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.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Long awaited matchup

I feel it befitting on the eve of one of the most anticipated matchups in recent Illini basketball lore to submit yet another blog entry. This would not be possible had it not been for the Illini getting it together on Friday night and playing the way everyone thought they would play in routing UNLV 73-62 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Illini came out firing on all cylinders, as Mike Davis appeared to give his team some much needed energy in playing like he didn't want it to be his last game as an Illini. Davis had a stat line that was impressive, leading the Illini with 22 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He also added to that line by dishing out 5 assists and getting 1 steal. This all coming in a spirited effort amid some controversy before the game involving a fellow teammate. What would this Illini season be without something going on involving promising freshman Jereme Richmond, who was once again held out of the game by Weber for "conduct detrimental to the team". Apparently Richmond got into a verbal altercation with another teammate after the Michigan loss in the Big Ten Tournament, and this caused Weber to bench him, which in turn started the rumor mill flying once again. Will he transfer? Is he suspended? Will he even play? Weber didn't call it a suspension, because after all, Richmond was dressed and on the bench. Judging by Richmond's actions during the game, it doesn't look like he is one that is considering a transfer. A couple of years ago, Weber had a similar altercation with Dominique Keller, and Keller was seen sulking on the bench. It is widely known that Richmond has an attitude, and can be thought of as a prima-dona, and that appears not to set well with the coaching staff. Richmond's status for Sunday's game against Kansas has not been decided as of yet. Which brings me to the matchup with the Jayhawks.

Illini fans, you are finally going to get your wish of going up against Kansas and former Illini coach Bill $elf, who bolted Champaign back in 2003 because Kansas was his "dream job" and he "dreamed of having an office on Naismith Drive in Lawrence". So much animosity has been derived at $elf over the years since his departure, and you cannot argue that he is a good coach and a good recruiter of talent. He left the cupboard at Illinois well-stocked when he departed, and so far, Weber hasn't been able to do much with the program since that time. Shortly after $elf was gone, Weber held a mock funeral for him, saying that $elf was gone and it was time to move on. Saturday in Tulsa, both coached addressed the issue, and it appears to now be water under the bridge. So now, the Illini get their long awaited matchup against the Jayhawks in the third round of the tourney, and the task is a mighty tough one at hand. First of all, Kansas is a very good team with a lot of weapons. They are a top seed in the tourney for a reason. Secondly, the Illini haven't exactly set the world on fire this year, playing good for 35 minutes of games, but having a hard time closing out teams. But, if the Illini are playing at the top of their game like they did on Friday against UNLV, the possibility of staying with Kansas is real. I'm not saying they can beat the Jayhawks, but we shall finally see how they stack up against them. This could be Weber's chance to get the last laugh against $elf, and possibly quiet some of his harshest critics. They get their chance in prime time on Sunday (7:40 pm, TNT- Direct TV Channel 245). In the NCAA Tournament, you never know what might happen. Stranger things have occurred, and it will be interesting to see how this one goes. Illini Nation will be watching with vigorous interest, as will I.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's up with writing Self's last name with a $ sign? Illini fans need to quit crying. He left a decent program for one of the top 5 in the country. It was widely known that he always had a soft spot for Kansas. It was far from being only about "$". Not fair at all, and really, who can blame the guy? Kansas is where the best of the best want to play. Not Illinois. Facts are facts.