I say that because after last night’s loss to the Gophers , I’m starting to wonder who the real Illini are. Are they the team who won the Maui Invite, won in the Kennel, and blew out Ohio State? Or are they a team who relies too much on three pointers, takes ill-advised shots when the threes aren’t falling, and loses winnable games to Purdue and Minnesota? Or is it something in between? I’m not sure at thing point. Maybe a few more games will yield the answer. One thing I know for sure…Coach Groce isn’t going to sit idly by and let the skid continue. I can tell by his demeanor that he’s the type of guy that gives the players encouragement when they need it, but also is a tough cookie (to use a PG term) at the right times as well.
A quick side note. I love the First Amendment. Heck, I took two classes on it in college. And I completely agree that some calls last night were questionable at best. So express yourself by booing if that’s your fancy. But just an FYI…no amount of booing is going to make the Illini shoot better.
Focusing on just the Minny game, illini70 came out on top, with a few folks nipping at his/her heels. Two-thirds of the 43 total pickers picked the Illini to win (and I don’t blame you), and we had five people picking for the first time this game.
Overall, we’re up to 56 pickers (my goal by the end of the season is 81), with BleedOandB jumping from sixth place into first. Walker has slipped from first to second, but only trails by one. Penniless rounds out the trio of 2-1 pickers at the top with a RSDT of 46. Oh, and pay no attention to that man at the bottom. I don’t even know who he is or how he got in on this gig.
Next up…the Badgers from cheeseland
Not the most intimidating Wisky squad this year, and the stinker of a win they got over Nebraska last weekend won’t impress anybody. But one Bo Ryan staple remains...the ability to consistently recruit good big men. Running down the roster I see 6-11, 6-10, 6-10, and 6-8 in the height column. Thinking all the way back to the Mizzou game, the Illini had big problems will super tall guys down low. I brought the point up to fellow IlliniHQ blogger Marcus Jackson  prior to the Auburn game, and he reminded me that the Mizzou big men were at a level that the Illini probably won’t see again this year. Good point, but the Badger big men still concern me…just because they’ve been historically good. And Bo Ryan wouldn’t recruit them if they couldn’t continue that trend.
I’m torn on this pick. If the Illini picked up the W last night, I’d pick a win, no question. But the way the team lost control in the second half has put some doubts in the back of my head. One thing they have working for them, though, is recent success in the Kohl Center. Per the team’s Twitter, their wins in 05, 06, and 10 are the most by any team since 2005.
MY PREDICTION: Illinois 69, Wisconsin 60
Going with a low scoring one here based on the Illini’s last road game  – 61 points – and because Wisky is a low scoring team in general – 71 PPG. Plus, the B1G has been known to be a low-scoring league…or as the front office puts it…they just play really really good defense!
So what do you think? Leave your score prediction and analysis in a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you haven’t gotten in the game yet, you should now if you want a shot at those Indiana game tickets. The most accurate picker at the end of the month gets ‘em. We’ll also try to round up a prize for the best picker at the end of the regular season. Also, we haven’t had anyone pick a score exactly right yet. If that happens, we’ll try to scrounge up a prize for you.
- Here’s one for you history buffs…did you know that the U of I school song, Illinois Loyalty, has alternate lyrics? It’s true. I was perusing my copy of the U of I Football Vault  (by our very own Bob Asmussen ) when I found an Illinois Loyalty lyrics sheet from 1907. The lyric “crack out that ball” could sometimes be sung as “smash that blockade”, and the following line of “We’re backing you all” was sometimes sung as “Go crashing ahead”. A little later in the ditty, the lyric “we expect a victory from you” could be read as “we expect a touchdown from you”. Try getting those alternate lyrics out of your head the next time you’re singing the school song at a game.
- Fighting Illini Wrestling is back on WDWS  tomorrow, as Brian Moline will be behind the mic at 6:50 as the Illini take on Purdue. Be sure to tune in, cause these guys are good. Like #5 in the country good.
- Going back to Minny for just a sec…did anyone else see Tubby Smith rockin’ the moustache last night? From reading a few media reports, he grew it for Movember…then just kept it after that. Ron Swanson  and Seth Davis  definitely approve.
COMING UP ON MONDAY: Wisky thoughts, prediction standings, & Northwestern predictions
[Carrey photo via Wikipedia, Groce audio via Illini Productions]