Illini Nights at Minor League Baseball Coming Up

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University of Illinois head football coach Ron Zook and head basketball coach Bruce Weber will visit with Fighting Illini fans in Chicagoland twice during the month of June for Illini Nights at Minor League Baseball. They will attend the Kane County Cougars game on June 8 at 6:30 pm as well as the Schaumburg Flyers game on June 22 at 7 pm.

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Kendall Gill to sing Wrigley Field 7th inning stretch

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By Paul M. Banks 

It’s the time of year again- Illini Day at Wrigley, which typically  draws more than 1,000 Illini fans to the Friendly Confines. The even often sells out within a nanosecond of tickets being released. This year, the event has a special guest.

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#20 Illini Fighting on in Las Vegas Invitational

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By Paul M. Banks

It’s Feast Week! When there’s non-stop college basketball, so many games start at bizarre times. And not just because games are going on in obscure parts of the world in far away time zones. In order to accommodate the television coverage, some games start at…like this one starts at 8:30 pm. #20 Illinois vs. the Wofford Terriers in the second round of the Las Vegas Invitational. Hence the late start time, so ESPNU could televise this game. weber

Wofford is no push over, they won at Georgia, and lost by one possession to Pittsburgh.

Of course, I’m not sure Pitt is that good, and Georgia might just get kicked out of the SEC they are so bad so…..

The Illini will also get a late tip off in the 3rd round taking on Utah at 9:30 PM Friday. In game 4 on Saturday, Illinois will meet either Bradley or Oklahoma St. Here’s hoping it’s OSU only because I’M A MAN!!! I’M 40!. Ok I’m 32, but you get the idea. BTW, Illinois beat Presbyterian 94-48 in the opening round of this game.

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Brando Paul comes in leading the Illini in scoring at 16.7 PPG, Mike Davis is second at 12 ppg, D.J. Richardson is 3rd at 11.3. So the Illini are getting a lot of scoring from their freshmen wings.  Tip off has begun. McCamey takes and misses the first shot.

Wofford comes out shooting 8-2, WU 17:30 left

DJ Richardson drains a 3, following a Mike Tisdale skyhook. 1st tv timeout ILL trail 10-9

Do they really need the screaming sound effect here? when they play the Indian war hymn. I get it it’s the “House of ‘Paign” in Champaign. but we don’t need the sadist sound effect.

Wofford is just owning the 3 pt line right now. They’re going to have to miss sometime. Weber is screaming at Demetri to move and at the whole team to “look inside”

BTW, McCamey just missed badly.

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Tell me again why this team is ranked #20? when they’re down 8 to a mid-major 12 min in?

In the words of Zhane, “hey mr. DJ, all night…on and on and on”….he hit a three to cut the deficit to 3, but then what would you expect? Terriers hit a 3 again. Somebody guard that Cameron Rundles guy, and Junior Salters…and someone stop leaving Noah Dahlman alone too.

I know that Billy Cole and Bubba Chisholm are in fact white. I can see that with my own eyes, but I still don’t believe them. With names like that, I still think they are lying to me about being white.

For you that are new to TSB, you stopped by on a very historical day!!! Earlier in the day we shattered the monthly page views record!!! with 6 days left in the month. And we just broke the daily page views record….right about..NOW! with 3 hours left in the day nonetheless. THANK YOU TSB READERS! And NFL Mock Draft, and Jimmy Clausen as well. Couldn’t have done it without you.

Hey Mr. DJ all nihiiiight.. on and on and on. Richardson hits a big 3 to put Illinois up for the first time in game 33-32 with a 1:54 left in half.

Maybe DJ will go to the NBA some day, maybe I’ll win a Webby someday? It’s the holiday season, and it’s feast week, so anything can happen, right?

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Yes, I think that is Mary Tyler Moore.

Demtri’s defense is actually better this year. no, really I mean it.  Still no excuse that they got out-rebounded so badly in the 1st half, from such a smaller team. NO EXCUSE Illini up 49-42 16:19 left in game. Lisa Salters is indeed tearing up Illinois.

