Illini Wonk
Sunday, February 13, 2005
  The Three Amigos
Once again, all is well in Illini-land. In the game against Wisconsin, the guard trio was outstanding, the bench provided good minutes and the defense stayed strong as the Illini dispatched the final ranked opponent on their regular season schedule. The questions that had been piling up following less-than-stellar performances against less-than-stellar teams all seemed to get answered on Saturday.

Not to say that everything is perfect. Nick Smith apparently copped a little attitude over playing time. Roger Powell continued his mini-slump (although it was at least partially due to foul trouble).

Triple threat

Following the play of the guard trio, Illlini Wonk has two questions: 1) Is there any way these three don't all make first-team all Big Ten? Seriously, if you had to construct a team out of all the conference players, is there anyone else you'd replace them with? 2) How are the voters going to pick a Big Ten player of the year from among these three? Illini Wonk is well aware of Luther Head's impressive stats, but you can't discount Deron Williams' leadership or Dee Brown's heart (and their stats aren't bad, either).

Not surprisingly, guard play is the focus of most of today's media coverage. John Supinie's report in the Peoria Journal-Star is headlined Trio sterling in silver victory. At the top of Lindsey Willhite's reports in the Daily Herald, the headline reads Three guards take control in second half and Heady effort for Illinois. (In a sports-writing trifecta, Willhite also reported on the Illini dodging a bullet with their foul trouble). In the Chicago Sun-Times, it was Head's 26 help Illinois capture 25th from Herb Gould. Guards get offense over hump after half comes from Mike Albright of the Decatur Herald & Tribune. Marlen Garcia of the Chicago Tribune simply said that it was Head's game. In the Rockford Register-Star, Matt Trowbridge focused on their adaptability with Illini guards excel when forced out of their game. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on the long-range heroics that led to a Dee-lightful result for the Illini. Daily Southtown sports-writer Paul Ladewski says that Brown, Illini revel in battering Badgers. Williams' performance in the second half against Wisconsin led Mike Nadel to write: Deron provides Illini their 'rock'.

Pick your poison

In the Pantagraph, Jim Benson says it's time for Big Ten Conference coaches and those around the country to figure out Plan C. He writes: Trying to run (Plan A) with the University of Illinois proved to be a big mistake. Just ask Gonzaga and Wake Forest. Trying to get the Illini in a half-court slugfest (Plan B) hasn't worked, either. Wisconsin, the king of Plan B, found that out Saturday.

Seeing is believing

Rockford CBS affiliate WIFR has clips on their 10 PM Sportscast.

Extended coverage

The Chicago Tribune also carried a column from Joe Gergen on the Illini season. Also in the Decatur Herald & Tribune, Mark Tupper says that while the Illini always find a different way to win in different situations, the one thing they all have in common is intelligence. In his report card, Supinie gives the Illini frontcourt a "C," and he also reports on the four pairs of orange boxers Coach Weber has received since a comment he made on ESPN here. Tim Cronin has more in the Daily Southtown here and here.

Doubters remain

Even from in-state columnists like Mike Imrem, who seems to take pleasure in the fact that he doesn't see Illinois play every day and isn't an expert but doesn't let that stop him from saying that Illinois is not the best team. His argument is one that Illini Wonk is tiring of. The old "Big Ten stinks argument so Illinois can't be that good." The Big Ten may not be great this year, but they've been able to do something that no one else in college basketball has been able to do (not even Wake Forest) and that's keep the Illini within double digits once the final horn sounds. So before pundits continue to lament how playing in the Big Ten will hurt Illinois come post-season, keep in mind that the conference foes have given them better games than Wake, Cinci, Gonzaga and the other non-conference foes the Illini crushed.
Does this guy not recall ANY of Illinois' pre-season trouncings? With the types of numbers and performances Illinois has put up this year, they should have no reason to think that they won't finish the year undefeated. Did this guy happen to note that Wisconsin won its only two games against big-conference opponents (ACC & SEC) other than the Big Ten? The win against Maryland is especially important to note, given that it was a feat Duke was unable to pull off in two attempts this season (and I have no doubt that Duke is one of this moron's reasons for why the ACC is better than the Big Ten). Also, the other win was against top 20 Alabama of the SEC. Perhaps the reason Wisconsin hasn't looked as good lately is because the Big Ten is actually better than most people who don't follow the game very closely think?

My final notes is that this guy even looks like an idiot (see the article)!
I don't think you can say that the Big Ten is one of the strongest conferences in the nation this year, but it's also not an easy conference to play in either.

But I don't see such a disparity in all of these so called 'premeire' conferences.

Only if you want to include Texas, Kansas plays the first of the upper tier conference foes just tonight. UNC has a rough road ahead in Chapel Hill against powerhouses Virginia and Clemson.

The Big Ten may be down but they aren't as far behind as people like to think.
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