Big Ten football power rankings: lipstick on a pig edition

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During Big Ten football Saturdays like this, how do you spin what happened? How do you put lipstick on these pigs? And even though Northwestern out-gained an AWFUL Western Michigan team by just 126 yards, they’ve still earned the second slot.

You can argue that a different Big Ten football team deserves to be there. But my argument is pretty solid for NU. Also, Illinois gave up 615 yards and lost “at home,” and yet they move UP not down this week.

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

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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 hoops get commit from top 15 center Maverick Morgan

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Filling the void left by Meyers Leonard will be tough, but the Illinois Fighting Illini may have an answer…in 2013-14 with the commitment of preps star Maverick Morgan from Ohio. If he does have NBA potential later wouldn’t it be cool if he were drafted by Dallas?

Morgan chose the Illini over the Dayton Flyers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin Badgers and Xavier. He attends Springboro High School in Springboro, Ohio and plays for the Martin Wolverines during the club basketball season.

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Illini big man Meyers Leonard states case at ’12 NBA Draft Combine (video)

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Former Illinois Fighting Illini Center Meyers Leonard greeted the media yesterday at the 2012 NBA Draft combine. Here’s some of what he had to say about the process.

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Illini grab shooting guard transfer Rayvonte Rice from Drake

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Coach John Groce landed his first recruiting victory as coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini today, as Rayvonte Rice is leaving Drake and coming home. The 6-4, 250-pound guard grew up in Champaign, Illinois and was the 2010 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year while playing for Champaign Centennial High School. Hopefully, this will help bring in this year’s Gatorade player of the year Jabari Parker.

Rice’s numbers with Drake: 16.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 1.9 SPG. He was the team’s leading scorer, but also shot just 24 percent from three-point range.

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Illini basketball introduces John Groce: I hope reality is inverse of press conference

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You’ve heard the expression “win the news conference.” Well, for the University of Illinois and the Illini basketball coaching hire of John Groce, that ship sailed weeks ago. Any time you get your sixth (possibly seventh) choice in a men’s basketball coach at a basketball school, your news conference is…well, you just hope there’s no pitchforks and flaming torches.

Most news conferences are exactly like they’re portrayed in the “Batman” movies.

The officials up there telling you they’re saving the city are the ones who are actually destroying it. What you hear aren’t really facts; just lip service, platitudes, tautologies and some plain ol’ lies. Because a news conference is nothing more than a grander, living, breathing, audiovisual version of a press release. And a press release is nothing but a propaganda document. The quotes in it aren’t even real. Those are lies too. Lots of people like to make jokes about lawyers, but the actual profession of lying is truly Public Relations. Or as they call it in PC terms “spin.”

And regarding yesterday’s Assembly Hall press conference that’s a good thing! Not a bad thing. I hope they were lying.

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Top 5 things Illini fans would miss about Bruce Weber

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It’s complete turmoil in Illini basketball nation right now, but don’t feel too bad for them for much longer. Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Doc Sadler had to help wipe away the tears of Bruce Weber following the Illini loss by 23 in Lincoln (the Huskers were up 32, and as decorum dictates wisely took their foot off the gas pedal and it could have been worse). Weber’s fate appears sealed in Champaign, and if the University does dismiss him at the end of the season, he’ll receive a $3.9 million buy-out.

Everyone hates to lose, and to fail, but $4 million dollars can remove a lot of tears quickly. Likewise with Meyers Leonard, who’s crying image was all over the web, if he gets his head right, truly gets his game together, in a year or two, some NBA team will cut him a check that gives him a lot of reasons to smile instead of cry. Brandon Paul wasn’t publicly crying, even though looking at his turnovers stats causes Illini nation to. If he cleans that up, he could probably get his someday too.

So there will be rainbows ahead for some of the Illini. Including Bruce, who will eventually land a fine mid-major college basketball head coaching job if he decides that’s what he wants. While everyone is understandably (and often deservedly) criticizing Weber right now, let’s look at the positive attributes he brought to his eight years in Champaign.

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Embattled Illini avoid first winless February since 1907

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The college basketball season is only five months long, so any time you’re talking about a winless month, it’s not a good sign. And in their seventh and final game of the year’s shortest month, the Illini would not come up short.

They picked up a 65-54 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, avoiding the February donut, which hasn’t happened to the program since 1907.

The Illini also improved their record vs Iowa at home to 61-14 all time; they’ve won 11 in a row at Assembly Hall vs. the Hawks and seven in a row overall against the team from Iowa City.

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Former Illini, NBA Draft bust Jereme Richmond finds “professional” team

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The only McDonald’s All-American to be recruited by Bruce Weber, and the 2010 state of Illinois Mr. Basketball Jereme Richmond has finally found a place to play basketball again, in the Premier League. No, not that Premier League, the world’s finest soccer association in England.

The ex-Illini forward will play for the Sauk Valley Predators in the Premier Basketball League, the team announced last night.

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Illini basketball season follows same depressing path as Illini football season

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

For Illini fans in 2011-12, both were true.

In both revenue producing sports.

On the college football gridiron, Illinois started 6-0, on the strength of some ugly wins: (Northwestern, Western Michigan), and ascended to #16 in the nation. They lost as favorites to Ohio State, then became the first team in FBS history to finish 6-6 after starting 6-0. This utter collapse prompted Athletic Director Mike Thomas to buy out coach Ron Zook’s contract, and the Illini won a bowl game after firing a coach over a team which also fired it’s coach.

Thus far, the Illini basketball season has been pretty much the same entire bi-polar story.

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Illini Coach Bruce Weber clarifies, apologies for defeatist comments last night

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Illinois Coach Bruce Weber sounded like a dead man walking last night in his post game press conference. Following the Illini home loss to Purdue, which effectively killed his team’s NCAA Tournament at-large chances, Weber sounded very defeatist when meeting the media.

He called out some of his own players (Meyers Leonard, for his body language specifically), gushed over some of his opponents’ players, reflected on the last three years, and apologized for some of the things that went on during his regime in Champaign.

Basically, it sounded a lot like a guy who was saying goodbye, and letting it all out on the way to the door.

Today, he issued a statement explaining himself through the University (obtained via ESPN Chicago):

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Just how shaky is Illini coach Bruce Weber’s Job Security?

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The Assembly Hall crowd in Champaign called for Bruce Weber’s head. Illini fans in B Section screamed “pack your bags” and “I can draw up a better offense.” This has gone on for years, except this time there was one major difference- No one in the orange and blue crowd stuck up for Bruce.

And this happened during one of this year’s signature wins, a victory over a top ten Michigan State team. Illini Nation seems to be totally fed up with Weber. He’s about as well liked as point guard Sam Maniscalco, who acts like a black hole in the offense. His field goal and three-point percentages are so low that on those rare occasions he hits a shot, it seems like a miracle has occurred.

Down at courtside on this night you could hear Weber screaming “MOVE MOVE MOVE!” Because there’s just no motion in his motion offense; a system that has produced only a .500 record in conference since the Champaign Campaign national runner-up year of 2005.  And Mansicalco is a big example of what’s wrong with Weber’s decision making: giving more playing time to grindy, hustle players instead of the talented ones.

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