Rayvonte Rice talks about Ray Rice (exclusive)


rayvonte-rice

Up until mid January, Rayvonte Rice was the leading scorer in the Big Ten last season. However, the season went downhill for both him and his Illinois Fighting Illini at Northwestern. An adductor strain slowed Rice down for awhile, and the Illini offense had major issues. However, Rayvonte Rice and the Illini finished strong. Had it not been for that loss at NU, and probably the home loss to Purdue that happened next, Illinois could have been a NCAA Tournament team.

So this year, can the Illini be a couple games better to get the big dance? I had an exclusive with Rice at Big Ten Media Day and we discussed that topic, as well as other issues.

[Read more...]

How YOU can get inside the exclusive Illini basketball event


john-groce-1-tracy-abrams-illini-basketball

If ever there was a year where the phrase ” Illini basketball season cannot get here fast enough ” this is it. Illini football tweets are making me lose followers in droves, mostly die hard Illini fans and page view numbers for material relating to Tim Beckman’s program have reached a new low. Well, Illini basketball season is already here. Thankfully!

Media/Photo Day was last week, John Groce has already begun practice and tomorrow is in fact Big Ten Media Day. Now, you may have found my intro paragraph to be a bit self-absorbed and egocentric. Well, this post is actually all about you. Not me, not them, but you. This year, Illinois is holding a Midnight Madness event which is…all about you!

[Read more...]

Brutally honest B1G Basketball rankings; Bo Ryan supreme overlord


bo-ryan-big ten basketball

As Tom Izzo pointed out Wednesday night in Chicago, Bo Ryan and the Badgers are sitting up top, and then you can flip a coin 2-10 in the Big Ten this season. That’s entirely correct. The Badgers are the class of the league. There’s a whole bunch of teams that are in the NCAA Tourney and NIT mix in (2-10) in the second tier. Then there’s a third tier of teams that won’t be going to the post season.

So enjoy it Bo Ryan, you’re in the penthouse.

[Read more...]

Aaron Bailey: told you back in July Illini MUST play him


aaron-bailey

For the Illinois Fighting Illini, the future is now, and Aaron Bailey needs to get on the field to be a part of it.  The year to redshirt Aaron Bailey was last year; not this year. He burnt his shirt for 2014? So what! Don’t complain about that. Illinois needs him to start playing a significant role; and now. Reilly O’Toole is to Big Ten quarterbacking what Christian Ponder is to NFL quarterbacking.

No one should be subjected to the horror of watching them play. On any team they should be thirds string at best.

[Read more...]

Jeff George isn’t Jay Cutler; and Jay Cutler will not be Jeff George


jeff-george

Jeff George had a distinguished college football career with the Illini; transferring to Champaign from Purdue, and that’s something you never see today, transfers within the same conference. It was also fortuitous, as Jeff George signed with 7 different teams during his 13 year career. Like Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler, he’s also from the Hoosier state. George was drafted #1 overall by his hometown Indianapolis Colts in 1990 out of Illinois. Cutler, from Santa Claus, IN, was taken 11th overall by the Denver Broncos.

[Read more...]

Northwestern moves into contention, Illini move toward regime change


college-gameday illini

There was a time, not so long ago, when the Northwestern Wildcats and Illinois Fighting Illini were on equal footing. You could even say that as recently as two weeks ago. However, Saturday gave us clarity now on both programs. NU beat a ranked team and looked solid for the second week in a row. There are now a factor in the Big Ten West division, where they control their own destiny.

[Read more...]

Bill Cubit needs to take over Illini football TODAY


illini-football-cubit

Illinois Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit likely saved the job of Tim Beckman last fall.  The 2013 Illini were not even mediocre. They were pretty bad.

However, they showed substantial improvement over the train wreck of 2012. Cubit was the main reason why, as he took Nathan Scheelhaase, a QB with a college football career in severe decline, and made him the Big Ten’s leading passer. Literally.

As today proved, the 2014 Illini are almost as bad as in 2012. We do not need to elaborate on that any further. You know how atrocious Purdue’s offense is. Yet you saw them shred the Illini to pieces today.

There is no way Tim Beckman keeps his job now. There is no parallel universe in which that decision could come even remotely close to being justified.

[Read more...]

Deron Williams Final 4 clinching “The Shot” makes CSN Top 10


deron williams

There’s no time like the present for Illini fans to live in the past, and when Deron Williams made “the shot” it was arguably the most glorious moment in contemporary Illini athletics history. I’m not even going to bring up all the reasons Illini sports fans should live in the past…..hey Illini basketball media day is just a week away, and maybe John Groce will pleasantly surprise some people this year.

[Read more...]

Illini QB Wes Lunt has NFL potential, but a long ways to go


wes-lunt

On November 22nd, when Penn State visits Illinois, the game could have an intriguing story line. Not just because it will like be Tim Beckman’s final game as head coach (he is 1-19 and counting versus power five conference teams). You could see the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Christian Hackenberg, versus another QB who might be drafted that year.

Or perhaps the third year sophomore Wes Lunt will have to wait until 2017. This season, when you see Lunt play in the 4th quarter, he looks like a first round NFL Draft pick. Then again when you see him throw in the first half, at least this year, he’s looked like someone who will have stay all four years and then hope to maybe catch on as a free agent in the league.

[Read more...]

Illini Coach Tim Beckman’s ten funniest verbal gaffes


tim-beckman-wint

Tim Beckman is somewhere between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin when it comes to public speaking abilities. At his worst, he can be Rick Perry level bad. As I pointed out in my weekly radio spot on 1620 The Zone on Tuesday, Beckman is often a bit lacking in “talky-talk” abilities.

Consider this a “greatest misses” album: ten instances of Tim Beckman saying something goofy, unintelligent, or otherwise unprofessional.

[Read more...]

Illini football approaching DePaul basketball in lack of visibility


illini football

Don’t let the 3-1 record fool you. A win over two mid-majors (one that’s only been in FBS for three years) and a lowly FCS team doesn’t resolve anything. Last year’s Illini football team went 3-1 in the non-conference, in a much more impressive manner than this year, and yet still ended up a train wreck in league play.

Looking at the 2014 Illini football winning percentage of .750 makes one see just the trees; not the forest. You must remember that Tim Beckman has gone 1-19 versus teams from the power five conferences while leading Illinois.

Continuing with old, overused metaphors involving trees and forests, Illini football has become a tree falling in the forest that no one is around to hear. Illinois is quickly falling down to the level of DePaul basketball. Illinois might not be at DPU’s depth in wins and losses yet; but their brand and reputation is quickly reaching similarly dire straits.

Even a 6-6 season with a bowl berth won’t be enough.

[Read more...]

Josh Ferguson could carry the Illini on his back


josh-ferguson

Watching Illini running back Josh Ferguson today reminded me of those old “we secretly switched Folgers Crystals with the leading brand….let’s see if anyone notices” commercials from back in the ’80s. Except the switch would be Josh Ferguson for Marshall Faulk.

That’s how special Ferguson was in the passing game; complementing his running for Illinois. “Now that we’ve made the switch, let’s see what happens during Big Ten play.”

[Read more...]