At Illini Madness, Joseph Bertrand Displays Regained Athleticism

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In the grand scheme of things, does Midnight Madness mean anything? Probably not.

It is a marketing ploy to get students excited about the basketball season by allowing the players to show off absurd moves and dunks that likely have no place in a formal Bruce Weber practice.

For example, D.J. Richardson tried to teach Huff Hall how to dougie at Illinois‘ Midnight Madness Friday night.

But Illinois fans did get a pleasant surprise at Midnight Madness in the form of redshirt freshman Joseph Bertrand, who  won the knockout and slam dunk contests. While the contests were mostly a dog and pony show, Bertrand – who sat out all of last year with a torn lateral meniscus – flashed the athleticism that helped him win two IHSA Class 3A slam dunk championships as a junior and senior at Sterling high school.

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Illini Hoops Media Day Notable Quotables (Videos)

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Last season, the Illinois Fighting Illini were one of the most schizophrenic teams in the Big Ten, if not the nation.

They beat Michigan State, a Final Four team in an emotional ESPN College Gameday event, and won at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center, where almost no one beats the Badgers. They also had Ohio State, a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament on the ropes in the conference tournament semis before angering/motivating Evan Turner, the man who swept last year’s national player of the year awards, to extinguish their NCAA hopes in double overtime.

I also watched from press row on my birthday as the Illini lost a “play-in game” of sorts at home to Minnesota, and heard them fumble away early season games to Utah and Bradley on a neutral court.

So this year it’s all about finding consistency and finding a true identity. Especially since expectations are bubbling up in Champaign. They have a loaded senior class in place, a talented sophomore class, and highly nationally ranked incoming freshmen.

If they learn to defend better, it could be a special year.

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Illini Take Down Salukis, Win Game They Should Have

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In the end it was a win that the Illini HAD to have.

Given the events of September 11th, 2010, it was far from a sure thing. [Read more…]

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