#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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Mizzou bounced early, yet Haith wins Coach of the Year

missouri cheerleaders

To most college basketball fans, and even the Athletic Directors, it’s all about March. How far you go in the NCAA Tournament is everything. Forget the regular season and conference tournaments.

This is quite possibly the greatest example of how these awards are completely regular season oriented, and not postseason.

Missouri’s Frank Haith is the 2011-12 recipient of the Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award, presented annually to the National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

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Illini Show they’re Still “Fighting,” Give #9 Mizzou a True Scare


If you’re an Illini basketball fan, you’ve got to feel much better about this loss 78-74 to #9 12-0 Missouri Tigers team than you do about the last three wins.

I’ll repeat and explain because I know it’s a very odd sounding sentence. You’ve got to feel much better about this Illinois game tonight when they were down double digits to an undefeated, top ten team yet clawed their way back to take the lead, a few times than: needing Brandon Paul to bail them out in the final minutes at home to a mediocre St. Bonaventure team, failing to close out Coppin St. until late in the second half, and barely escaping by 4 points at home to a .500 Ivy League team (Cornell).

I guess we do their identity now: a team that plays up and down to its competition. Which means they’ll fit right in in this wide open Big Ten.

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West Virginia to Replace Missouri in Big 12

The carousel keeps moving in college football conference expansion and relocation. Today it leaked that the West Virginia Mountaineers have been approved to replace Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 conference. The conference board of directors approved the move to take place once the Mizzou move to the SEC is complete.

WVU leaving the Big East obviously leaves an already very weak football conference to become even weaker. The Big East is already reeling from the loss of TCU, Syracuse and UConn. The Mountaineers over the Tigers probably means a push in football, but an upgrade in college basketball.

Here’s more from the AP:

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Mizzou Inevitably Joining SEC? Missouri Official Denies NY Times Report

mizzou cheerleaders

The University of Missouri has publicly stated it’s intentions of joining up with the SEC. And in many ways (adding the St. Louis and Kansas City television markets, developing natural rivalries or “border wars” with the state institutions of Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee) the Missouri Tigers are a good for the SEC.

But are they going to get enough SEC presidents to vote in favor of taking them? They currently seem one vote short.

(Update: The New York Times is reporting Missouri’s decision to officially apply for membership in the Southeastern Conference is “inevitable and imminent.“)

(Further Update: FOX 4 spoke to an university official speaking on behalf of Chancellor Brady Deaton on Monday, and they say that the report isn’t true. According to the official, there is no indication that the Board of Curators will discuss conference realignment, let alone make a decision on the matter.)

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#28 Missouri Tigers: College Football 77 in 77

Question #1 for the Missouri Tigers this college football season is replacing departed QB Blaine Gabbert, a top ten NFL Draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With the possible exception of former White Sox hurler Lance Broadway, Blaine Gabbert may be the most alternative lifestyle sounding name in the history of sports. “Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaine, Gabberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt, cue the “jazz hands.” I would love it if I had a personal shopper and fashion consultant named Blaine Gabbert.

But on to football. Tyler Gabbert, the younger bro had a shot at the new starting signal caller job, but it instead went to sophomore James Franklin.

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Illinois and Missouri Square Off in the Arch Rivalry Game

The Arch Rivalry game really is a misnomer.

The Missouri Tigers have taken down the Illinois Fighting Illini in 16 of the 23 times they have played, and have won all five of the games since the “rivalry” started back up in the early 2000’s.

For whatever reason, since the Illini have dominated the Border War basketball series (winning 20-of-28 matchups), everyone seems willing to ignore it.

All that is really needed for a rivalry is a great game atmosphere, rabid fanbases that don’t care for each other and being located closely together.

Apparently, the quality of the games is not necessarily important. Who knew?

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Big 10 makes formal pitch to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Nebraska and Mizzou

big ten conference

notre dame cheerleader

By Paul M. Banks

A Kansas City radio station reports that the Big Ten has made initial expansion offers to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Nebraska and Missouri, citing multiple unnamed sources close to the situation. This is how we have to get Big Ten expansion news, through “multiple unnamed sources,” since commissioner Jim Delany says absolutely NOTHING about the situation every time he publicly comments on it.

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Deron Williams Exclusive Part I Illini

Paul M. Banks’ exclusive with D. Will

One of the best moments of my life, (at least from a biochemical standpoint) was when Deron Williams hit the game tying three-pointer against Arizona (notice the look on Bill Murray and Ron Zook’s faces when this happened) to cap the unthinkable comeback (Illinois was down by 15 points with just 4 minutes to go) in the 2005 Chicago Regional Final game.

The shot heard round Illination tied the game at 80 in the closing seconds. It was the pinnacle moment of the program’s signature season- the “Champaign Campaign” of 2004-05.

Last night, in the come from behind win at Northwestern, Illinois made up a remarkably similar deficit in about the same amount of time in a Chicago suburban venue…obviously the stakes where not as high this time, but Bruce Weber did make the comparison in the post game press conference at Welsh-Ryan.

Basically, the Utah Jazz point guard is to Illinois graduates what Jason Kidd is to Cal-Berkley alums or what Dwyane Wade is to Marquette people. I’ve made a case that D. Will, the highest NBA lottery pick in school history is the best Illini pro player of the modern era.

I recently had an exclusive with him on the night before Christmas Eve. I was proud to be the first to alert D. Will that Illinois won that night, trouncing #25 Mizzou in the “Braggin Rights” game. He asked “Is it over? Did we win?” and when I told him he just said “awesome.” I asked Deron if he’s able to follow the Illini much this season, “A little bit I know we’re 10-1, I haven’t had a chance to catch any games.”

Earlier this year I covered a game where Illini sophomore point guard Demetri McCamey made a sick dribble-drive move and penetrated to the whole, Cames described it as…“that was just something Deron taught me this summer, to get them on your help and when you feel them try to reach, spin right off. Tisdale did a good job of selling and I came right in for a lay-up.”

I told D-Will about this: “I like Demetri a lot as a player. I think he has a chance to be a great point guard and do some special things there, I’m really excited about the next two classes we have coming in, I think we’ll be back at the top of the Big Ten and hopefully be back in the tournament this year.” I then followed up by asking him if shows any more of the players a thing or two when he can. “I try to, it’s tough for me to get back, especially the past couple summers when I’ve been paying with Team USA, I’m gonna try to go back this summer and visit with them- hopefully work on my degree a little bit and finish up, I’m not too far from that, should be fun.”

And on the final Illini-related topic I asked him about was the late September “Illini: Night of Legends.” Deron responded: “I had my dinner the night in Chicago before for my foundation, and had the scholarship endowed in my name.  A great weekend in general, a great experience and capped it all off with the game.”

Part two of this exclusive interview, discussing Chicago 2016 and more, will run tomorrow