Saturday, October 31, 2009

B-B-B-Bubba and the Bench

Although the Illini looked sloppier than expected in their 95-67 trouncing of Missouri Southern State and seemed to have some trouble with MoSo State's man press and ball defense, this is not even worth addressing since the Illini could hardly take a team seriously who started a six-foot carbon copy of me with messier hair and the name Skyler (I couldn't have come up with a better name for him myself). Due to the general lack of surprise with the starting five, I would rather provide you with my half-baked, under-researched opinion of this year's bench through an irrelevant, self-developed depth chart. 

Depth Chart:

Brandon Paul: While the hype seemed to point to Richardson as most anticipated freshman, Paul came out and, in my opinion, outplayed the Peoria native. Paul showed the smoothness to the basket and ability to finish that I heard of him. I was also impressed with his defense--having heard nothing of his D prior--and was impressed with his composure on the floor. With all the questions concerning Alex Legion, Paul may be needed to step up early on in the season. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Illini Football 2009:  Foot, meet Bullet

Though much has been written about the abhorrent play that has domed Illini fans to another season of wishing college basketball started the same week as the NHL preseason, less has been penned about the consistency of extremely untimely mistakes at early critical junctures in many of this years games.

Bulls in Black and White...and Gray

Here's the good and the bad and everything else from the Bulls 92-85 season opening victory over the Spurs. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preseason Poll Madness

The first Coaches Poll of the 2009-2010 NCAA basketball season was just released and as usual, it serves as further evidence of why we shouldn't have preseason polls.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Illini Basketball Preview: Alex Legion

In my triumphant return to Free Keon, I plan on previewing Illinois basketball one player at a time. Today's lucky participant: Alex Legion. You ask, why Alex Legion, and my answer is...I don't really have one. Maybe it's because rarely has a transfer student created so much hope and then dashed it upon the rocks as quickly as Alex Legion did last year. He spent much of the year jacking up a ridiculous amount of contested, 20 foot jump shots, then following these shots with a Nick Smith look of disgust and bewilderment on his face. However, there are some in Illini Nation that think this is the year Legion is going to bloom (here).

To me, averaging 15 points playing against 5'5" Asian players is not a sign of things to come. Scoring 30 or so points against Bubba Chisolm in the Orange and Blue scrimmage is not a sign of things to come. When your own coach says that because you failed to make a shot in practice that both he and the rest of the members on your team began to feel sorry for you, this is not a good sign. I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that playing against oriental midgets boosted the confidence that Legion failed to have last season. I hope that Legion will come out raining threes and taking names. He needs to because with the depth and talent of Illinois' backcourt, playing time for Legion if he continues his descent into Nick Smith's faces hall of fame, will be limited.

Next: Lost some weight and still looks like Charles Barkley: Demetri McCamey

This Week in Golf

Arguably, three other events being staged throughout the world this week will be larger than the PGA Tour's Viking Challenge in Mississippi. Here is the lineup:

Your 2009-10 Free Keon NBA Preview: Part II

Like most years, there's really only four or five teams that can vie for the title. This year is no different than last year. Lakers and Spurs in the West. Celtics, Cavs and Magic in the East.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wisdom that Never Grows Old

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media

Coach John Wooden has written nine books. You may have even read one, or at the very least you are familiar with his maxims.

A little more than a week before his UCLA Bruins tip off their regular season and less than two weeks after his 99th birthday, here is a look at his newest collection of wisdom, “A Game Plan for Life.”

Your 2009-10 Free Keon NBA Preview: Part I

Let's start with the Bulls.

Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Lindsey Hunter are your 2009-10 Chicago Bulls captains. Only one will be a regular starter, and only two will see the floor. Hunter might as well wear a suit and tie. He's not coming off the bench. (I'm guessing he's more of a player/coach, without the playing aspect of the title.) To the players that voted these three into office, the word “captain” does not mean “leader.” The leader, of course, is Derrick Rose.

