College Basketball Top 25: Week 3
Due to some technical problems week two of the blogosphere poll rankings didn't happen, but this week's is posted. If you want to compare this to Illini Wonk's pre-season poll, click here.
1. Connecticut 2. Texas 3. Duke 4. Villanova 5. Gonzaga 6. Oklahoma 7. Boston College 8. Iowa 9. Kentucky 10. Memphis 11. Illinois 12. Michigan State 13. Florida 14. Louisville 15. Indiana 16. Arizona 17. Washington 18. UCLA 19. George Washington 20. Wisconsin 21. Maryland 22. Nevada 23. Wake Forest 24. Alabama 25. Ohio State
Just a few general comments: I elevated Connecticut to the top spot due to their two wins over top 10 teams. When Marcus Williams returns to this team on January 3, they are going to be scary good. I kept Texas above Duke because they have played two top-20 teams to Duke's 1. Despite their loss to Connecticut, I was very impressed with Gonzaga so I moved them up. I almost put them ahead of Villanova, but the Wildcats did have two blowout wins. We'll see who's for real in their matchup this week with Oklahoma. Iowa moved up following an impressive win over Kentucky and a near miss against Texas.
I still believe Michigan State is a top-ten team, but their performance in Hawaii left me no choice but to place them outside it. I dropped Illinois one spot due to close wins over Wichita State and Texas Pan-American. Florida has had several impressive wins, so they debut at #13 and so far I've been right about Arizona. Washington moved up, mostly because everyone else fell off, but will have a lot to prove in their first real test against Gonzaga this week. UCLA is going to have to beat somebody to stay in the top 25. The last six are a complete crap-shoot.
posted by Illiniwonk at 11:41 PM |
What can Brown do for you?Despite missing all six three-point attempts and committing almost twice as many turnovers as assists, Dee Brown's performance is drawing praise from ESPN analysts.
After calling the game for ESPN last night, Dick Vitale posted a recap of the game, saying Illinois is a lot better than I thought. He went on to say: Illinois got to the winner's circle because of experience and some clutch free-throw shooting from Mr. Brown, a member of my preseason All-Solid Gold team. Vitale had plenty of positive to say about Brown during the game, comparing him to NBA All-Star Allen Iverson (previous comparisons to Jason Terry have been made on this blog).
Following the game, Brown was interviewed by ESPN GameNight and you can catch the archived audio here.
posted by Illiniwonk at 11:29 AM |
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Illini win in Chapel Hill
The Illinois Fighting Illini made things interesting in the end, but they came away with a 68-64 victory over the North Carolina Tarheels. With 6:39 to play, the Illini held a 64-50 lead, but were outscored 14-4 the rest of the way, just doing enough to hold on for the win.
The 12th-ranked Illini ended North Carolina's 21-game home winning streak and improved to 6-0 on the season. The Illini had four players score in double figures, led by Dee Brown's 14 points. James Augustine posted his third double-double of the season, grabbing 13 rebounds to go with 13 points.
Illinois vs. North CarolinaWith game time rapidly approaching, the hype around the Illinois vs. UNC matchup is increasing. As Mark Tupper revealed on his blog, Nike sent new uniforms for both teams tonight and Illini Wonk tracked down the Illinois top pictured in this post (hat tip to RhodesSchool via Deadspin).
A Rematch in Name OnlyTuesday night, Illinois will meet North Carolina in Chapel Hill as a part of the seventh annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Some have called it a rematch of last year's championship game, but with each team returning only one player who scored in the game, this contest is much more about this year.
Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline.compredicts a win for Illinois and the Big Ten...the latter by a seven games to four margin.
Herb Gould takes an historical look at the series in a piece for the Chicago Sun-Times. With Ohio State beating Virginia Tech in the opening game, the Big Ten is in the driver's seat, needing only to split the rest of the 11 games.
posted by Illiniwonk at 9:47 PM |
Illini get verbal from Top RecruitBruce Weber and the Illinois Fighting Illini mean's basketball team received a verbal commitment today from a top rated recruit in the class of 2007. The Indianapolis Star is reporting that North Central High School Junior Eric Gordon has given a verbal commitment to play basketball at Illinois.
