Illini Wonk
Monday, February 20, 2006
  Finding some Orange in the Blue Blood
I picked up a copy of Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops the other day. I know that title is a little provocative to Illinois basketball fans, but it is pretty hard to argue with that statement. Believe me, I don't have a lot of love for either of these teams, both of whom have beaten Illinois in the NCAA tournament recently, but I love college hoops so I gave the book a skim.

There were two stories that caught my attention. The first was Illinois coach Bruce Weber's reaction to Mike Krzyzewski's AMEX commercial, as recounted from a telephone call with Roy Williams. According to author Art Chansky, Weber was "pissed over the AMEX commercials" because he believed it gave Duke an unfair advantage in their regular recruiting battles.

Secondly, on several pages in the first chapter, Chansky had lots to say about the 2005 NCAA Final Four that included Illinois' matchup against UNC in the championship. He mentions the thousands of Illinois fans that showed up for their team's workout in St. Louis and the thousand of Illinois fans who drove ticket prices to $5,000 for a courtside seat. His assessment of the highest rated championship game since 1999 was this: As with most big games between evenly matched teams, it came down to made or missed shots, the bounce of the ball, and luck. Exactly the point Wonk made in a recap of the game. As for Duke, apparently they weren't all that upset with the outcome, because it kept Illinois (37-2) from breaking Duke's record for total wins in a season.

It may not be quite the read for Illini fans that Tales from the 2004-05 Fighting Illini is, but Blue Blood: Duke-Carolina: Inside the Most Storied Rivalry in College Hoops has a lot about college hoops, including some interesting bits on Illinois.
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