What the Illini madness revealed
I hope you tuned in to watch Illini madness on Friday night or were one of the reported 13,405
who attended the first ever event in Assembly Hall. I watched every minute (except the women's basketball), from the highlights of last season to the final buzzer of the scrimmage.
I'd been meaning to post some thoughts for a few days and then almost decided not too since Mark Tupper had essentially the exact same thoughts I did on his blog here
and especially here
But, I decided to add my two cents, so here are a few random thoughts that came from the event, starting with the players:
- Dee Brown looked great. I mean GREAT and not just on the court where his performance didn't seem the slight bit slowed by the bone in his foot that was broken months ago. He bounced around before the event. He was the first one to greet all the coaches to the floor. He also won the three-point contest, beating Rich McBride by making 10 baskets in 30 seconds to McBride's six in the final shootout. Tupper has a must-read column about Brown and what he's doing for the Illinois basketball program. Enjoy it while it lasts, Illini nation. This guy is one-of-a-kind.
- Brian Randle has serious hops. He won the dunk contest handily (although after hearing about how athletic Calvin Brock is, this blogger wishes he would have been a contestant). Some of his dunks during the scrimmage had him way off the ground. I expect him to have a big section of this season's highlight reel and be a SportsCenter regular.
- Tupper covered this a little in his blog, but after the scrimmage, I was wondering "where was Augie?" As Tupper wrote, Augustine must be hurting more than they've led on because he did nothing during the scrimmage.
- Chester Frazier looks like a gamer. We've been hearing a lot lately about how good he is, but this is the first time I've seen him on the college court. He was not afraid to match up with Dee on either end of the court and (except for one three-pointer that didn't touch anything but the baseline) his shot looked pretty good.
- Jamar Smith has a sweet stroke...and a quick one that he could get off at any time. With his shooting touch, he should benefit from the extra muscle the Illini have added in the front court.
- McBride looked pretty good. Despite losing to Dee in the three-point contest, he hit a couple of shots that looked closer to half-court than the three-point line.
Now a few thoughts on the event itself:
- Drawing more than 13,000 people to the first Illini Madness in Assembly Hall is an impressive feat. I'm sure some of that was due to the good will left over from last season, but let's hope they can keep it going.
- It was nice to see Kenny Battle as the emcee for the dunk contest. He had a few mean ones of his own a few years ago.
- The unveiling of last year's Final Four banner was a pretty good moment.
- With all that said, the event came off a little flat on the Internet. Maybe it was just the medium and it looked great to the people in attendance as the Chicago Trib suggests, but I had Kentucky's Madness session on TV and it was very apparent which program put more time and money into this event. It wasn't like any one part was bad, it's just that I didn't stop watching the event with that feeling you get when you know something's tight. Hopefully this was a good first run at a very professionally run event that will continue to improve until the Illini are on the same level as the rest of the premier programs in the country.
- Was it just online distortion, or were the free t-shirts with "Paint the State Orange" on them actually white?
In case you didn't see the event, you can check out the official photo gallery. Less than a month till the start of the season. I can hardly wait.
UPDATE: Illinois Loyalty posted some great pictures from the madness.