So there probably isn't much local Chicago area Wildcat Fans haven't read about the #20 17-5 (7-4) Illini. Maybe what stands out the most is that both teams start two freshmen guards. The Cats with T.J. Parker and Mohamed Hachad, the Illini answer with Dee Brown, and Deron Williams [left]. The Illinois frosh combined for 36 points, 6 boards, and 9 steals against MSU. Bill Carmody considers Williams one of the best in the Big 10.Last time we played -
OK, there's also the ongoing debate over their top player, 6-10 Senior Power Forward Brian Cook [right]. The Chicago Tribune's story about the game Friday leads; How good is Brian Cook, really? Gary Reinmuth, the writer, goes on to debunk all of the negatives written about Cook , things that also tick him off too;
I don't think I've got to prove anything to anybody. I'm going to be me. I know I'm good. I totally hate it when people criticize me who have never played the game, who have never been through it. [Cook - Chicago Trib]We'll talk more about the llini's "Big Gun" Suffice to say his talent and emotions will be on display this afternoon.
Then there is the youth of the Illini.
Freshman Guard Dee Brown [left] about playing to his potential -
He [Self] said `Where's that fire you had at the beginning of the season? You have to get that back.' That's what I plan to do the rest of the season. I know it all starts with me [Chicago Sports]He dropped in 24 points against Michigan State - does that answer the "youth" question?
Playing a home game on the road in Chicago has the Illinois a little concerned - they are 13-14 away from Champaign...
Cory Bradford once said (playing at the United Center) was like playing at your grandpa's house. I don't know if I feel that comfortable with it yet, Illinois head coach Bill Self said.[In the Daily Illini] But it sure is better than playing on the road.But its a home game for them, even though they rarely see the Northwestern style of backdoor cuts and 3 point shooting...
It's a whole different style for us to defend. I know in practice that Coach (Self) is going to give us an earful -- freshman center James Augustine [Daily Illini]They also are a little worried about the fact that both of NU's Big 10 wins have come at the expense of its top teams, Indiana and Purdue. So its the power of Illinois against the finesse of the Wildcats. They are also playing some defense - opponents are shooting just 37.1%, 27% from the arc, against the Illini from the field this year.
But they consider NU to be a "Hot Team" right now and appear to be preparing as if its a championship game. Maybe Bill Carmody's post game joke about getting sick for the game wasn't that much of a joke after all.
Was Last Year - We lost.
The Big Guns
Brian Cook - Leading the entire Big 10 in scoring with a 19.4 average points a game. He is also #11 in rebounding with 6.2 per game.
From the Arc - its Senior Sean Harrington [left] with his Big 10 leading 44.5% [49-110] Dee Brown [16-55] and Sean Harrington [19-53] shoot a lot of 3 pointers but are not as accurate.
Forwards:#34 Brian Cook [Sr 6-10, 19.4 ppg/6.2 rpg]The Rest of the Team
#40 James Augustine [Fr 6-10, 8.6/6.6]
Guards: #11 Dee Brown [Fr 6-0, 9.5/3.8/4.4 asst]
#5 Deron Williams [Fr 6-3, 5.6/3.6/4.4 asst]
#24 Sean Harrington [Sr 6-3, 6.1/2.6]
The Illini do bring in 7-2 Soph Nick Smith as a center but he is also nursing sore feet.
C Nick Smith [right - 7-2 Soph, 19.5 mins/6.5 ppg], F Roger Powell [6-6 Soph 12 mins/4.4 ppg] and G Blandon Ferguson [6-3 Sr, 7.3 mins] seem to be the main guys off the bench.The entire Illini bench scores 19.9 points per game and averages 9.3 off the boards.The Coach
However -- The Illini are playing with a lot of injuries right now -
We can still go seven or eight players deep but we are a little thin right now because of injury, - [Bill Self]Two of Illinois' big men, starting Guard Luther Head [groin] and 6-9 Freshman Forward Aaron Spears [knee] are out with injuries. 7-2 Center Nick Smith is also nursing foot and ankle pain. In addition, Guards Sean Harrington and Deron Williams also took hard falls during the Michigan State Game.
6-8 Freshman Forward Kyle Wilson is off tending to some "personal issues" and probably won't be available either.
Bill Self is in his 3rd season as coach of Illinois.Challenges for the Wildcats
He's won two back to back Big 10 championships after coaching Tulsa to the "Elite 8" in the NCAA tournament - making him one of a small number to have done that. His total record over 3 schools is 182-98 [.650] . He's been coaching in Div I for 17 years.
A former guard at Oklahoma State - he boasts a 24-8 record at Illinois, and has only lost one home game as the Illini Head Coach.
- Get Brian Cook into foul trouble so he sits the bench [like OSU did]
- Try to contain the 2 freshman Guards.
- Score baby score...inside, outside however...just score.
There is Limited TV
CBS-TV covering this one - Gus Johnson PBP and Clark Kellogg will have the call.Of course there's WGN 720AM and WGNRadio.com - Dave Eanet [Mr Wildcat] and Shon Morris will have the call. [The Cats seem to play better when Shon is on the broadcast team]
WNUR-89.3FM will also have their broadcast live.
We'll also Chat from in front of the TV.