49-47 Illinois, 15:50 left.

rebounding deficit is 29-15 now…ouch! neother team handling the ball very well. game tied at 50. 14 min left

THAT MOVE BY MCCAMEY, BEHIND THE BACK, REVERSE LAY-IN WAS SICK!!!

Wait., I’ll give it an even more favorable adjective; D WILLESQUE! 58-50 Illinois 10 min left

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DJ for 3 again. 70-57, 4:30 left Illini starting to pull away now. I don’t think they’ll win this game by 20, but they might finish winning by 15.

No matter what the box score ends up saying, Illini had a much harder fought victory than it seems. This team hung around a lot longer than anyone thought they would. And Illini are shooting 57%, if they had an off shooting night, this would have been trouble.

I’ll see you guys later after the presser. with quotes and final thoughts.

Illini Ink Top 10 Recruiting Class

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By Paul M. Banks

In case you missed it, today was “National Signing Day” for basketball. I totally understand if it’s not on our your radar, because it’s the day that we “officially” learn what we’ve already known for months, and sometimes years. We pretty much know where all the top recruits are going, but this is the day it becomes a contract. It just puts the notoriously gray area that is the world of recruiting into black and white, with some concrete headlines. And with the University of Illinois’ incoming class, those headlines are very happy ones.

Today’s group, the class of 2014 officially silences the critics who said Bruce Weber can’t recruit. It further validates the exceptional contributions that Assistant Jerrance Howard brings to the recruiting table. It’s matter of redemption from the whole Eric “Basketball Judas” Gordon saga. Without further ado, I turns things over to SID Derrick Burson and company, here’s the official press release.Illinois
Richmond, Head and Leonard Officially Join Fighting Illini

Champaign, Ill.-Illinois head coach Bruce Weber announced today the signing of three student-athletes to national letters of intent in Jereme Richmond, Crandall Head and Meyers Leonard. The Recruiting Services Consensus Index lists all three players in the Top 75, giving the Fighting Illini the No. 4 class in the nation by ESPNU, No. 6 nationally by Scout.com and No. 10 nationally by Rivals.com.

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Jereme, Crandall and Meyers to the Fighting Illini family,” Weber said. “They are three outstanding young men who have been committed to us for a long time. They are all tremendously talented players, extremely athletic, with the ability to play a mixture of positions. We are pleased to bring in three in-state products who are the top three seniors in the state of Illinois.”

Richmond, a 6-8 wing from Waukegan, Ill., famously made a verbal commitment to the Illini program three years ago before ever playing a high school game. He is a consensus top-25 recruit who was named Chicago Sun-Times and Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette Player of the Year last season after leading Waukegan to a record of 26-5 and runner-up finish at the IHSA Class 4A State Tournament. Richmond averaged 20.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 blocks as a junior, and kept Waukegan on its path to Peoria by hitting a half court shot at the buzzer in a sectional final victory over Warren Township High School and future UI teammate, Brandon Paul. Richmond’s coach at Waukegan is Ron Ashlaw. He is a member of the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program, coached by Mike Irvin.

Head, a 6-4 guard from Matteson, Ill., attends Rich South High School, coached by Scot Ritter. He is the younger brother of former Illini All-American guard Luther Head, currently a member of the Indiana Pacers. Head is a consensus top-75 recruit who earned first-team All-State honors for Class 3A by the Associated Press after averaging 21 points, seven rebounds and four steals last season at Chicago Crane High School, under the direction of coach Tim Anderson. Head recently underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and is sidelined indefinitely. Head also is a member of the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program.

