1. Bill Carmody Got the Goldmine, Bruce Weber Got the Shaft
I felt that this Jerry Reed song title really captured the way most of Illini Nation felt when they found out that Bruce Weber had been passed over in favor of Northwestern coach Bill Carmody for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Weber only brought the first, outright conference championship to Champaign-Urbana in 52 years and did it while facing one distraction after another.
I'm not trying to slight Carmody, I think he has done a good job with the talent he has coached at Princeton and Northwestern. But going 8-8 in this year's Big Ten shouldn't get you any awards or accolades. If .500 is the best that everybody thinks the Wildcats can do against the likes of Illinois and Wisconsin, maybe Northwestern should look to find a new conference where they can fight for a championship.
2. Illini Well Represented on All-Conference Teams
While the Big Ten media dropped the ball on the Coach of the Year voting, they got it right when they voted Deron Williams to the All Big Ten first team. Joining Williams in receiving end of the year praise were Dee Brown (second team), Roger Powell and James Augustine (honorable mention).
The Big Ten has been bashed all year for being down, so I think it speaks highly for the future of the conference when only two players on the first and second all-conference teams do not have any remaining eligibility. I am hereby putting the ACC on notice.
3. 52 Years in the Making
Congrats to the Illini on their first outright conference championship since 1952. While I find that statistic startling, I think something has been lost on many of the larger market and national media types. They have been falling all over themselves to mention the 52-year stretch between unshared titles, nobody seems to talk about how Illinois has shared the title a few times. This crown is Illinois' third league title in the last four seasons and fourth in the last seven seasons.
4. Wrestle Mania
A laurel and hardy handshake goes out to Illini wrestlers Alex Tirapelle and Mark Jayne, who won conference championships in their respective weight divisions. Tirapelle won the 157 pound weight class and was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and won the Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament award. Jayne won the 133 pound division of the Big Ten. The two wrestlers helped the Illini to third place in the conference tournament last weekend.
5. The Flames are Dancing
Congratulations to Jimmy Collins and the UIC Flames for winning the Horizon League Tournament and being invited to the Big Dance. Things could not have been sweeter for Collins, as his squad defeated nemesis Bruce Pearl and his Wisconsin-Milwaukee team. Oh wait, there could be something to make it sweeter: UIC went into enemy territory and beat UWM on their home court. When you add in the fact that UIC fans stormed the opponent's court and Collins still refuses to shake Pearl's hand, it's enough to make most Illini fans smile.
Every starting five needs a sixth man to come off the bench, so here's one extra story to round out the column.
6. My Brush With Great.....Mediocrity
Last Saturday, my dad and I went to St. Louis to watch the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. During the Illinois State-Northern Iowa game, Drake players came out of the locker room and sat one section over while waiting for their game against Wichita State. The Bulldogs were then followed out by their coach, former Iowa coach Dr. Tom Davis, who sat two rows behind us. It took all my will power to not walk over to Davis and do my best Chris Farley impression, "You remember that time when Andy Kaufman hit that shot at the buzzer to beat you? That was awesome!"
Sadly, I didn't do that and the Doc left to prepare his team to lose to the Shockers.