Friday, February 08, 2008

No sympathy for Illinois

Y'know, I once kinda felt bad for Illinois' Bruce Weber. A couple of years ago he had what was probably the best Big Ten teams in at least a decade, and most likely the best team in the nation, and in the National Championship game the refs didn't allow his center to guard Sean May. And that was the difference. Then last spring, Eric Gordon, who had always wanted to play for Indiana but was afraid of playing for Mike Davis, suddenly got an opportunity to play for a good coach at his home-state school. He had to back out of a verbal committment to Illinois, but Bruce Weber had snagged a couple of other top 100 kids (McCamey and Quinton Watkins) and had a good mix of veterans and redshirts to trot out another NCAA-level squad. Btw, I'd like to hear the end of the "without time to get another recruit" nonsense- you don't get "another" recruit of Gordon's stature unless you've been recruiting him for years or have a rare opportunity (like Sampson had) just fall into your lap.
Then Watkins failed to qualify (I'm guessing) and Carlwell and Semrau appear to have not recovered from last season's injuries, and Brian Randle has gone from NBA prospect to a prospect for... I don't know what Turkey calls their basketball league. But with all of this, Weber's team has disintegrated, Weber himself obviously can't move past the loss of a key recruit and can't comport himself with any class (you can't shake the other Indiana players' hands?), and this anger and lack of composure has not only carried over to his team but the fans as well. There's nothing as classy as throwing stuff at someone's mother because he didn't go to your school. But Weber himself seems to have started making a series of bad decisions, that started at least with keeping around Jamar Smith, who after being *warned* not to drink and drive, careens off the road and nearly kills his teammate Carlwell and leaves him for dead. That can't be good in the locker-room. When the chips are down, you know this guy's not around for you. I don't know what Weber's doing, but it reminds me of when Steve Alford kept around nutcase and sexual assault enthusiast Pierre Pierce. Also, Weber picked up transfer-happy Alex Legion (who passed up chances to start at Michigan and Kentucky in just six months in order to sit a year at Illinois). I guess it's possible that Legion could stick around until next season. The Illinois program doesn't seem to be trending in a good direction in terms of wins or character.
And then there's Chester Frazier, who should be not only the floor general and one of the leader of Illini this season, has consistently shown himself to be a jackass, and a jackass that hurts his team. He makes bad decisions, commits stupid fouls, and just acts petty. And it seems to be rubbing off on the other Illini. So I've got no sympathy for Weber or the Illini.
Except for Shaun Pruitt. I'd say he's a tough-luck kid, but he got all the luck he could ask for when he fouled DJ White IN THE ACTING OF SHOOTING from IU's own free-throw line right before the buzzer. Hey Steve Welmer, do the last 2 seconds not count? But still, I wish that DJ & Jamarcus had each hit one of their free-throws so Pruitt could've hit both of his at the end of the first OT and been a hero instead of a goat.

You know, I was a little outraged when Illinois played at Purdue and the Boilers would chest-bump the Illini ball-handlers to the floor to no whistles. Now I'm glad Weber and his band of classless fools got jobbed at Mackey. I'm looking forward to enjoying every loss the Illini suffer this season, but the fact that Indiana went in that hate-filled arena and came out with a win is pretty sweet right now.

Late Edit:
Illini Talk has a take on the game from the other side, and makes the point that Illinois fans should rejoice in having a quite talented frosh guard in Demetri McCamey who will probably be around a lot longer than Gordon, and therefore perhaps a better investment overall. I'd respond: perhaps, but big recruiting wins are likely to bring in more recruiting wins. So it'll be a while before we can make any judgments. But I've added Illini Talk to my blog-roll.


Post a Comment

<< Home