11.29.2007

2007-08 BIG TEN PREVIEW: ILLINOIS

As Fred Durst put it, 'Now, I know you be lovin' this shit right here!' What the hell are we talking about? Not even we know. But in projecting Illinois 5th in the Big Ten, we'd like to point out again just how down this conference is in '07-08. In a good conference like the ACC or Pac-10, Illinois would probably be dead last.

2006-07 Record: 23-12 (9-7)
Projected Finish: 5th
Returning Starters: 3
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Best Player: Brian Randle (11.0 PPG, 52.9 FG%)

3 Reasons for Optimism:

1) The Illini return two of the Big Ten's premier big men (and by that, we mean "very average") in Shaun Pruitt and Brian Randle in a conference lacking size. Randle's about as injury prone as Larry Hughes, but could have a big year if he stays healthy. Illinois also returns Chester Frazier, who is desperately trying to look like Dee Brown, but unfortunately isn't nearly as good.

2) The nightmare of last season is finally over. Their season was ruined from the start after Jamar Smith got busted for a DUI after wrecking his car and leaving teammate Brian Carlwell for dead... literally

(Side note: Talk about awkward! Can't you just picture Jamar showing up at Carlwell's hospital bed:

Jamar: "Dog, I'm so sorry..."
Brian: "You crazy?! I wouldn't be here today if you hadn't gotten help - I've never seen you run so fast, kid!..."
Jamar: "Uh... yeah dog. No problem slug nut."
Brian: "Road dogs for life..." - exchange of fist pounds)

Then Brian Randle went down with plantar fasciitis (isn't that what Barbaro had?). A fresh start could do wonders for this team.

3) They've got Heir Jordan on their team! I mean, how far can the apple far from the tree?! (By the way, we love his bio on fightingillini.com: "Father's basketball accomplishments are far too great to even attempt listing.") Apparently, pretty far. As has been widely reported, Jeffrey isn't on scholarship. And don't be expecting one anytime soon. His stat line through 6 games: 1 PTS, 0-3 FG, 4 TO.

3 Reasons for Pessimism:

1) The Illini are still reeling from the loss of their emotional and spiritual leader, The Chief, who retired during last year's home finale during Michigan. Man, that guy was a douche:



An even bigger douche than the guy running chiefforever.com.

2) B Web scrambled to put together a pretty decent recruiting class this year, but is it too late? The guy inherited Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head from Bill Self, then couldn't even get weasel-like Jon Scheyer to attend Illinois after his brother coached Scheyer in high school. After originally committing to Illinois, losing superfrosh Eric Gordon - we know him simply as "The Doughboy" in these parts - to Indiana might be the nail in the coffin.

3) Their scheduling might really come back to haunt them. Illinois already lost to Duke and a very mediocre Maryland team and still has Arizona and Missouri left on the nonconference slate. If they go 0-4 in these games, making the tournament again will be a reach.

Realety
After going 37-2 and appearing in the national championship game, Illinois has fallen way back to mediocrity. After barely making the Tourney as a #12 seed, Illini fans were none too pleased when they blew a huge lead to Virginia Tech and lost in the first round last year.

After losing Scheyer and Gordon, Weber is definitely on the hot seat this season. If you saw his team play last night, it doesn't look like he's getting off anytime soon. Illinois will be slightly above average in the Big Ten simply because they have experience most other teams are lacking. Brian Randle has shown flashes of being explosive, but are too often interrupted by ridiculous injuries - i.e. breaking his hand while punching a wall.

Sorry Bruce, we love your enthusiasm, but it might be time to hang up the orange jacket.

8 comments:

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