Leonard is a 7-0 center at Robinson High School. He is a consensus top-50 recruit who averaged 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks as a junior. Leonard won the IHSA Class 2A dunk contest and was an All-Apollo Conference selection, leading Robinson to a 21-8 record, conference title and IHSA Class 2A sectional appearance. His coach at Robinson is Bob Coffman. Like Richmond and Head, Leonard also is a member of the Mac Irvin Fire AAU program.
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JEREME RICHMOND
Wing
6-8, 195
Hometown: Waukegan, Ill.
High School/Coach: Waukegan/Ron Ashlaw
AAU Program/Coach: Mac Irvin Fire/Mike Irvin
Rising Stars/Brian Davis

Notes: Consensus national top-25 recruit (No. 18 on rscihoops.com) … Averaged 20.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 blocks as a junior … Led Waukegan to state runner-up finish in IHSA Class 4A … Ranked No. 16 nationally by Scout, No. 17 by both ESPNU and Hoopmasters, No. 18 by All Star Report, No. 21 by Prep Stars and No. 36 by Rivals … Chicago Sun-Times and Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette Player of the Year in 2009 … Consensus first-team All-State selection by the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association in 2009.

Weber on Richmond: “Jereme is extremely talented and so versatile that he can play practically any position on the floor. He’s a team-first player who makes everyone around him better and that was evident in the way he led Waukegan all the way to the state title game last year. Jereme has tremendous feel and knowledge for the game, and his best attribute of all might be his passing. He has excellent court vision. We’ve obviously been close to Jereme and the Richmond family for a number of years. We appreciate their loyalty and the commitment they’ve made to our program and university. I know Coach Ashlaw has been impressed with the growth and improvement Jereme has made, and they have big goals for his senior season.”
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CRANDALL HEAD
Guard
6-4, 180
Hometown: Matteson, Ill.
High School/Coach: Rich South/Scot Ritter
AAU Program/Coach: Mac Irvin Fire/Mike Irvin

Notes: Consensus national top-75 recruit (No. 59 on rscihoops.com) … Averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and four steals as a junior … Ranked No. 42 nationally by All Star Report, No. 53 by Hoopmasters, No. 59 by both Scout and Prep Stars and No. 73 by ESPNU … First-team All-State selection by the Associated Press and Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette in 2009 … Second-team All-State by the Chicago Sun-Times … Special mention All-State by the Chicago Tribune … Fourth-team All-State by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.

Weber on Head: “Crandall has been around us since he was in middle school, watching the success of his brother and our program during the Final Four run in 2005. So we’ve had a great relationship with him and his family through the years and are happy that Crandall also will be wearing that No. 4 Illini jersey. He has a lot of physical attributes that are similar to Luther, as he is extremely athletic and versatile with great jumping ability and is able to get to the basket. He has some rehab work ahead of him and needs to take his time and get fully healed. Sitting out will be a challenge because Crandall loves to play. ”

MEYERS LEONARD
Center
7-0, 215
Hometown: Robinson, Ill.
High School/Coach: Robinson/Bob Coffman
AAU Program/Coach: Mac Irvin Fire/Mike Irvin
Team Ramey/Terrell Ramey

Notes: Consensus national top-50 recruit (No. 36 on rscihoops.com) …  Averaged 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks as a junior … Ranked No. 39 nationally by both Rivals and Scout, No. 44 by All Star Report, No. 47 by Hoopmasters, No. 51 by Prep Stars and No. 52 by ESPNU … Special mention All-State by the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association in 2009.

Weber on Leonard: “I rarely have seen athleticism and mobility from a 7-footer like Meyers has. The progress he’s made over the last two years has been impressive. He reminds our staff of James Augustine with that same ability to run the floor as a big man. He began his high school career as a guard but had an incredible growth spurt and then transitioned to center. I’ve known Coach Coffman for a long time. He does a great job and feels that Meyers has the ability to help Robinson contend for a state title this season.”

Meet your Illini Dominique Keller, Alex Legion

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By Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt

Welcome to The Sports Bank.net YouTube Channel! We just launched what will now be our primary home for the first-class interviews we conduct with the biggest names in Midwestern sports. Please subscribe to TSB’s channel by clicking here. We launch our channel with the first of our series of exclusive interviews with some of the #23 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini’s best players.

