billing takes its toll on Illini
in another column.