In the class of 2007, Gordon is ranked the #10 overall recruit by Scout.com and #5 by Rivals.com. Both list him as a five-star recruit and have him as the #1 rated shooting guard in the class.
Illini Wonk will have more on this breaking story soon, including how this destroys the myth that "Bruce Weber can't recruit." Here's a quote from Gordon's father in the Indianapolis Star:
"The No. 1 thing is just the coaching staff," the elder Gordon, also named Eric, said of the Illini, coached by Bruce Weber. "They recruited him since he was younger. They've shown so much interest in him."
Add another trophy to the Illini case
The Illinois Fighting Illini add another trophy to the case as they defeat Rutgers 77-57 in the title game of the South Padre Island Invitational. In a contest that was supposed to be a test, the Illini easily handed Rutgers their first loss of the season. The newspaper headlines tell the story:
So which Texas performance reveals this year's Illini? The last second victory over Wichita State or the rout of Rutgers? More importantly, which team will show up for their first nationally-televised game of the season against North Carolina on Tuesday night?
John Brumbaugh analyzes the stat sheet and concludes that the Illini played much better offense than they did against Wichita State. He writes:
The Illini only took 15 three-point shots, and they got the ball inside a lot more as the Illini big men combined for 22 of the Illini’s 51 shots. Another good sign that the Illini were not just a jump shot oriented team against the Scarlet Knights was their 29 free throw attempts were scattered around the lineup, from the big men to the guards. The Illini also took much better control of the basketball, only committing 10 turnovers for the game.
James Augustine continued to play well and was named tournament MVP. Dee Brown and Rich McBride joined Augustine on the all-tournament team.
posted by Illiniwonk at 12:33 PM |
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Illini survive WSU: Face Rutgers in Final
Thanks to the late heroics of Warren Carter, the Illinois Fighting Illini men's basketball team defeated Wichita State 55-54 and advance to face Rutgers in the final of the South Padre Island Invitational. The win gives the #14 ranked Illini their fourth straight win to open the season.
The Illini started the game well and jumped out to a 15-6 lead five minutes from the tip-off. But with 6:26 left in the first half, WSU took the lead and would not relenquish it until a James Augustine jumper with 4:46 left in the game. The Illini again lost the lead and it took a basket from Carter with 1.2 seconds remaining to get the win for the Illini. Stu Durando reports that they play was a whim of Bruce Weber's.
James Augustine led the Illini with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Dee Brown had a miserable stat sheet that included 3-14 from the field, 0-2 from the freethrow line and five turnovers. It is not surprising, then, that Mark Tupper concluded from the game that this team simply can't rely on its guards to carry the load the way last season's Illini team could do.
Illini win first two
In their first weekend of basketball, the Illinois Fighting Illini posted two wins against relatively easy opponents. In their opening game of the season on Friday night, the Illini beat the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 90-65.
In the season preview Illini Wonk stated that this season's success (or lack thereof) will depend more on the play of the two seniors...Dee Brown...and James Augustine. Both had good performances against SDSU, with Brown scoring 19 and Augustine posting 18 points to go with 14 rebounds. Brown didn't shoot particularly well and had too many turnovers, but all-in-all it was a good game from the seniors.
Mark Tupper blogged that Augustine, Rich McBride and Shaun Pruitt stepped up to answer Brown's pre-season challenge. He also liked the play of freshmen guards Chester Frazier and Jamar Smith. WPR made similar comments on this blog.
For a complete statistical recap of the game, be sure to check out John Brumbaugh's Box Score Breakdown. His statistics show some interesting things about this year's Illini basketball team.
In the second game earlier today, the Illini overcame a poor first-half to beat Texas-Pan American 71-59. Brown and Augustine led the way in scoring once again with 20 and 14 points, respectively. Each had seven rebounds. McBride added 11 points and eight assists.
posted by Illiniwonk at 8:57 PM |
Friday, November 18, 2005
Illinois vs. SDSU Online
Tonight is the first game against South Dakota State University and if you're one of the 250 million Americans without ESPNU, the Internet provides the means to follow the game.