Meet forward Dominique Keller here

And wing Alex Legion. He was a highly sought after recruit who left both Michigan and Kentucky to come to Champaign-Urbana. Here him discuss the difference between the Big Ten and the SEC.

Exclusive with the Nation’s Best WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn

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The University of Illinois Wide Receiving Corps will be among the best in College Football this year. In this four part series, Paul M. Banks interviews and profiles each of the top four Illini pass catching threats.

Part 4: Arrelious “Rejus” Benn

Talk about saving the best for last- in the final installment of my interview/profiles of the stellar University of Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiving corp, I profile Arrelious ‘Rejus’ Benn. He’s by far the best Illini receiver in a generation. The 6’2”, 214 lb darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate has his share of accolades and hardware including:

•    Maxwell Award Candidate
•    Biletnikoff Award Candidate
•    Preseason Third-Team All-American (Athlon)
•    Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten (Athlon)
•    Named Big Ten’s Fastest Receiver (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 20 player in the nation (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten (The Sporting News)
•    2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
•    2007 Freshman All-American

Almost everyone knows him as Arrelious, but people really close to him call him Rejus. “It’s a nickname that started when I was younger, my father’s nickname was Redus and his real name was Arrelious, so I’m named after him,” Benn said. No word yet if anyone in Rejus’s family is named Kathie Lee (hey hey…thanks I just got in from Champaign-Urbana and boy are my arms tired).

Rejus is from Washington D.C. and prepped at Dunbar, in one of the District’s roughest neighborhoods. He’s come a long way to get here and spoke about the difference between a small town in Central Illinois and the nation’s capital. “It’s been slow, but I like it. D. C. is fast, but it’s always good to get away from the city, and find yourself and just focus on what you need to do…Being in Champaign has really matured me into the person I am and I’ve seen a lot of things from both sides, being in the city and in a place like Champaign.” Despite the distance, his family often makes the trek to see him play. “I always have my mom and younger brothers coming to some games.”dsc026871

Illinois’ schedule will extend much longer this season as bye weeks will be more frequent, and much later, until the regular season concludes with a December 5th home date against Fresno St. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to go out there in the cold and sweat. Get covered with scarves around my arm, I like just going out there and playing the game, and I hope it snows,” Benn said about the Illini’s adjusted schedule, which is an attempt to be much crisper and ready for a bowl game- should they qualify.

Benn has mid 4.4 speed, but still includes speed in his list of what he feels he needs to improve upon; which is pretty much everything: route-running, pass-catching, the whole package as he puts it. So what about his greatest strength? “For me to be able to do all the things I can do, at my size, I’m not your typical receiver,” Rejus answered. And his game has drawn comparisons to one of the best in the business right now. “For me to labeled as the next Anquan Boldin would be a tremendous complement.”dsc02693

And you’ll see Benn this fall on special teams, not just in the offense. “That’s my thing, I like to return kicks. Jarrod Fayson, he’s gonna take care of the punt returns, and I’ll get back there some in case he needs a blow. Mostly though, I’ll be doing kickoffs,”  Rejus said.

Benn currently projects as a top ten, maybe even top 5 NFL Draft pick in 2010, and that stock could rise when you consider how (unlike in all of 2007, and portions of 2008) he no longer has to deal with any nagging injuries. “I think this is the healthiest I’ve been since I’ve been here,” Benn said at Illini Media Day. Obviously, this prompts the question of whether he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft next off-season. When asked about all the people who assume he’s done with college after this year, Benn said

“The media just does their job. All my focus is on September against Missouri. That decision is for later down the road. I think I would be dishonest if I was thinking about something like that which I’m not, because we have unfinished business here.”

