Illini Wonk
Sunday, December 11, 2005
  This bandwagon's gettin' bigger
This wasn't supposed to happen. No one, not even the players, expected the Illinois Fighting Illini to be 10-0 at this point in the season. They lost two starters to the first round of the NBA Draft and a third to the CBA. The experts certainly didn't predict it.

Local hoops pundit Brett Dawson, author of a book about last season, posted this on his blog before the games began: I still don’t know what to expect. Neither does anyone, really. I keep telling people that I’ve seen Illinois ranked between 12th and 30th, and that seems about right. Which is to say I don’t know where they belong.

Big Ten Wonk, with his abundance of stats and encyclopedic conference wisdom, previewed the Illinois season had this to say about how they would fare: Wonk doesn't know. Bruce Weber doesn't know. No one knows.

Now they know and following the rout of Oregon, the bandwagon is filling up. On his blog, the day after the game, Mark Tupper wrote: Illinois should now start thinking in terms of improving, staying healthy, clinging to its credo of playing hard and playing relentless defense, and sliding back to the Final Four. He finished the post with: It’s exciting to once again be following a team that seems capable of doing special things.

On the same day, Dawson (who picked Illinois to lose to Oregon) blogged: Get me a seat on that bandwagon. On Sunday, I’ll put my Associated Press vote where my mouth is, moving Illinois firmly into the Top 10 after resisting doing so for two weeks. (Maybe Dawson could follow the lead of Jeff Shelman last year and post his AP vote on his blog?)

Big Ten Wonk? UPDATE: According to Big Ten Wonk, there are both Reasons to start ordering commemorative posters of this year's Illini and Reasons to dwell on last year's Illini--at length. The former being the Illini's excellent defense...the latter their mediocre shooting.

BTW, if you didn't catch the game, FoxSports has three mintues of highlights here.
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