Baseball, Apple Pie, and Great Hova

It has been announced that for game one of the World Series Jay-Z and Alicia Keys will be preforming their hit single "Empire State of Mind" at Yankee Stadium.
Is nothing sacred?  What is the point, and why Bud Selig is trying to turn the World Series into the NBA all-star game? I can remember a time when the game itself was enough to entertain people.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top 5 Illini Clutch Shots

In the wake of yet another depressing weekend of football for Illini and Bears fans, it is time to look forward to the basketball season.  The Illini just had their Orange and Blue scrimmage on Sunday, and the first exhibition game is this Friday against Missouri Southern.  To help you get excited, here a list complete with clips of the best clutch shots of recent memory (sorry Tate, no whiz kids).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Big 12 Update: Prediction Fulfilled

My prediction that Bloomington High School would finish the regular season 8-1 came true Friday night with a solid win over Decatur MacArthur. The Raiders roll into the playoffs on an eight game winning streak. Their first victim will be #10 seed Oswego at 7-2 at the always-advantageous Fred Carlton Field. The Big 12 Champion Danville Vikings completed the regular season undefeated with another yet another shutout over Urbana. The Vikings will play against #16 in the upper bracket of class 6A Oak Lawn Community (5-4). Other Big 12 teams in the playoffs are Normal Community at #11 in 6A and Decatur MacArthur at #13 in class 5A. The FreeKeon staff will keep you posted on how our teams fare in the IHSA playoffs.

Mike Miller: Hair Through the Years

I have followed the Mike Miller's career since he was tearin' up for Florida with Teddy Dupay and Donnell Harvey back in 2000 for one of my all-time favorite non-Illini teams. By and large, it has been a disappointingly average career for Miller who was drafted #5 by Orlando after his sophomore year at Florida. His lack of success and fade out of the basketball spotlight has been highlighted by many poor hair choices.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Illinois Football a hit on a sitcom, not in reality

ABC's new, surprisingly funny sitcom Modern Family featured the Illini football program - and the immortal Dustin Ward. The premise of the latest episode featured a barbecue where the Illinois vs Ohio State football game was on TV.

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

The Phillies punched their World Series ticket last night. Will the Yankees do so tonight? Below you will find a look at all three remaining teams as well as a couple Illinois sports stories. For those of you who mutter or shout, “Enough baseball, already,” hoops are just around the corner! Three days until the Orange and Blue Illini scrimmage and five more before the NBA tips off. Thank you, Dr. James Naismith.

And thank you for stopping by Free Keon. If you haven’t already, become a fan!

If the Yanks do meet the Phils, Jimmy Rollins is ready. The NY Post’s Kevin Kernan says Rollins has been waiting for this duel since March.

But not so fast, Lee Corso, I mean The Los Angeles TimesBill Dwyre cuts in.

Meanwhile, in hindsight New York builder Brian Cashman looks pretty smart passing on Johan Santana a couple years ago, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes.

In a follow-up to Nate’s post last Friday, Cedric Benson and the Bears’ relationship continues, even if it’s at a distance. One has to wonder how long this will go on.

Finally, a brief warning brought to you by Chicago White Sox beat reporter Joe Cowley. The charismatic and carefree (the words care and free can be separated depending on whether you see Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen as someone to be beloved or belittled) Guillen will be seen and most definitely heard on World Series broadcasts.

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FREE KEON EXCLUSIVE -- Normal Community: A Delightful mud-pit of Deceit and Debauchery

As my two Free Keon compatriots and I sat in the visiting mass of maroon and white at Normal High School on Friday night we could only marvel at the pure beauty of the site before us. Never before had I seen such muddy conditions; and for my money the more dastardly the weather the more glorious the football experience. The site almost mirrored a gladiator arena that had been filled with mud to make the violent competition that much more difficult and compelling.

