Now Comes the Tough Part of the Schedule

With a fairly new group of players on this 2005-06 Fighting Illini team, Weber needed a softer non-conference schedule to make sure his new players could learn his system. Now that part of the schedule is over.

Head Coach Bruce Weber said his team is making improvements but still has a ways to go. "Right now we've been okay because we have been playing at home and that's a little easier for the new guys, but now were going on the road in a different environment and it will be different," Weber said. Case in point - tonight freshman Jamar Smith was 2-5 from the line and sophomore Shaun Pruitt was 1-5. "On the road and against other teams that could cost us a game," Weber added.

The Illini will leave today for South Padre to take on Wichita State Friday at 4:00 p.m. "By leaving today it will give our kids a chance to adapt to the weather change and give them a chance to see some things and have a little fun," said Weber.

For a young team, taking care of the basketball will be a key factor especially when you're on the road and the opposing areas getting loud can be intimidating. "We took good care of the ball tonight, but at the end of the first half we had some mistakes. But we're getting better with that."

One thing for sure, Weber will have the right mix and right 8-9 man rotation by the time the Big Ten Season starts. "We're trying to find that mix. We may be able to get away with eight or nine, but after that it's kind of hard to go to number ten." For the Illini fans, they must become patient. This isn't the same team as last year and they will take a few lumps here and there, but the one thing I know for sure is that before the start of the Big Ten Season Weber will have this year's team figured out. He will know what their strengths and weaknesses are by then.

Weber was the National Coach of the Year by just about everyone that had that award last year. That was no accident; but will he have his hands full this year? You know it. But having two of the best seniors in college basketball on your roster in All-American point guard Dee Brown and James Augustine, the Illini will still have a chance to keep things interesting in Champaign this winter.

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