Big Ten Basketball: 17 worst losses this Pre-Conference season


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“Our effort was not up to standard tonight which i take very personally,” said Northwestern Coach Chris Collins after losing at home by 13 to a middle tier MAC team.

“I can’t explain it. If I had an answer for it I would tell you guys. We got out-everythinged,” he continued.

“We didn’t give them any resistance to start the game.”

Collins and the Wildcats getting dominated at home by Central Michigan is troubling, but it’s just one of many very bad losses that Big Ten basketball has suffered this non-conference season. Let’s break it down.

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Illini in Heart of Dallas Bowl: preview, prediction


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Celebrate Boxing Day with the Heart of Dallas Bowl, pitting the Fighting Illini against Louisiana Tech at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, on Dec. 26 at Noon central on ESPN. It marks Illinois’ first bowl appearance since 2011 and its third in the last five years.  Yes, Tim Beckman is bowling. It still sounds weird to say. For the season, Illinois scored 88 less points than their competition and gained 1,249 fewer yards. So it wasn’t pretty, but they’re here. They got six wins, and it earned them the right to face Louisiana Tech (8-4), which won the Conference USA West Division with a 7-1 conference record.

Here are some things you should watch/know heading into the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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Illini basketball: five major issues in need of repair


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It’s been easy for Illini basketball fans to scapegoat Aaron Cosby. How poorly he’s shot the ball speaks for itself. He was 1-9 tonight, and here are his last 5 games before the loss to Oregon: 1-8, 2-6, 1-10, 0-6, 3-10.

Illini basketball coach John Groce subbed Cosby for Kendrick Nunn in the starting five. However, Cosby, not Nunn, received the bulk of the minutes in crunch time.

Groce explained that as a decision based on defensive capabilities in the post game press conference. It’s not fair to single out Cosby for what’s gone wrong this season. There are plenty of issues all around. We’ll go through all of them, with accompanying presser comments from Groce.

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Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill ARE ’14-15 Illini Basketball


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Tonight at the United Center- The Rayvonte Rice Show. Unfortunately, the supporting cast is a bit lacking.

While tonight was a one a man cast, this Illini basketball season has been pretty much a duet, with Malcolm Hill, the entire time. Rice and Hill are the team’s two leading scorers and rebounders.

It’s not good when two guards (although Hill is often playing the forward position) are your leading rebounders. Also, it’s a not a good thing that Rayvonte Rice and Malcolm Hill are the only players averaging double figure scoring.

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B1G Basketball power rankings: the “we apologize” edition


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There are certain B1G basketball teams that owe an apology right now. Sure, one team nationally ranked in the preseason losing to a low-major that you’ve never heard of is excusable although unexpected. Upsets happen. However, two preseason AP top 25 teams losing to low-majors on two separate occasions? That’s kind of embarrassing. Plus the B1G hasn’t had a whole lot of signature wins to really counter-act those ugly losses.

Hey, at least they won the challenge versus the ACC

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Illini still Chicago’s college hoops team; as Saturday reminds us


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As the Illinois Fighting Illini play at the United Center this Saturday, it provides another opportunity for the team from Champaign-Urbana to renew it’s relationship with Chicago. Although they’re a 2.5 hour drive (without traffic that is) from Chicago, the Illini are the windy city’s hometown team. There is more interest in Illini basketball here than for the five local teams combined.

Whenever the narrative shifts to “how come local teams can’t keep the top tier talent to stay home?” what they really mean is “how come the Illini can’t keep the top tier talent within state borders?”

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Illini record setting WR Mikey Dudek (audio exclusive)


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To say that Mikey Dudek was “under-recruited” would be the biggest understatement of the 2014 Illini football season. The Neuqua Valley (Naperville, IL) standout received just three offers: Illinois, Illinois State and North Dakota. All Dudek did was turn in a team MVP performance for the season. His freshman year included 69 catches for 965 yards and six touchdowns, re-writing the Illini freshman receiving record book and making the all Big Ten second team.

The Illini won 6 games and earned a bowl berth, but they did so with a season yardage margin of -1,249! That tells you just how many rough weeks there were for Illinois this season. But throughout all the really bad losses, Mikey Dudek, or Mike Dudek, as some call him, was a consistent highlight with his solid play each week.

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Reilly O’Toole finally lives up to Reilly O’Toole hype


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This piece on Reilly O’Toole is from Sports Bank contributor Drew Rossi.

When the Gatorade state player of the year commits to his home state’s university, standards get set. Fans expect 300 yard games and wins over rivals. However, these standards are usually expected to be met well before that player’s final regular season game.

The pride of Wheaton-Warrenville South, Reilly O’Toole, finally provided the signature moment Illini fans have been waiting four years for. O’Toole threw for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns to three different receivers and added another 147 yards on the ground, leading Illinois to a 47-33 victory.

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Illini basketball: offensive improvement, but ways to go yet


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Illini basketball entered yesterday as the number one scoring team in all of college basketball (97.1 points per game). They got off a ridiculously fast start and crusied off the first five minutes to finish off a 88-62 drubbing of Indiana State. The Sycamores were arguably the second best team in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. This year, ISU is kind of rebuilding so no one really knows what they are.

By the time Illini basketball tipped off versus Baylor, they had slipped slightly to third nationally at 95.6 ppg. Then they took on a Baylor defense allowing just 33% field goal and 48.4 points per game allowed for the season.

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Has the Tim Beckman hot seat at Illinois now cooled?


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From 2-10 to 4-8 to 6-6. Certainly it is progress for Head Coach Tim Beckman at Illinois. It was definitely an ugly 6-6 (those six losses were by a combined 138 points or 23 points per game), but it’s still bowl eligibility nonetheless.

Maybe when Beckman made that infamous quote a couple weeks ago, the one claiming they would be 8-4 next season….maybe that’s prescient? If that prophecy comes true, then 10-2 and a new year’s day bowl in 2016? College football playoff in 2017? Obviously, I’m joking around here.

As expected, Tim Beckman received two straight-forward questions from the media about his job security following the 47-33 victory at their bitter rival Northwestern.

He received at least two or three more questions that were subtle, but also big picture about his future with the program.

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Illini hoops: 2nd best “NBA factory” in the Big 10


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Illini Hoops is the second best program in the Big Ten and tied for 15th best overall when it comes to producing quality NBA players. The Illini are tied with Oregon and Georgia Tech in that 15th slot. Ohio State is the Big Ten’s best, and 11th overall (tied with Syracuse). UCLA, as we’ve detailed here, is the best overall.

Note: this is similar to another study that ran in the Wall Street Journal, which found Illinois to be the number one school in the nation when it comes to NFL starters per win ratios. That is Illini football was the program most embodying a successful NFL farm system, despite not winning with it all talent.

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Illini vs Northwestern: Foster Farms Bowl play-in game preview


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Said Illini Head Coach Tim Beckman at yesterday’s news conference: “It’s almost like a playoff game, you got to keep winning to keep playing.”

“It kind of comes down to a one game season,” said Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald.

That’s right, 5-6 Illinois at 5-6 Northwestern. This year, the LOL Trophy game isn’t just LMAO or ROTFL, it’s also meaningful. It’s for more than the Land of Lincoln hat. It’s for a bowl berth. Probably a bowl you’ve never heard of. The Foster Farms Bowl is in a great location (the San Francisco 49ers brand new home in Santa Clara). If the winner of this game doesn’t get some “California Love,” then they’re relegated to Detroit. (That’s what the Quick Lane Bowl is called this year)

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