Big Ten Wonk posted a magnum opus (almost 5,000 words) for his preseason walk-around on Illinois, calling them one of the two toughest teams in the Big Ten to analyze in advance this season. The Illini gain this distinction from Big Ten Wonk due to the lack of experience enjoyed by many of the players who will receive significant minutes on the court this season. For guidance to the season, he will be watching the percentage of three-point field goals that go down, their offensive rebounding percentage and their opponents points per posession.
So. How will the Illini do this season? In their preview of Illinois' season, Sports Illustrated states the obvious: 37 wins is a longshot. The article goes on to say: Illinois fans have come to expect their team to win 20 games, compete for the Big Ten title and be a threat at NCAA tourney time. That's an expectation Weber can handle, and if Brown and Augustine are healthy, one that seems reasonable.
At CBS SportsLine.com, senior writer Gregg Doyel picks the Illini to finish fourth in the Big Ten Conference. Frank Burlison is a spot lower, picking the Illini as the fifth best team in the conference. Collegehoops.net is even more pessimistic, predicting the Illini to finish 6th in the Conference and ranking them 34th overall. By way of explanation, Joel Welser says that Illinois has far more questions and far less talent than a year ago.
But over at ESPN.com, Ed Graney points out that the Illini won't face the pressure of repeating last year's performance and that might make them dangerous. He sees a Sweet 16 appearance as likely if Brown and Augustine perform to their potential.
I think Ed is more right than wrong. Several pundits have been saying that the Illini will be good if the new people step up and play well. Illini Wonk believes that, although the newcomers will be important, this season's success (or lack thereof) will depend more on the play of the two seniors who grace the cover of this year's Illini media guide. Dee Brown was last season's conference player of the year and James Augustine was the conference tournament MVP. If their numbers and performance improve on last year, the Illini will be a good team. If they don't...they won't.
What are your thoughts? How will the Fighting Illini do this season?
posted by Illiniwonk at 7:46 AM |
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Will we ever tire of hearing about last season?I don't think we will. I mean, before the 2004-2005 Illinois basketball season, I (and I'm not the only one) frequently mentioned the 1989 Flyin' Illini. I suspect we'll be talking about Deron, Dee, Luther, Roger and James for quite a long time.
Maybe that's why I enjoyed Brett Dawson's Tales from the 2004-05 Fighting Illini so much. I just can't get enough. Dawson starts his story in a locker room following the 2004 loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. He goes on to chronicle the 171 day season that saw the Illini spend months ranked #1, win the Big Ten regular season and tournament, tie an NCAA record with 37 wins and play in the championship game.
The book includes all of the on-court-highlights you don't want to forget. The rout of Wake Forest in Champaign...Jack Ingram's three-point barrage at Wisconsin...Dee Brown's one minute mauling of Michigan with three steals converted into seven points...Nick Smith's three-pointer to bury the Hawkeyes in Iowa City...The Shot...Roger Powell Jr.'s follow-up dunk against Louisville in the national semifinal...The Illini's comeback against North Carolina that fell just short.
But Dawson also gives you the peak behind the scenes that only a beat reporter for the Champaign News-Gazette could get...You'll learn...who's the best at NBA Live 2004...How Bruce Weber deals with the media...What an Illinois practice or pregrame or postgame is like...How the Orange Krush got into so many road games...The origins of "We Do this" and the jersey tug.
There's an entire chapter devoted to the "Three Amigos" and just reading about the Arizona game gave me goosebumps again. There were a couple of statistics I felt compelled to mention.
Number of mentions for Illiniboard.com: 2 Number of mentions for Illini Wonk: 0
Illini Wonk doesn't feel too bad, though. The only blog Dawson mentioned was his own. Maybe in the next book he writes?
Anyway Illini fans, if you never tire of hearing about last season (and who doesn't) pick up this book and relive the highlights. Besides, we have an Amazon poll to influence. When I published this post, Dawson's sales rank was #87,871 and Blue Blood : Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops (with a foreword by Dick Vitale) was ranked #2,005. We need to buy a few of Dawson's and even this thing out. You're not going to let the ACC beat us again...are you?
