2014 Big Ten Tournament Predictions and Preview


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As we head into the 2014 Big Ten Tournament, every coach’s job is safe. That’s the first time I’ve ever been able to say that during the past five years. I’ve been covering the BTT every year since 2010, and “Championship Week” has meant “Pink Slip Week” as one coach has gotten fired during each tournament in every year since 2011.

On top of job security, the 2014 Big Ten Tournament promises to be wild and unpredictable. They league’s results made no sense all season long, so I’m predicting this conference tourney will be the same. Seeding almost doesn’t matter here.

Match-ups are what matters in the 2014 Big Ten Tournament.

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2014 NCAA Tournament Bracketology (3/10/14)


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Selection Sunday is just six days away.  Here is a projection of the 2014 NCAA Tournament Bracketology.   You will notice on the Bracket Matrix grades that The Sports Bank’s bracketology has been more accurate than ESPN’s Joe Lunardi three of the past four years.  Be sure to check back at The Sports Bank throughout the college basketball season for daily updates this week.

UPDATED: 3/10/14

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Does Malcolm Hill deserve a spot in next year’s Illini starting 5?


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Illini freshmen Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn have been the main reason Illinois has rebounded somewhat from a disastrous season and moved closer towards respectability with a strong finish. Obviously, the Senior Night train wreck versus Michigan kind of dilutes that. However, even when you include the horrific showing versus the Wolverines on Tuesday, the Illini are 4-3 since John Groce decided to start Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill instead of bringing them off the bench.

Just like, ahem, one prominent Chicago sportswriter, cough cough, had been calling for since February 1st. Now that 4-3 mark with Hill and Nunn starting is certainly an improvement over the 2-8 league record Illinois was sporting before Groce made the switch.

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Illini WR Ryan Lankford: great pro day will make him a NFL draft pick


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In 2013 the Illinois Fighting Illini found a go-to receiver in senior Ryan Lankford. He emerged as the team’s primary target, like A.J. Jenkins and Arrelious Benn before him. And just like those Illini wide receivers, he’ll probably get drafted into the NFL.

Lankford wasn’t on anyone’s radar for the draft at all heading into his pro day. He wasn’t even invited to the combine. However, look at what he did at the University of Illinois Pro Day.

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Illini basketball postseason opportunities, straight from the source


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After Illini basketball won Saturday at #17 Michigan State, the first win in East Lansing since 2006, people in Illini Nation metaphorically began singing “Everything is Awesome,” the theme song from “The Lego Movie.” (a tune which ironically has the exact same refrain as Kelly Clarkson’s “Since you been gone.”)

However, nothing changed after the MSU upset, the only and I mean ONLY path to the NCAA Tournament was to run the table at the Big Ten Tournament. After Michigan did to Illini basketball what Godzilla does to Japanese cities Tuesday night, no one is talking about the Big Dance anymore; and rightfully so. Here’s the more realistic landing spots.

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Ron Zook’s daughter stars in annoying, overplayed commercial (VIDEO)


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Ron Zook, who just recently left the banking industry to return to coaching with the Green Bay Packers has a star in the making with his daughter. I know I know, I’m still getting over the shock that the financial markets didn’t utterly collapse upon news of Ron Zook leaving the world of finance in order to return to NFL football.

Anyways, the ad, which you’ve seen a zillion times already if you’ve flipped on your television in 2014, is the most annoying, irritating and overplayed advertisement on television right now.

Which means the soulless and humorless marketers behind it are doing their job.

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States of Illinois and Indiana to be shut out of NCAA Tournament


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Illinois is a state that’s certainly synonymous with the great sport of basketball. Say that you’re from Chicago when traveling abroad, and the first thing people will say is Michael Jordan. Which replaced Al Capone. Before the 1990s, people on planet Earth first associated gangsterdom with the second city. Now it’s the Chicago Bulls.

The state of Indiana is right up there with North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas as places where hoops rules. Yes, even in this great nation where the NFL slaughters everything, roundball comes first these specific states.

Yet this March will be the first instance in my lifetime where both the Land of Lincoln and the Crossroads of America are shut out of the NCAA Tournament. I turn 36 on Thursday. It’s been 42 years since this last occurred.

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Illini back in the running for Jalen Brunson


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It was thought that the Illini were out of fit for Jalen Brunson, a blue chip guard prospect out of Stevenson High School. Now it appears Illinois is back in the derby. They’re right up there with Michigan and Michigan State. John Groce went off the Brunson recruiting trail to land Quentin Snider from Louisville. Well, you know how that ended up on National Signing Day. With Snider pulling an Eric Gordon, Groce and Illini are back in on Jalen Brunson, and the mutual disinterest has now been replaced with mutual interest.

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Kendrick Nunn has secured his place in ’14-’15 Illini starting lineup


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Illini freshman wing Kendrick Nunn was a consensus national top 75 recruit. Kendrick Nunn has ascended since being promoted to the starting lineup. He led the Illini with 19 points in their win at Penn State, ending a horrendous eight game skid. Nunn led Illinois again in scoring last night, again with 19 as he shot the lights out from three. (5-7 3PT FGM-FGA). Illinois continued their dominance over the Gophers. Even in lean years, and this is as lean as it gets, Illinois OWNS Minnesota.

 

Since 1997, Illinois are 28-6 versus the , including 11-4 clip at Williams Arena. They’ve now won 11 out of the last 13 versus ‘Sota.

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Illini impress Nick Rakocevic; one of Illinois’ top players in ’16 class


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Class of 2016 power forward Nick Rakocevic was in attendance for the Illinois Fighting Illini 48-39 loss to #20 Ohio State. Despite the “basketball” on display that night, Rakocevic is very high on the Illini. John Groce is suffering through the worst season Illinois has endured in a generations, but overall the program remains strong. At least in the eyes of this sophomore at St. Joseph in Westchester, IL.

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Shifting Illini basketball focus from 2013-14 to 2014-15


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Can you imagine what covering this Illini basketball team is like for someone who lives in Chicago? Easily the worst season since 1999, and perhaps the worst team since the 70s, during the roughest winter weather wise in a generation. So yes, driving 5.5 hours round trip to cover a last place team that often struggles to even put up 47 points in a game.

Add in all the snow storms and you’re now spending 7 hours in your commute to see that, if the weather permits you to even go to Assembly Hall. That said, I’m done with 2013-14 Illini basketball and now covering 2014-15 Illini basketball. I know you think that’s crazy considering how they still have five regular season games and at least one Big Ten Tournament game remaining. However, I’m not the only journalist doing this.

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’14 Illini basketball equals ’99 ugliness due to same exact reason


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The 1998-99 Illini basketball team was exceedingly brutal to watch. The 2013-14 Illini basketball season is just as unsightly. If not more so. Both teams could defend their tail off. Let’s give them credit for that. Defense was strong in both. But offensively?

Well, watching Illini basketball run their half court offense is so painful that…How painful is it?

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