Let's face it, this is a pretty good basketball team that Bruce Weber has assembled this season. Gone are some of the distractions (Jamar Smith), and team unity is once again making it's presence known. Maybe it had something to do with Weber's decision to remove the names from the backs of the jerseys, claiming that you play for the name on the front, and not on the back. Whatever the reason, the Illini are 9-1 and just a shot away from a perfect 10-0 record. Call it "The Shot Not Taken" if you wish, but the Clemson game right now is the only thing standing in their way. And, the news is about to get even better for Weber and the Illini, as Alex Legion becomes eligible for Saturday's game against Detroit Mercy (7:00 pm, Big Ten Network). Legion, who has been idle since last December when he transferred in from Kentucky, will look to give the Illini another weapon shooting the basketball. But don't go expecting miracles immediately for Legion. He has had quite a journey since his high school days in Michigan. He attended prestigious Oak Hill Academy his senior season before enrolling at Kentucky, where he only played a handful of games before leaving the program. The departure of Jerrance Howard from Lexington had as much of an impact on Legion leaving as anyone did. Howard, who basically switched positions with Tracy Webster (although it wasn't like that at all), came to Illinois, and Legion soon wanted to follow. Weber had recruited him pretty aggressively, but didn't get him initially. Then, when he wanted to commit to Weber when he left the Wildcats, Weber essentially told him to come check it out before making a decision. So, to make a long story short, you will be seeing #33 entering the lineup (hopefully, if all of the grades and the like get posted) on Saturday night when the Illini seek their 10th win of the season.
Illini women's basketball coach Jolette Law has been enduring an up and down 2008 season so far, with 3 early wins that was followed up by a six game losing streak. The Illini get a taste of the best of the best on Saturday afternoon when they travel down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to face the second ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Then, it is on to the Big Ten portion of the season when the Illini host Purdue on Monday night at the Assembly Hall. Law has maintained her belief that you get to be the best by playing the best, and she relishes this opportunity to go against one of the best teams in the entire country. With only 9 scholarship players this season, depth is obviously an issue, and that could be part of the problem with the early season losses. Still, you should not be losing to teams like Montana and South Dakota State, and that is something that Law hopes to change. Working with the players and changing some things with the game plan may be the driving force for the Illini as they enter Big Ten play.