Yet, you can image the all-encompassing horror with which I was met when I found that these glorious conditions may have been artificially created, by the home team, for completive advantage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour - The Open will be contested this week at the Grayhawk Golf Club in the Phoenix area. This is a newer event in the Fall Series, but once again, I am impressed by the players it has fielded. Some of the older guys on Tour are showing up at Grayhawk. The victorious President's Cup captain Fred Couples, who recently turned 50 years old, will be competing as will David Duval, Steve Elkington, Mark Calcavecchia, Davis Love III, Justin Leonard, and the inaugural champion, Mike Weir. My pick to win this week will again be South African Tim Clark.

All Twine for "Shooting Stars"

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

A week before the dawn of the ’09-’10 NBA campaign, what better way to stir up fervor than reading about how the reigning MVP, and arguably the most popular athlete on the planet, LeBron James got started?

“Shooting Stars” is co-written by Buzz Bissinger, the same man who penned “Friday Night Lights,” the story of high school’s trials and tribulations seen through the lens of football.

Social Injustice in D-Vegas

I know, it's hard to believe. Could a town so clean and so prosperous on the outside have social and racial injustices that run just below the surface?
I attended the Danville vs. Normal game this past Friday, and it would been easy to sit back and relax and enjoy an excellent football game in the company of good friends, but I could not ignore what I saw in the lack of racial diversity in the Danville cheerleading squad.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big 12 Update: Danville Clinches Conference Title

The Danville Vikings faced one of their toughest challenges of the year on Friday night at Normal Community High School. The Ironmen had defeated Danville six times in the last three seasons, and Normal had only one close loss to Bloomington in 2009. The field was one of the largest mud puddles I have ever seen, and both offenses had trouble advancing the ball at all for the most of the game. Normal gained only 26 yards the entire second half. The Ironmen's only pass completion in that half was for a loss of six yards. Danville, though, played well in the fourth quarter to take an impressive 12-6 victory. Once again, the Vikings defense was solid, and their offense even managed to complete a few passes despite the horrible conditions. The win guarantees Danville at least a share of the Big 12 title, their first since 1996. The Viking faithful surprisingly came to Normal in full force. While sitting in the visitors section, I must admit that I caught a slight case of Danville fever. Their fans were enthusiastic on a cold night as far from their hometown as the Big 12 gets. They even brought their Nordic horn blower and appallingly unrepresentative cheer squad. The excitement in the visitors stands was equal to the excitement expressed by the hosts on homecoming night. I must give a lot of credit to the Danville players and coaching staff for an already successful season. As I have stated before, I expect the Vikings to continue winning deep into the playoffs. Anything short of a semifinal appearance would be disappointing. In an effort to keep the pressure on the Vikings, Bloomington High School continued its winning ways while visiting Decatur Eisenhower. The Raiders held a 55-0 halftime lead with five touchdown plays of 40+ yards. The final score was 62-6. Next week's spotlight game in the conference will be Bloomington-MacArthur. Both teams are very competitive, and it will be played at Fred Carlton Field. If Danville can manage a victory over visiting, winless Urbana, they will win the Big 12 outright. The tentative schedule includes a Royal Donut victory party immediately following the game and a parade on Saturday morning culminating in a celebration at the pavilion in Lincoln Park. Look for FreeKeon staff at the festivities.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Meet Your 2009 NFL Rushing Leader

Yes, it is opposite year in the NFL. Up is down, Farvellous is wearing purple and gold, teams are wearing throwback jerseys that in no way resemble their actual uniforms, the Lions won a game, there are not one, but two starting Hispanic quarterbacks (Romo y Sanchez), the Chiefs have the state of Texas on their throwback helmets in a game against the Cowboys, Tom Brady is bad, and Cedric "I'm on a Boat" Benson is good.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Slammin' Sam on Sports Media Thursday Edition

For Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media’s Thursday post, I take a look at five columns from around the Web. You may have seen them, or maybe not. If you haven’t, take a look:

First, a pair of columns on the NLCS between the Phillies and the Dodgers. The Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford details the divergent paths of managers Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel. You might forget that Torre made three largely uneventful stops before he latched on with the Yankees. Meanwhile, baseball served as a sometimes arduous trek for Manuel until the Phils skipper ascended the summit to claim the ’08 World Series.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin says the crux of Phillies-Dodgers history dates to May 1977, when a number of the principle figures from the current organizations met for a weekend series in LA.

