To paraphrase the great Dan Hicks…did you expect anything different from Illinois and Indiana?
And it was fitting that the Illini’s X factor so far this season sealed this one. It’s been written about a bunch this year, so I’m not breaking any new ground here. But you really can’t put into words what a difference Ray Rice has made for this squad. His talent speaks for itself, but today while watching the game I focused on his mannerisms and saw someone who isn’t going to let the bright lights of the Big Ten phase him…and someone who isn’t afraid to puff his chest out when the situation calls for it. Case in point…a scrum in the first half involving Ekey and an Indiana player. Ray rushed in to defend his teammate and even politely told the official to chill.
My gushing aside, today was a gritty win that dispels the rumors that this team can’t finish. They were able to hang around despite a below average output from long range, which Coach Groce addressed in his postgame radio interview.
To the numbers…
Nice job all around this first game, as 25 of 29 pickers correctly picked the victor with all of the RSDTs in single digits, including five of you who nailed the margin of victory. A special shoutout goes to my colleague Mike Goebel for prognosticating that this one would go to OT. And I think Gocart was spot on with his analysis that Yogi Ferrell would have a tougher time with the O and B this time around. I say tougher rather than tough because he certainly had a good day in a losing effort.
On to the next one…
I think this Onion-esque article can articulate the perception of Penn State Basketball better than I can. Did you give it a read? Mmkay, good. See you next blog.
Ok, I kid…I kid. It’s still a rebuilding process for the Lions, but I think the arrow is pointing up. Tim Frazier is back and playing as advertised and is flanked by three other starters in double figures. Transfers John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson are starting to work themselves into the fold as well, although it remains to be seen what their long term roles will be. What stands out to me in this series more than the Xs and Os, though, are the odd and entertaining occurrences…
My prediction: Illinois 79, Penn State 69
PSU has been a high scoring team this year, but that trend ends Saturday. Also look for the Illini’s three point shooters to shine in this one, as various media reports point to defending the long ball as PSU’s biggest weakness.
One other nugget just for fun…as this guy is the leader in the clubhouse for best sports name of the year. Got one better? Post it below.
Coming up Saturday: PSU thoughts, standings, & Wisconsin predictions
[Krush photo via ESPN, Hall photo via Spencer Turkin]