The thing that has really puzzled me with this Illini team is the inability to move the football on offense. If there is anything that the last few games has shown Illini fans, it is that neither Chris Pazan or Tim Brasic are successfully moving the ball on offense. Now, I don't really expect wins (unfortunately), but why aren't our offensive coaches seeing what we have in the other quarterbacks at this juncture? I mean, what does it say about Billy Garza if he cannot get a few snaps with the way the offense has played? The same thing about Kisan Flakes? Sure, you want to instill confidence in your players, especially a quarterback, but at this point why not try something new?
The good news is, we got Juice! Sure, he is going to other campuses for visits (North Carolina and Tennessee), but I still feel he will eventually sign the dotted line with the Fighting Illini and Ron Zook. What did Juice do after returning from North Carolina Sunday evening? Post on the IlliniBoard Football Fan Forum.
In other football recruiting news, CB Antonio Gully from St. Louis has named his three leaders, and they are Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The Illini are also high on the list for Pittsburgh's Nate Williams as they are one of the four schools besides Northwestern (whom he visited this weekend) that he would like to visit before making his final decision.
Now, let's move on to more happy things, like Illini Basketball. The season starts on Friday night against South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits took on Kentucky on Sunday night, and lost 71-54 in Lexington. (9) Kentucky was led by point guard Rajon Rondo (who for some reason believes he will not leave for the NBA after this season) who decided to do his best Oscar Robertson impersonation with a line of 17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 steals. South Dakota State was led by Street and Smith's All-Division I Independent team member forward Ben Beran who scored 25 points, shooting 11-17 from the floor, including 3-4 from behind the arc.
The Chicago Sun Times had their season preview of the Illini in Sunday's paper, and it focused on junior center James Augustine. Herb Gould wondered out loud in the article, which James Augustine would show up this season?
At times, he can look dominant, as he did in a 23-point, 10-rebound effort during a second-round NCAA tournament game last March against Nevada, a team that was supposed to have the big-man edge.One does not have to look far to see anyone else that is wondering which James will show up for the Illini this season. Look at the IlliniBoard.com Hoops Fan Forum, and even read comments from Bruce Weber, and you will find fans and a coach that is expecting a lot from James, and hoping he can harness his talent for the Illini this season. Now, I have laughed when people expected too much from James this year, but he will be the key player for the Illini this season. I think we all know what to expect from Dee Brown, and the consistent contributions from James are something that needs to happen for this Illini team to live up to their potential this season.
At other times, Augustine can look befuddled, as he did when he fouled out in just nine minutes against North Carolina in the national championship game.
If the first two exhibition games are any indication, I think the Illini are going to need more from Augustine this season. Now, luckily, I do not care how the senior plays in these games as he does not need to tune ups as much as players like Shaun Pruitt, CJ Jackson, and Marcus Arnold do because he is used to the grind after starting for the Illini for last three seasons, but his rather lackluster performances so far do not excite me. The good news is against Quincy James did have a dunk in traffic, and showed some emotion, but his rebounding rate of just 13.11% is much lower than James has had in his first three seasons, in fact it was only higher than Marcus Arnold's 5.79% among Illinois big men. The good news is his +/- statistic was high for Quincy (+19) and then average for Illinois Wesleyan (+7). I am hoping for a big game from James on Friday when he knows the games that count start.
The start of the basketball season is underway, as are the weird endings. Saturday Bowling Green defeated Virginia Tech when freshman AD Vassallo tipped in a missed shot in his own basket to give Bowling Green the one-point victory. The Hokies were able to come back on Sunday and defeat Western Carolina 54-40. The good news for Vassallo is that he received nine minutes of playing time and scored 3 points, all for Virginia Tech. Bowling Green on the other hand lost an 81-63 decision to Wofford. Other scores around the country include (as previously mentioned here) Kentucky's 71-54 win over the Illini's first opponent South Dakota State and Washington's 118-51 hammering of Morgan State.
Now, to the NBA. Former Illinois point guard Deron Williams played his first game in the United Center as a member of the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. The Bulls defeated the Jazz 103-98. Deron scored 13 points on 6-15 shooting in 28 minutes while also passing out 4 assists, but he left the game with 24 seconds left with a sprained ankle. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, this has been a chronic problem (which is interesting to me, since I had not heard of ankle problems for Williams while he was at Illinois, or this summer during the summer camps).
So will Deron Williams, who suffered his own right-ankle sprain with 24 seconds left in the game. He was in obvious pain in the locker room, but said "we'll see tomorrow when I get up, how I feel."The Illini faithful were out in full force on Saturday in the United Center as they attempted to paint the stadium orange to cheer on Williams. Many Illini fans cheered when Williams was announced in the second quarter, and claps and cheers could be heard throughout the stadium whenever Williams made a shot. This Bulls fan was happy with the outcome of the game, especially because it was the Bulls last game before the dreaded Circus road trip, and it was good to see Deron playing so well as a member of the Jazz.
"Deron's is a chronic thing," Briggs said. "We'll have to adjust with more strapping [on his ankle], changing shoes more. If we hadn't had him strapped like he was, it would have been worse than Andrei."
Williams will test his ankle at Monday morning's shootaround, and if he feels better, he could play that night against the Knicks.