On the other side, Yanks ace CC Sabathia remains unfazed, even as the hot lava of ALCS expectations spews around him. (Bob Klapisch, Bergen Record)

Next, how about a couple college football stories?

You wouldn’t know that USC and Notre Dame are renewing their rivalry this weekend in South Bend, judging by the actions of their star quarterbacks, LA Daily News writer Scott Wolf pens.

There may just be a case against being over-prepared after all. Look at Longhorns QB Colt McCoy, Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News informs.

And finally, because the roots of Free Keon lie in Illinois sports, here’s a peek at the Bulls’ frontcourt, for which Chicago Sun-Times scribe John Jackson offers measured praise.

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Week in Golf

PGA Tour - The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open takes place this week on the regular Tour, and for a Fall Series event immediately following the President's Cup, the field is exceptionally strong. Four of the world's top 30 players have entered, which is unique to see that many in this tournament. The big boys will be playing the TPC at Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nevada for a $750,000 grand prize. Tim Clark of South Africa is in the field, and after his stellar performance in San Francisco last week, he is my favorite to win. Surprisingly, Clark has yet to win on the PGA Tour despite a dozens of solid finishes in his decade or so of playing in the US. My sleeper pick will be awarded to D.A. Points of Pekin, Illinois. Points graduated from the University of Illinois, and he is currently 72nd on the money list. He has made his last three cuts has quietly earned over $1 million so far this year. Also watch for top player such as three-time champion Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, David Toms, Nick Watney, and recent winner Matt Kuchar to entertain the galleries with skillful demonstrations. The Golf Channel will carry all four rounds of the action from Las Vegas.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get Comfortable and "Pull up a Chair"

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

Before we get started, I should offer my apologies to Cardinals fans. I’m sure the wound is still fresh. If the setback to the Dodgers is still too much to bear, you might not be exactly tickled about today’s recommendation. However, one of baseball’s most radiant beams of light is waning, so you would do well to consider the following:

A couple of years ago, my cousin and I enjoyed a wonderful visit with our uncle and aunt in DC. One treat, the cream filling in the middle of a Bavarian donut, if you will, was my uncle’s subscription to the Extra Innings TV package. The Dodgers game ranked first and foremost on our list of viewing options, though not on account of the action on the field. I can’t recall a single at-bat, but what I do remember was the one-of-a-kind delivery of LA broadcaster Vin Scully. His Hall of Fame label seems insufficient to do him justice, but any other descriptor would appear to be trite hyperbole for the subject of “Pull up a Chair” by Curt Smith.

Our new recruit wears glasses - and other reasons to be excited about Illini Basketball

The Illini received a verbal commitment from 6-9 junior Nnana Egwa this past week, adding another recruit to the 2011 class that already contains standout point guard Tracy Abrams. All I have to say is that he had better be wearing the specs when he comes to the U of I. Also, I'm excited to have an Illini player whose name will constantly be butchered by announcers for the first time since Krupalija (unless you count the whole deron, de-Ron thing we went through with D-Will).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big 12 Update: Danville Wins Big

The Danville Vikings won handily at Champaign Central on Friday night, 46-0. I did not see such a lopsided victory over the hard-fighting Marroons, especially on the road. However, the Vikings proved they belong at the top of the Big 12 standings with victories now over Bloomington, Central, and MacArthur. The impressive Viking defense shutout their opponent for the third time this season. Since their two point victory over Bloomington, Danville has allowed only 30 points in six games. Currently, they are ranked #3 in state, and after the last two weeks, I believe the Vikings will go far in the playoffs come November. Their next stiff challenge comes this Friday at Normal Community. The Ironmen's only loss was to Bloomington. The BHS Raiders won over Intercity rival Normal West a couple nights ago by only two points, 16-14. The Raider defense blocked a last minute field goal attempt by the Wildcats to win the game. Bloomington Junior QB Tyler Dicken struggled mightily. He only completed six passes, and he had two interceptions. In a week that could have shaken up the top of the Big 12 standings, Danville proved their strength, and Bloomington mucked through a game that they should have controlled. Bloomington travels to Decatur to play Eisenhower next week.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On A-Rod and poor decisions

