Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.

Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.
The rebuild of the Illinois football program continues as they drop a tough 34-31 loss in overtime to Purdue.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Busted Brackets, Bucknell Bill, and Baseball?

Over the past couple of weeks, the NCAA Men's basketball tournament has taken on a different feel with no Illini involved. To go one step further, there was no single team from the Land of Lincoln in this year's tourney, which certainly limited the rooting interests of local fans. By now, I'm sure most of your brackets are trashed, as are mine, due to upstarts such as Davidson and Western Kentucky advancing much further than anyone anticipated. But, as we near the Final Four weekend, I do have a few observations about the 2008 tourney. (I have to do something, since the Illini didn't even qualify for the inaugural CBI tourney!). The first observation is that there were plenty of teams that Illini fans were hoping would lose, and lose early. Indiana, Tennessee, Memphis and Kansas are just a few that come to mind. The Hoosiers took care of that fairly early, as the train wreck in Bloomington created by Kelvin "don't call me, but I'll sure call you" Sampson just kept spiraling downward. Indiana resembled a badly sinking ship against Arkansas, and for Illinois fans anyway, they feel as if justice has been served with the whole Eric Gordon saga. The news gets progessively worse for the Hoosiers, as on Tuesday a story broke about current Hoosiers coach Dan Dakich kicking off two more players. You think to yourself, when will it end? Adding to the busted brackets talk, the showing of the Big Ten in the tournament. Which leads to my next observation; was the Big Ten as bad as everyone else in the country perceived it? Only 4 teams made the dance from the conference, and they all advanced beyond the first round, except for the aforementioned Indiana. Purdue scored 90 points in their first game, which proves that the league was good for one thing, and that was keeping scores low due to tight defense. In the Sweet 16 matchups, the two survivors of the conference, Wisconsin and Michigan State, couldn't hold it together. The Spartans played what could have been their worst half of basketball all season long, and the Badgers ran into the Davidson juggernaut that almost dethroned Kansas. Which leads me into.......

Bucknell Bill! The moniker given to Jayhawks coach Bill Self, for his early exit in the 2005 tourney to the Bison, finally can shed the title of "Best Coach To Never Make It To A Final Four", although it was anything but easy. As a matter of fact, it was downright gut-wrenching for the ex-Illini coach, who had dreams and visions of "having an office on Naismith Drive". Self and another former Illini coach, Lon Kruger, went head-to-head in the tournament, something that hadn't been done in a very long time. Seriously, I'm happy for Bill Self, because this year he had the talent to make the final four, but going up against top-seeded North Carolina will be a tall order. The news that broke on Tuesday about Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton was fired, sending all kinds of speculation about the next coach in Stillwater. Self played there, and is an Oklahoma native. Hmmmmmm.

This blog wouldn't be complete without talking a little bit about Illini baseball. During the fall and winter, the grass surface was taken out at Illinois Field and replaced with an artificial turf, similar to what the football stadium has on it. Weather has played a major factor in getting the Illini on the home field, as they are set to get things underway on Wednesday. Next week, I will preview the baseball and softball teams, and catch everyone up on how the respective teams are doing.

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