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Last year’s 5-7 season, was a devastating disappointment for Benn and the Illini. Following 2007’s 9-4 BCS “Champaign Campaign,” many experts thought Illinois would take the next step forward- or at least remain where they were. “It’s been on our minds since the end of the Northwestern game, it’s been especially on my mind because I was kind of knocked out of that game we missed out on a lot…I wouldn’t say we’re hungry, I’d say we’re starving in terms of going back to a bowl, we had a taste with the Rose Bowl and now we want to know what it feels like to win,” Benn articulated on the program’s big picture before describing the attitude of this year’s squad in training camp “We got a lot of leadership this year, a lot of guys who have stepped up and taken on the role of vocal leaders on the team.”

And the fans are certainly ready for Benn and his teammates to rise. “For Illinois to have not been so good, football wise for a few years, they have a great fan base. Whether we win or lose, our fans are right beside us and I love that.”

ESPN Finally Gives Gameday Love to the Illini

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By Paul M. Banks

For some bizarre reason, the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network ignored the University of Illinois when it came to finding a locale to host their popular “College Gameday” pre-game show. The show has been running for six seasons, and during that period of time, the Fighting Illini were 6th in the nation in total wins! They’ve been a NCAA Tournament regular and they’re tied with Duke for the most number of 25+ win seasons this decade. A 2006 USA Today poll stated that Illinois was the 5th most recognizable college basketball program among 14 year old males, who comprise a huge demographic within ESPN’s pregame show audience. Yet despite all these facts, the Eastern biased conglomerate and empire brand NEVER made a single trip to showcase the Orange Crush at Illinois’ Assembly Hall. That all changed today.

Please read this press release sent straight from Champaign-Urbana this afternoon:
Champaign, Ill.-ESPN College Basketball GameDay driven by State Farm will make its first appearance at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall on Feb. 6, 2010, when the Fighting Illini host Big Ten rival Michigan State.

The popular network show will feature a pair of one-hour telecasts, at 10 a.m. CT and 7 p.m., followed by the 8 p.m. tip-off of the Illini and Spartans in ESPN’s Saturday Primetime Game of the Week.

“We are thrilled to have College GameDay coming to the Assembly Hall,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We have watched the show at various college sites the past few seasons and have been anticipating the opportunity to host it on our campus. There are so many factors that make this a perfect fit. We enjoy a tremendous relationship with both ESPN and State Farm, we have high expectations for the upcoming season, and we are facing an outstanding opponent in Michigan State. I’m sure the Orange Krush and Illini Nation will be out in full force as we showcase our program to a national audience that day, and for what should be an incredible game-time atmosphere that evening.”

The complete ESPN Gameday schedule is as follows:

Jan. 16 – Notre Dame at Connecticut (women’s); Jan. 23 – Duke at Clemson; Jan. 30 – Kansas at Kansas State; Feb. 6 – Michigan State at Illinois; Feb. 13 – Tennessee at Kentucky; Feb. 20 – UCLA at Washington; Feb. 27 – Villanova at Syracuse; March 6 – North Carolina at Duke.

“We obviously feel the choice of Illinois men’s basketball and Assembly Hall, which is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s great home court atmospheres, create a great match with the College GameDay brand,” said Chris Hanna, Illinois Assistant Athletics Director for Sales and Marketing.  “We take great pride in our ongoing relationships with State Farm, the sponsor of College GameDay and a long-time Illinois corporate partner, and ESPN through our Big Ten Conference television agreement. We will approach this event with the intention of establishing a new attendance record for College GameDay in addition to filling Assembly Hall with 16,618 orange-clad fans for the Illinois-Michigan State game.”

Big Ten Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks
Now that Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago are over, and the cases have been made for the strengths and weaknesses of the league’s 11 teams in the “City of Broad Shoulders,” it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. And, of course these rankings are highly subject to change.

Last year’s record (and when applicable, bowl appearance) is in parentheses


1.    Ohio State (10-3, 7-1, Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas)
Once again it’s re-loading not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a whole slew of new talent filling in at key defensive positions, the scarlet and grey will have a new look this fall. Although the Bucks have looked terrible in January bowls lately, they’re still the class of the league, and look for the “sweater vest” to maintain that primary position again this season. Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Terrelle Pryor will be fun to watch.