Illinois opponent #1: SDSUWith the exhibition games behind them, the Illini can turn their attention to the regular season and their opening game against South Dakota State University. In preparation of their second season in Division I, the SDSU Jackrabbits earned preseason victories over NAIA Division II Morningside and NCAA Division II Upper Iowa.
Chris Solari of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader has a preview of the SDSU season in today's paper. With only five returning letter winners and ten players who've never been in a D-I basketball game, SDSU will be young. But they will be coming off a game at Kentucky, which may rid some of the fear of playing a big-time program like Illinois.
The Jackrabbits have connections to Champaign, especially Centennial High School. SDSU coach Scott Nagy is a native of Champaign and a Centennial graduate. Nagy was a graduate assistant under Lou Henson for two seasons, including the 1989 season which saw the Flyin' Illini reach the Final Four. His father, Dick, was a longtime assistant at Illinois.
Sophomore Steve Holdren, a projected starter for the Jackrabbits, is a 2004 Centennial graduate. As a senior, he averaged 17.9 points and was the leading rebounder on a Charger's team that went 22-5 and reached the sectional semifinals. The game will be a homecoming for Holdren.
For live radio of the game, turn to WNAX.
posted by Illiniwonk at 7:27 AM |
Monday, November 07, 2005
Jamar exhibits his potential If they learned anything from their 82-60 win over Illinois Wesleyan, it might be that Illinois' latest Peoria recruit can shoot the rock. Smith had 16 points against the Titans and he did it on 6 of 9 shooting...3 of 5 from three-point land. Filling in for an ailing Rich McBride, Smith logged 26 minutes and hit some big shots during a decisive run early in the second half.
In a blog post shortly after the game, Mark Tupper professed excitement over Smith's performance in the first of two exhibition games for the Illini. He added:
I love Smith and have to be careful not to go overboard on a true freshman who lacks physical strength and will probably have trouble defending. But this kid is a wonderful shooter, he seems to have great poise and he's a far better athlete than people understand. Bruce Weber said Smith should have been entered in the team's slam dunk contest at the Illini Madness event. He's a fantastic jumper and he plays very hard. I don't know if he should start, but right now, he deserves starter's minutes.
In his story for the Decatur Herald & Review the next day, Tupper said the thin freshman from Peoria Richwoods is going to be getting a heaping helping of playing time on coach Bruce Weber's Illini basketball team.
According to John Supinie, Smith drew comparisons from his coach to a young Luther Head. Supinie concluded that Smith's shooting ability and athleticism will overcome any questions about his defense.
Lindsey Willhite noted in the Daily Herald that Smith impressed Titan coach Scott Trost, who called Smith "a very effective player."
In recent years, the Illinois basketball team has benefited tremendously from the "Peoria Connection," which has seen a string of high school recruits come to the Illini and make meaningful contributions. Could Smith be the latest?
posted by Illiniwonk at 5:15 PM |
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Let the exhibitions begin!
The University of Illinois Men's Basketball Team kicks off the season tonight at 7:00 p.m. with the first of two exhibition games against the Division III Illinois Wesleyan University Titans. Wesleyan is the top rated team in NCAA Division III and is located only 53 miles from Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ill. WJBC Radio will be streaming the game here.
Brett Dawson says on his blog that he is looking forward to the game. In For all you exhibitionists... he guesses that Pruitt will be a starter and and is interested to see how the freshmen play and interact with Dee Brown. He also wonders if Charles Jackson will redshirt, labeling that the best subplot of the preseason.
On his blog, Mark Tupper predicts that Illinois Wesleyan will be a much better test than some of the club or AAU teams we had before the ruling changed last year. In his story for the Decatur Herald & Review, Tupper writes that the matchup is No. 1 in Division III against the team that was No. 1 in Division I for 15 consecutive weeks last season.
John Supinie gives some background on the Titans in a column for the PJStar. They return all five starters from last year, including senior guard Adam Dauksas, who averaged 15.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists to earn CCIW Player of the Year last season.
posted by Illiniwonk at 11:39 AM |
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