#12 Illini struggle too often in beating bad teams

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The 12th ranked Illinois Fighting Illini have struggled this pre-conference season in blowing out/closing out teams that are supposedly very inferior to them. When you’re a top 15 ranked team, with very solid signature wins over #13 Gonzaga and #18 Butler, you should handle the mid-major and low-major scrubs very easily.

But the Illini don’t do that. They let bad teams hang around. After leading a 5-6 Auburn team by 11 at the United Center, they found themselves up by just one within four minutes to play at the home of the Chicago Bulls. This Auburn team is HORRIBLE. They lost to DePaul, Winthrop at home and Murray St by 20. This never should have been close. But it’s a pattern that’s been continuous all non-conference season.

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Illini seniors D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul lead the way

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The Illinois Fighting Illini suffered their first loss last night to Mizzou, but they’re still 12-1. And nationally ranked. I think any Illinois fan would have taken 12-1 at this point when the season started. This Illini team will go as far as their seniors will take them. And I’m not talking about Tyler Griffey. Four year starter guards D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul are the keys to the Illini maintaining that top ranking and getting a high seed in March. And then doing something with it.

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#10 Illinois Fighting Illini suffer first loss to #17 Missouri

john groce

Before we get to the breakdown of what happened in the Illinois Fighting Illini first loss, (Illinois was one of the last 6 unbeaten teams remaining in the nation) suffered at the hands of the Missouri Tigers 82-73, a few observations and notes on this series and rivalry overall, with updated stats.

-Why is this even called the Braggin’ Rights game? I mean seriously, how many of you Illini people actually have Mizzou people to tell how much they suck? (after Illinois wins of course)

-Why does this arena have a NBA three-point line on the floor? There hasn’t been a NBA team in St. Louis since 1965? (And why were Brandon Paul and company bombing away from that spot so much?

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Illini Brandon Paul wins national player of the week award

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The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected Illinois guard Brandon Paul as its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week for games ending the week of Sunday, Dec. 9. The USBWA’s weekly honor is presented by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and will be handed out each Tuesday through Feb. 19 this season.

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#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 Forward/Blogger Tyler Griffey: Books, Blogs, and Tweets

tyler-griffey

Could Illini power forward Tyler Griffey be the new Mark Titus? You know Titus, the former walk-on for the Ohio State Buckeyes who blogged about his basketball-related experiences at his site ‘Club Trillion’.

Learn more about him here Today, Titus writes for ESPN’s new site, Grantland.com

Unlike Titus, Griffey is a starter, and key contributor for his team. And he has different career goals. But they do share Big Ten Blogsmanship.

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2012 Big Ten/ACC Challenge Preview and Predictions

big ten/acc challenge

The twelve-game Big Ten/ACC Challenge tips off tonight with the top four ranked teams in the nation; Duke, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all in action.  After losing the first ten challenges, the Big Ten looks for their fourth straight win in this battle of power conferences.  To be completely blunt; they should have zero problem doing so as the Big Ten has far more depth than the ACC.

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2012 Maui Invitational Preview and Predictions

maui invitational logo

As much as Feast Week is about stuffing your face with turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes; it’s also about sweet college basketball tournaments like the Maui Invitational.  This field is not as stacked as a year ago when Duke needed a pair of Tyler Thornton “Onions” three pointers to beat Kansas in the title game.  Nevertheless here are my predictions from a field which includes North Carolina, Texas, Marquette, Illinois, and Butler.

Here is the link to the official 2012 Maui Invitational bracket.

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’13 Illini hoops recruiting class gets even better

john groce

The Tim Beckman hire is such a disaster that it requires FEMA aid, but so far the entrance of John Groce may be alright. It looks like this guy can really recruit. Monday afternoon Austin Colbert, a four-star center from Gill St. Bernards in New Jersey, announced his commitment to the Illini. He did it through Twitter; which is of course the new AP.

Get ready “cuz this is the Colbert Report.”

Expect a ton of Stephen Colbert jokes over the next four years.

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Illini offer special opening night tribute to John Groce

john groce

Illinois tips off the 2012-13 season on Friday, hosting Colgate at 7 p.m. at the Assembly Hall. In addition to being the season opener, it also marks the debut for new Fighting Illini head coach John Groce.

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#63 Illinois Fighting Illini: College Basketball 111 in 111

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

After several years of underachieving, Bruce Weber was shown the door as Illinois Fighting Illini head coach and replaced by Ohio’s John Groce.  There is still decent enough talent left on the Illini roster but can Groce right the ship in his first year in Champaign?

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Trail Blazers have interesting draft with Lillard and Leonard

damian lillard weber state

The Portland Trail Blazers made an interesting splash in the 2012 NBA Draft taking a point guard from a mid-major school that few people had heard off, and a project pick at center. They took Damian Lillard at #6 from Weber St. and a guy who played for someone named Weber in Meyers Leonard from the Illini at #11.

This marks the first time since 1990 that Illinois has had a player selected in the first round of both the NFL and NBA Drafts in the same year. Jeff George went to the Indianapolis Colts #1 overall, and current Bulls analyst Kendall Gill went fifth to the Charlotte Hornets. This year Whitney Merciless went #24 to the Houston Texans and A.J. Jenkins went #30 to the San Francisco 49ers.

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