The 2009 MLB playoffs have lived up to the entertainment hype so far this season. We have had close games, bad calls by umpires and Chip Carey, Ryan Franklin and Matt Holiday(who looks like Brenden Ryan's older, roided-up brother) combining to blow a game and put the Cardinals in a 0-2 hole, endless TBS promotions for the George (the Mexican Jay Leno) Lopez show, and A-Rod coming through in the clutch (Go ahead, kiss the mirror, you know want to). All of that and we haven't even been able to see the Brad Lidge circus blow a game for Philly yet. It's getting exciting.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Pitch for “Sixty Feet, Six Inches”

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

That most wonderful time of year is upon us again. Yes, Major League Baseball playoff fever - the nights when the grass, illuminated by stadium lighting, looks just a little greener, the stripes down the first and third baselines glow just a wee bit whiter, and somehow the temperature both chills and burns while everything seems to hang in the balance (that is if your team is still in the thick of it) - is back.

If visions of baseballs and golden trophies skip through your head again and again while you are away from the TV, why not crack open a book that is packed with baseball brilliance?

The other night on The Charlie Rose Show, Hall of Fame Cardinals hurler Bob Gibson recalled how his collaborative book with Yankees legend Reggie Jackson came together.

Doubleday, the book’s publisher, told Gibson it wanted to do a book by a pitcher and a hitter. After dismissing several possibilities, Gibson tossed out Jackson for consideration.

Skeptical, the publishers dared Gibson to do his best. His response sounded much like his persona on the mound. “Try me.” Jackson immediately agreed.

With playoffs in the air, who better to lend an ear to than to two of the fall’s most revered figures, as the pair divulges perspective gained from seven World Series trophies between them?

Read “Sixty Feet, Six Inches” because:

1. Bob Gibson clears the air

From his playing days until recently, many knew (or so they thought they knew) Gibson to be taut and brusque like his tight fastballs. Oh, how misunderstood, Gibson said on the show. “The last thing I was trying to do was intimidate people. I look like I look.”

Years later, Gibson has no idea where the misconception came from. Who knows what he could have done if he had known that arrow of intimidation lurked in his quiver along with his other arsenal.

“Sixty Feet, Six Inches” is a colorful discussion between two of baseball’s greats, arranged topically with room for introspection.

2. Discover what motivates two of the greats

“We weren’t like the Yankees,” Gibson said. “There was plenty of tradition in the Cardinal organization – but that wasn’t what we played for. We played for us. (Sixty, 132).

“A lot of people have speculated that my spat with (Manager Billy Martin) was what motivated me in (the 1977 World Series in which he hit five home runs),” Jackson said. “But to get amped for a World Series, I didn’t need coffee, bennies, amphetamines, or disrespect from Billy Martin…” Jackson lived for the moment. (Sixty, 130)

3. Go on the inside to unearth some of the duo’s tricks, including the scouting

Gibson says that scouts were so blown away by his masterful fastball that they forgot he threw anything else. Enter the slider. “…In the World Series, the batters didn’t know me nearly as well as they thought they did by reading my friend, the scouting report.”

Jackson continues, “I had the same experience. The scouting report was the best thing I had going for me in the postseason. They had a book on how to pitch Reggie, and the book said to go inside. That was all well and good, but teams like the Dodgers were so hung up on the scouting report that they couldn’t see what was going on in front of their eyes.” (Sixty, 140)

Whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter or simply a fan, you’ll find just the offering you are looking for in “Sixty Feet, Six Inches.”

