The Effort is There

The Fighting Illini are sitting in 7th place in the Big Ten Conference and it is real unfamiliar territory. Just two years ago they were undefeated at this time, with the goal of winning a national title.

The Illinois men's basketball program is currently (14-7, 2-4) and the bottom line is that no matter what coaches, alumni, parents or fans think, it's wins and losses that count. With yet another home loss to the Wisconsin Badgers (71-64), Weber is searching for answers.

Comparing teams or players is really unfair, but most Illini fans are struggling and looking for answers as to why this team can't seem to get over the hump. First and foremost, let's throw out that it's Bruce Weber's fault. Why? Just two years ago he was the National Coach of the Year and I think it's a safe bet to say he didn't forget how to do that in just two years.

The players play hard and as a coach that's all you can ask for. They give the effort; they run motion; they try to defend; but really it appears the Illini are being out-matched. Also, let's be fair and say this: if you're into rankings some of the players on this current team have not played up to their potential, and I use the word "potential" lightly. When Brian Randle was coming out of high school he was considered one of the nation's best all-around athletes. Now for Illinois he's considered a defensive stopper. Randle has worked on his shot, but he's not a threat to make opposing coaches worry. Rich McBride coming out of high school was one of the best shooters and had such high expectations, but he's been in trouble and really is one-dimensional, so that doesn't help his game.

No one is saying who's at fault for the recent struggles. It's easy to start the blame game, but that's not fair either. The bottom line this year is that Illinois doesn't have a true go-to-guy and each night they have no idea which player will show up. From a coach's point of view, that has to be frustrating.

The season is far from over. Maybe the light will turn on and they can get on a mini-run. Saturday you could see the frustration on their faces. They want this for themselves, but they also know how the fans love Illini basketball and they want to win for you too.

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