#13 Illini are for real; win at #10 Gonzaga verifies

john groce

Last year’s Illinois Fighting Illini started 10-0, just like this year’s team. They finished an awful 17-15. But those were the Illini of Bruce Weber, not John Groce. With the 85-74 win at #10 Gonzaga last night, the first year coach has now produced the fastest start for a rookie coach in school history.

11 point underdogs, no one gave the Illini a chance. CBS’ Doug Gottlieb called Illinois overrated and predicted the Illini would get thrashed. And many preseason publications predicted the Illini to finish 9th or 10th in the Big Ten.

They were all wrong.

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Illini Outlast Gophers in Never Ending Big Ten Opener

meyers-leonard-hot-girl

One of my all time favorite The Simpsons quotes:

“Mr. Simpson, this is the biggest case of false advertising since my suit against the film the Never Ending Story” –Lionel Hutz

The legendary lawyer played by the late, great Phil Hartman refers to a 1984 film with a running time of 94 minutes. Illinois escaping 81-72 in 2 OT over the Minnesota Golden Gophers ran about 2 hours, 40 minutes. It was a game in which no one ever seemed to want to take it, until finally, the Illini dominated the final four minutes of the final OT.

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Luther Head’s Brother Crandall Leaves the Illini Program

crandall-head

The Illinois Fighting Illini will have one less guard on the bench tonight when they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Bruce Weber announced Tuesday that sophomore guard Crandall Head, little brother of NBA veteran Luther Head has decided to leave the Illinois college basketball program.

Head was suspended for four games for the very arcane “violation of team rules” at the start of the season. He also ran into some off-the-court trouble last season. Unfortunately, he leaves Champaign being known as just “Luther’s little brother” because he never accomplished anything with the Illini.

Head played in only 26 career games with the Illini over 1.5 season, averaging a miniscule 1.2 points. He appeared in 17 games as a freshman, totaling 23 points, and saw action in nine games this season, tallying nine whole points. He scored a career-high five points last year vs. Northwestern and dished out a career-high six assists vs. Chicago State this year.

And you media types will certainly agree with this statement: he wasn’t exactly a great, interesting interview either.

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Illini Basketball MVP Thus Far: Sam Maniscalco

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Where would the Illlini be without Sam Maniscalco? What would become of their point guard situation if the three time team captain at Bradley, All-Missouri Valley second team pick wasn’t eligible after his transfer this season? Illinois didn’t play very well, but they did make it three straight wins in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and snapped a three-game skid vs. Maryland in the event. It also makes it two in a row versus the Terrapins as Illinois beat them in Madison Square Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer classic.

The illini won 71-62, largely because of Maniscalco who scored a game high 24 on 6-11 shooting, 5-8 from three. But what the stat book doesn’t show is how critical Sma’s buckets really were. One triple gave them their first lead since the opening minute 42-41 down the stretch. Another trey stretched the lead to 7 inside 8 minutes to go giving Illinois their first semblance of breathing room in the game. And when the Terps cut the lead to 5 with under a minute left, Maniscalco drove to the whole and got a huge bucket.

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How’s the Illini Point Guard Situation Coming Along?

tracy-abrams

Heading into this season, the Illinois Fighting Illini had some questions to answer at “the one.” Two games in, they still do.  Demetri McCamey, as inconsistent and polarizing as he was, provided minutes and some sense of stability.

The situation was helped this offseason when Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco became eligible. He provides a steady veteran hand while PG of the future Tracy Abrams gets his feet wet. Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson can bring the ball up in times of need as well.

And looking ahead in recruiting, the Illini recently added Michael Orris.

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Illini Use Final Scholarship on Point Guard Prospect

bruce-weber

Illini head coach Bruce Weber announced today the signing of Michael Orris to a national letter of intent on. It is national signing day, even though everything Big Ten, and college sports in general, is overshadowed by the Penn State scandal.

Illinois basketball used their final remaining scholarship on Orris, a 6-2, 180-pound senior point guard from Crete, Illinois (Crete-Monee High School).

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