Sam Miller/Free Keon

Pres Cup Day One: Crazy Momentum Swings

The Seattle weather that made its way into Central Illinois last night has frustrated my mowing business, but it also allowed me to be able to watch much of the President's Cup matches. When I tuned in at about 2:00 San Francisco time, the US was down in four of six matches. About half an hour later, the momentum had swung from the International Team to the American side. Riding on the cheers from the showcase match of Woods/Stricker vs. Ishikawa/Oglivy, the Americans started hugging the pins on their approach shots and holing some difficult putts and chip shots. Mickelson/Kim was the first team to post a point for the US after coming back from being 1 down on the 13th to Weir/Clark. The US team in this match went on to birdie the next four holes with clutch shots and putts from both guys to win the match 3 and 2. Woods/Stricker played superb golf the whole way around, and won 6 and 5 without losing one hole to put the next point on the board for the US. Mahan/O'Hair vs. Els/Scott was the next match to finish up. The US team started out with a bogey 6, but stayed in the match as both sides played rather sloppy golf. Mahan/O'Hair had gotten the match to 1 down going onto 16, but they ended up losing the match 2 and 1. Singh/Allenby was a pairing that many analysts thought was odd, but they tied up the score with a victory over two '09 major champions in Cink/Glover at about 4:30. That match went to the 18th with the International side 1-up. Glover had missed a four foot birdie putt on 17 that would have kept the match all square. However, Norman came out looking like the winner in that match as the Americans never held a lead. Match #4 followed this group onto the par 5 18th hole with Perry/Johnson 1-up over the South American duo, Cabrera/Villegas. This match was never out of reach for either side as 1-up was the largest margin until Camillo could not escape a fairway bunker, and the Internationals conceded the hole and the match (2 down) before even reaching the 18th green. Furyk/Leonard was a team I expected to win against Goosen/Yang. However, the US side was 3 down through five holes. Then as other USA chants echoed through the course, Furyk/Leonard fought all the way back to be 2-up with 2 to play. Goosen made a nice 8 foot birdie putt on 17 to extend the match. Then the International side won the 18th, and they halved the match.

As for tomorrow, I am surprised Captain Couples broke up Mickelson and Kim but kept Cink with Glover. Tomorrow is better ball format though, so it will be interesting to see how Woods and Stricker do compared to today. Keep watching.

Hello One and All

Slammin’ Sam on Sports Media

Hello, and welcome to a new feature of Free Keon. My name is Sam Miller, and I am delighted to receive an invitation from my friend Nate to join this blog. My plan is to provide posts two times a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) on sports media you may or may not have read or watched.

Thank you for reading, and I would welcome any comments as I seek to provide the best home-run hitting, slam dunking, touchdown scoring (You get the idea) posts that I can. You should know, this is my first blogging attempt at regular, personal content. Here it goes!

Sam Miller/Free Keon

You can't trust the system

In ESPN's recently published "College Basketball Encyclopedia," a Sagarin ranking lists Illinois as the 6th best program of all time. That's right, with no championships and only four Final Four appearances, they're ranked No. 6. Just below a top 5 of Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. And just above Duke.

Jeff Sagarin, of course, is the guy who developed the mathematical equation that factors in a team's wins and losses along with margin of victory, strength of schedule and where the game is played, among other things he won't divulge. His ratings have been a mainstay since 1985 in USA Today. (I challenge you to name one person who reads this newspaper. Outside of a hotel guest.) They are the "computer rankings" that inform, to some extent, both the BCS standings and NCAA Tournament selections. Apparently they fail to factor in big wins (e.g. championships) or apply common sense.