2.    Penn State (11-2, 7-1, Rose Bowl loss to USC)
Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game” and the 82 year old Joe Paterno and his staff have innovated the “Spread HD” enough to make the Nittany Lions consistently win again in spite of turnover. Offseason defections hurt again, but there’s still plenty left. QB Darryl Clark, RB Evan Royster, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements on the OL, and possibly another CB, the BCS could come calling.

3.    Michigan State (9-4, 6-2, Citrus Bowl loss to Georgia)
It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback (Kirk Cousins or Keith Nichol) but you can tell the new QBs “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” as in WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. With him, as well as an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, this team will be very good.

4.    Northwestern (9-4, 5-3, Alamo Bowl loss to Missouri)
Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade in my opinion. With a QB rushing record already on his resume, he’s more of a dual threat (and less of an interception risk) than C.J. Bacher. Not to mention the heart and soul of this team (the defense) returns mostly in tact from last year’s campaign- when they set a school record for stopping the run. And the easy schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, no Ohio State or Michigan) just screams ten win season.mikekafka

5.    Iowa (9-4, 5-3, Outback Bowl victory over South Carolina)
Wow! Do they have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line. Their hogs up front can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their playmakers on defense (and trying to replace Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified and not a Cubic Zirconia then another 8-4 looks reasonable.

6.    Illinois (5-7, 3-5)
This program has no consistency at all. The orange and blue often falter under high expectations and only seem to thrive when people don’t take them seriously. This fall, projections are mixed/somewhat positive so 7-5 and a third-tier bowl sounds about right. With the combination of QB Isaiah “Juice” Williams and WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn (go to 7-to-9.com), the offense will shine brighter than the diamond in Juice’s right ear. However, the defense was lacking last season, and lost its best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.

7.    Wisconsin (7-6, 3-5, Champs Bowl loss to Florida St.)
Can you feel that seat getting warmer and warmer, Mr. Bielema? Wisco will once again have plenty of talent at the RB and TE positions, but questions abound at QB and all-over-the-place on the defensive side of the ball. They have enough talent to surprise, but another 6-6 level season looks more likely.

8.    Michigan (3-9, 2-6) There is talent on this roster, but there’s also a hot mess at numerous positions; including quarterback which as you know, is quite an important position. They’ll take a step forward this year, but then again how could they really take a step back?gophercheer

9.    Minnesota (7-6, 3-5, Insight Bowl loss to Kansas)
It’s hard to find a team that had a more bipolar season than the Gophers in ’08. They were golden in the first 8 games, but far from a precious metal in November and the postseason. With local boy and baseball star Eric Decker at WR they have one of the best offensive players in the league, and the guy throwing to the Big Ten’s Wes Welker, Adam Weber isn’t half-bad either. But after that, the roster isn’t that overwhelmingly impressive.

10.    Purdue (4-8, 2-6)
Transitions are very tough, but they don’t often last very long. Joe Tiller left a very favorable mark on this program, and there is lots of “Hope” for Danny his successor, just not this year. I’m not sold on QB Joey Elliot, the least signal-caller we’ve seen in West Lafayette in quite some time. Don’t expect anything resembling “basketball on grass” this fall.

11.    Indiana (3-9, 1-7) It looks bleak for the two Big Ten football teams in “the crossroads of America.” But hey, it’s a basketball state anyway. At least the Hoosiers can boast quite possibly the most interesting man in college football. DE Jammie Kirlew, is more than just a stud lineman, he’s spent summers interning for the Obama campaign, producing movies, and learning Italian while studying abroad in Florence. By far, my favorite part of media days was discussing the Renaissance and European culture with him. Seriously.

Cubbies are Consistently Inconsistent

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By Paul Schmidt

Nothing like an easy week or so of baseball to just get you relaxed.

