Everyone in the nation really understands how good this year's Illini basketball team can be, and that includes former Illini point guard Stephen Bardo. "When a local TV station is broadcasting a practice you know these guys are big time," said Bardo.
Bardo said last year's Big Ten run was very special for head Coach Bruce Weber. The Illini had three early losses and off the court issues, but they came right back to win 10 in a row, under difficult situations. Bardo also said people can question Weber all they want, but he won our first Big Ten title outright in 52 years. That's an awful long time.
During Coach Weber's press conference he talked about the inside play of his big men. "All you have to do is go back to our last two games. We shot the ball well against Cincinnati, but against Duke those shots were not falling so that's when you need to have that inside presence," said Weber. Bardo agrees that the inside game will be key for the Illini this year but he feels the bodies are there for the job. "Everyone talks about the guard play at Illinois Kedric, which we can all understand. However, I see things this way with James, Nick, Roger and freshman Shaun Pruitt: if each player went into the game with the mindset to get the team 6 points a night and 5 rebounds, that will get the job done," stressed Bardo.
Last year Bardo knew the kids had a rough time buying into Weber's "new" program. According to Bardo, when you win success will take care of itself. "You need to have your guards buy into what you are teaching. Then your seniors and everything else will take care of itself," stated Bardo.
Not too much has been made of this year's schedule but Weber feels he did a great job getting from coast to coast with this team. "I think last year's schedule was tougher but this one is not easy by any stretch. If people think Illinois is that good to be the best you have to play the best," said Bardo. "Rankings are good for the school and it's great for public relations and fans, but these kids need to stay focused and take each game at a time and not get caught up in the ranking." added Bardo.
When things are done, this group of players has the talent to reach St. Louis this year if they can keep focused.