The encyclopedia's rankings also give top 40 lists for each decade from the 1940s on. Here's how Illinois finishes:

1940s - No. 3
1950s - No. 2
1960s - No. 12
1970s - N/A
1980s - No. 4
1990s - No. 29
2000s - No. 6
Overall - No. 6

I've heard great things about the Whiz Kids, so maybe the 40s ranking is justified. (Who else is for a Gene Vance statue outside the Assembly Hall?) I can't speak for the '50s and '60s, except that I know no national titles were won. In the '70s the program dropped off the map. They never reached the NCAA Tournament that decade.

Lou Henson was hired in 1975 and it took him five years to bring them back to the postseason (the NIT in 1979-80). By the '80s the Illini were legit again, reaching the NCAAs in all but two years (1979-80, 1981-82). But still, the team only earned one Big Ten title that decade (1983-84) and made it to one Final Four (1988-89). Again, no national title.

The '90s were a step back (I choose to blame Bruce Pearl). Lon Kruger and a senior-led team won the Big Ten in 1998. The Illini never made it past the 2nd round in six trips to the tourney.

The first half of the 2000s were kind to us, as you all remember. Four Big Ten championships, two Sweet Sixteen exits, an Elite Eight trip and a national championship run. Self elevated the program and Weber built up a ridiculous 89-16 record in his first three years. That's a .848 winning percentage for those of you keeping count. Of course, in the last few years, the TV people haven't been dropping that stat so much.

As much as I'd like to think Illinois is the sixth best program in the history of the sport, I cannot. I suppose its been consistently pretty good, considering, but it seems too much weight is given to an era before a legitimate national tournament was put in place. And then there's the matter of national championships. Michigan State, Arizona, Florida, Connecticut, Syracuse -- even though they're comparatively late to the national scene, they all have that claim. Until we win a title, we're simply not an elite program.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This Week in Golf

President's Cup - In San Francisco this week, the always exciting international team competition of the President's Cup will be contended. This event pits twelve of the best American golfers against the twelve top ranked players outside the US and Europe. The inaugural President's Cup was hosted in 1994. Since then, the US and the International teams have traded off hosting the event. This year's edition will be competed at Harding Park, the site of the memorable 2005 WGC playoff between Tiger and John Daly. The event is played from Thursday through Sunday. Tomorrow, six foursome matches will take place. Friday, six four-ball matches will be played. Saturday, five matches of each will occur. And 12 singles matches will be played on Sunday. Foursomes matches are alternate shot, and four-ball matches are better ball. In both formats, each team's captain pairs two players for each match to compete against a pair from the other side. Singles matches are regular match play. The winner of each match play match earns one full point for their team. No penalty is suffered by the loser. In the case of an all square match, each team is awarded one half point. The first team to 17 1/2 points wins the cup. Unlike in the Ryder Cup, the President's Cup allows captains to see pairings before inserting them into individual matches. This rule allows for some great match-ups. In South Africa in 2003, Woods and Els were the anchor singles match that went to extra holes and ended up in a draw. In Canada in 2007, Woods played Canadian Mike Weir. The International Team has one victory in the President's Cup in 1998 in Australia, and the matches were called a draw in 2003 in South Africa. The President's Cup is seen as a more relaxed and fun atmosphere than the Ryder Cup. So many spectators and players enjoy the President's Cup a little bit more. However, I believe that also means a victory is not quite as sweet for the American team. The US team is captained by Fred Couples this year with Jay Hass and Michael Jordan as assistant captains. Jordan serves as the first non-professional golfer to serve as an assistant captain, but he and Freddy have been close friends for many years. Jordan also enjoys spectating at golf team competitions. It has been reported that he is very nervous about his role this week. The US team has Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Stricker, Mahan, Glover, Perry, Leonard, Cink, O'Hair, Johnson, and Kim. The International Team is captained by Greg Norman, and he has quite the arsenal as well. Ernie Els, Goosen, Scott, Clark, Cabrera, Villgeas, Ishikawa, Weir, Allenby, Yang, Singh, and Ogilvy are on the opposite side. On paper, the US has a definite advantage, but the fun part of team competition is that you never know who can win. The Golf Channel will broadcast the first two days with NBC taking over for the weekend. It is a great event with many big names involved. Make sure to tune in.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