The Cubs have always given their fans something of a workout, pumping them waaaayyyy up, then bringing them waaaayyyy down.  I feel as though, personally, that they may actually make my head explode.

Somehow, in their last 10 games, the Cubs are 6-4.  It seems ridiculous to see this in print, given how I feel about the end of their long home stand against the Dodgers and the beginning of their nine game road trip against the Braves, Reds and Astros.  In fact, I had to look that record up.  I assumed it would be somewhere around 3-7 or 2-8.

My own personal experience certainly shows in that, having been at Wrigley for both of the losses in the Dodgers’ series.  On Thursday night I saw an absolutely lackluster performance from the offense until the ninth inning, which ended with consecutive (awful looking) strikeouts by career minor leaguers Bobby Scales and Jake Fox.  Then on Sunday, on Illini Day, after schmoozing with Bruce Weber, Wayne McClain, and some short blonde guy apparently associated with the University, the Dodgers scored five runs off Cubs starter Sean Marshall before we could get to our seats in the nosebleed section.

4 of the last 6 have now gone to extras for the Cubs, which means if you’re reading this and you have some juice left in your arm, you might actually get a call from Jim Hendry to see if you want to throw in the bullpen this week.  Especially if you’re a lefty.

Another career minor leaguer, Randy Wells, continued to throw well during that stretch, throwing seven innings of two run ball in the Thursday night Dodgers loss, and then throwing almost seven innings of no-hit baseball against

Your 2009 NL Rookie of the Year?  Without winning a single game?

Your 2009 NL Rookie of the Year? Without winning a single game?

the Braves the following Tuesday.  He ended up giving up just one run, and handing the ball over to the bullpen with a 5-1 lead.  And then not factoring into the decision.

In fact, that game will forever be the game that I refer to as, “The game that caused me to consult a cardiac specialist the next day.”  I can’t, on advice of said doctor, go into what happened at the end of regulation innings and then in the bottom of the 12th (the mere mention of that inning makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up), but suffice it to say it involved Aaron Heilman pitching to Larry Jones, also known as Chipper…in extras, with the winning run in scoring position…with first base open…when ol’ Larry has hit 6-of-12 in his career against Heilman, including three doubles and two home runs.

If you can’t figure out what happened in that game, well, then you really mustn’t be a Cubs fan…

At any rate, that was the game that also caused me to realize how remarkably consistent the Cubs have been this season.  Usually this would be a good thing, but then, is anything ever really that good with the Cubs?

The fact is, they’ve been consistently inconsistent. From a game to game basis, I, personally, have no idea what to expect from this team.  I can’t believe that I’m the only one in that respect – I currently think that Lou Piniella throws darts at photos on the wall to determine who is going to play where on a daily basis.  If he’s not, it couldn’t honestly be any worse or yield any more unpredictable results than whatever method he is using.

Here’s the thing though: A Major League Baseball team can’t survive playing the way they are. You have to have consistency in some way, even if it’s just in the lineup that gets thrown out there every day.  In 2007 and 2008, that wasn’t a problem.  Injuries, for the most part, stayed away or were minor, so they could put their best foot forward most days.

The defense was solid on a daily basis.

There was always someone that was hot on offense, a bat that carried the team while others struggled.

Now re-read those previous three paragraphs. Do any of those three things sound like this years’ edition of the Chicago Cubs?

They really don’t.  Injuries are mounting, on offense and on the pitching staff (though it seems like the rotation is finally getting healthy with Rich Harden set to throw this coming weekend). The defense has been shoddy at best (with the Cubs posting a record that is something like 2-5,302 when they commit an error this season), and the offense has disappeared for long stretches of games, with only Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot showing consistent signs of life.

It’s been maddening, and difficult to watch.  And yet, every time I say I’m going to take a break for a few games, I sit down and turn it to WGN or Comcast Sports Net come game time.

The face of a waffler.

The face of a waffler.

I’m as consistently inconsistent with my convictions as the Cubs have been playing baseball this year.

Funnily enough, those might be the only two things you can count on.