Illini Wonk
Saturday, March 19, 2005
  Wolf Pack vs. Illini in NCAA Tournament
After a first-round NCAA Tournament win over Fairleigh Dickinson, the Illinois Fighting Illini now have the Wolfpack of Nevada to play for a spot in the Sweet 16. Nevada (25-6) earned the date with Illinois by beating the Texas Longhorns and are trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.

The slumping Illini?

The concern is mounting over the performance of Illinois over the past two weeks. Daily Herald sports writer Lindsey Willhite notes that Illinois' vaunted motion offense has gone from perpetual and patient to problematic and impatient. Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes The tournament has started. It's time for the Illini to start playing like it.

Marlen Garcia of the Chicago Tribune says Illinois must find the formula that had kept the team unbeaten until March 6. Also in the Trib, Rick Morrissey thinks he may have the formula for revival and wonders if maybe an angry Brown can ignite the sleepy Illini.

For their part, Illinois has tired of being asked where's the offense? Luther Head says it's it's live or die now. Dee Brown says The Illini aren't worried about style points.

Who's afraid of the big, bad Wolf Pack?

Nevada coach Mark Fox isn't sure what all of the naysayers are talking about and delivered the appropriate "don't piss them off" quote: trying to prepare for Illinois is like trying to learn how to climb up Mount Everest overnight. The Chicago Tribune's Neil Milbert (does the Trib have any reporters left to assign to anything else or are they all covering the Illini?) profiles the Illinois-Nevada matchups and gives the edge to the Illini at every starting position. In the Daily Herald, Addam Rittenberg says the Illini's defensive focus will be WAC Player of the Year Nick Fazekas but Decatur Herald & Tribune sports editor Mike Albright says the Illini better not overlook WAC Freshman of the Year Ramone Sessions.

Illini NCAA Tournament Bites...

...The Illini received a pep talk from 2003 Big Ten player of the year Brian Cook who was in town with the Los Angeles Lakers for a 103-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers...James Augustine's stellar play of late earns him a profile In the Indianapolis Star...Willhite calms Illinois' fears by reporting that no 8 or 9 seed has defeated a 1 seed in an odd-numbered year...In his blog, Mark Tupper looks at the Illinois connection in Nevada's athletic his column, Tupper tells the Illini to have some fun...SportsCenter listed Deron Williams #6 in the Top Ten NBA Prospects playing in the NCAA Tournament...

Game Details

The game starts at 4:40 p.m. and can be followed online with the GameTracker available here. Rumor has it that the Illini will be sporting their orange jerseys today.
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