All Outa' Juice

Hold on to your hats, the Illini are due for a dramatic turnaround. Ron Zook announced on that he was going with Eddie McGee instead of Juice Williams for the Illini against Michigan State on Saturday.
We have seen McGee play, it isn't great, and neither is this Illini team. This is like when a baseball team fires it's manager in the middle of the season because the team is playing terribly. It really isn't about how the manager, or in this scenario Juice, has preformed. It is about the team doing poorly and the need to shake things up in the hopes of re-energizing the team. As far as the Illini program goes, it really is not a good sign when your all-time career leader in yardage gets benched his senior year.

Former Illini in the NBA Update

Numerous former Illini are trying to maker there way in the NBA, I figured I’d provide a quick summation of how they have fared thus far in preseason action. I will try and give an update on former Illini in the NBA about once a week.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Return of the Neckbeard

Kyle Orton celebrated his re-bearding with a victory over the Cowboys on Sunday. Kyle has yet to throw an interception this season and his Broncos have improved to 4-0.

The bad news, his Prius doesn't get as good of gas mileage in the mountains of Denver as it did in the plains of Illinois.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Change you can Believe in!

As the Cubs’ season has now spiraled towards a point of mathematical irrelevance, I can’t help but think towards the future (as any respectable Cubs fan would do). Though the popular (and well justified) theme of choice for many fans is player changes, I personally believe that it is high time for an almost complete coaching overhaul... that means Lou and all the rest of them.

Now I know that Sweet Lou has another year on his contract, but for the love of Santo just buy it out and send him on his way to Boca-Raton with all the other old, overweight Italians. Seriously, trade Milton Bradley and use the money saved to pay off the debt incurred from purging this organization of Pinella.

As far as replacements go, there are a number of tantalizing choices to take the helm. It’s obvious that Bob Brenly is pinning for another coaching position as he actively pursued the opening in Milwaukee last year and continues to offer countless suggestions and criticisms throughout most broadcasts (the kind of stuff that got Stoney fired). On the other hand, Ryan Sandberg is slowly working his way up the organization latter and looks poised to have a Major League position soon. Finally, there is Joe Girardi who was ignorantly passed over two years ago in favor of a much more sloth-like Italian.

So without further ado I give you my personal dream Cubs Coaching Lineup:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Big 12 Update: BHS Wins, Danville Remains Undefeated

In this week's Big 12 showcase game, the Danville Vikings topped Decatur MacArthur 21-0. Tonight was certainly Danville's strongest game. MacArthur was also undefeated going into Danville, but the Generals did not put up much of a fight, scoring nothing at all. Danville still has to travel to Champaign Central and Normal Community in the next two weeks. However, they should go into Champaign with a lot of confidence after tonight's victory. Bloomington High School also rolled on to another easy win. The Champaign Centennial Chargers did not bring much of a game to the cold, wet Fred Carlton Field. Following the Raiders 33-13 victory, Centennial's special teams coach told me in frustration, "It is pretty sad when the coaches want it more than the kids. These kids don't get excited for anything." After teaching for a brief time at Centennial, I know the seniors don't get very excited for government class, but I would hope for football against a traditional Big 12 powerhouse. Apparently, the Chargers, who typically have winning seasons, have run dry. Bloomington still has a lot left in their battery, though. For the third straight week, most of the Raiders' starters sat out the final quarter. I do not expect that to happen again, though, next week at intercity rival Normal West. The Wildcats have beat BHS once before, and the young Raiders would be wise not to forget that detrimental Homecoming loss of 2006. The Normal Community Ironmen improved their record to 5-1 with a victory over Eisenhower. NCHS is the only other Big 12 school ranked in the top 10 in the state. Champaign Central's score is yet to come in, but the Marroons were hosting the Green Wave. Therefore, the Free Keon staff will assume Central earned it's fourth win tonight.
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