Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Orange and Deja Blue

A decade of Illinois basketball has passed and it feels like not much has changed.  The current Illini squad bears a striking resemblence to the 1999-2000 team.

The main similarity between the teams is the feeling of hope and promise for the future in the program.  It's the feeling that the best times are ahead, and in the case of the 1999-2000 team, it was true.

There are similarities in the actual teams as well.

Both teams came off difficult and dissapointing seasons.
-The 1999-2000 team only won 3 Big Ten games in the previous season before going on a run in the Big Ten Tournament and missing the NCAA's
-The current Illini were just defeated in the first round of the NCAA's, failing to win a postseason game for the second straight season.

Both teams had a fairly high rankings, despite coming off poor seasons.
- The 1999-2000 Illini were ranked 17 to start the season
- Today, the Illini are ranked 21

Both teams have highly touted freshman newcomers that raise the level of play as well as expectations.
-The 1999-2000 Illini had Frank Williams, and Columbine Cook as freshman, as well as transfer Marcus Griffin, the highest-rated recruits since early 90's.
-The current Illini also have a great freshman class, lead by DJ Richardson, and Brandon Paul, their highest-rated recruits since the early 00's.

Both teams have proven veterans to supplement their talented newcomers
-The 1999-2000 Illini had Sergio McClain, Robert Archibald (the greatest Scottish basketball player of all-time), Corey Bradford (even though he was never the same after Kruger left), and Lucas Johnson returning as a solid core.
-The current Illini rely on their trio of juniors, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, and Demetri McCamey.

Both teams have a surplus of talent, and a deep bench that goes 10-11 deep.
-The 1999-2000 Illini ran deep, using Bradford, Frank, McClain, Arch, Lucas, Cook, Griff, Cleotis Brown, Damir Krupalia, Victor Chukwudebe, and Shootin' Sean Harrington.
- The current Illini will likely be using a long bench as well, with McCamey, Davis, Tisdale, Paul, DJ, Alex Legion, Dominique Keller, Rich Semrau, Jeff Jordan, Bill Cole, and Tyler Griffey.

Both teams would be returning all of their key players the following year.
-The 1999-2000 Illini had two seniors, Victor, and Cleotis Brown (The man who put a rebound back in his own basket, resulting in two "team" points for Wisconsin in an Illini 53-51 win).
-The current Illini have only one senior in Keller.

We know what happens for the 1999-2000 Illini, they go 11-5 in Big Ten play and get knocked off in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Mike Miller's Florida Gators. 
Then Lon Kruger leaves to coach the Atlanta Hawks and Bill Self is hired.

Side note - in this same year, the UNC coaching job was open and the ill-fated Matt Dougherty was hired after Roy Williams turned the job down.  Why did Roy turn down the job and than accept it 3 years later after Dougherty was fired?  I guess the perpetually getting knocked out in the sweet sixteen got to him.  The point is that if Roy had taken the job in 2001, Self would not have been a candidate for the Kansas job at this point because he was still relatively unproven, and could conceivably still be at Illinois.  But I'm not bitter at all. 
Further side note - this is also the time that Good Boy Roy pulled an Al Gore, started talking in a Southern drawl, and using colloquialisms like y'all, and aww shucks.  Listen Roy, we get it, you coach for Cahhrolinna, you don't have to change the way you talk just to fit in.  Also you dress like a gay, and you go to the same tanning salon as Bruce Pearl.  These are only a small sampling of the reasons I hate Roy Williams.

Back to the Illini, the 1999-2000 season was beginning of a great run for Illini basketball.  Hopefully this year, the Illini will be able to start another such run.  They probably won't win a Big Ten title or make it past the sweet sixteen in the NCAA's this year, but it will be exciting and the team is full of potential.  The arrow is pointing up for the program, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

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