CHAMPAIGN – On Thursday, Illinois basketball celebrates Senior Night.
But around here, it''s always Junior Day.
My unique first name makes me sound like I am a powerful politician, but it was on the basketball court where I ruled. Mannie Jackson, my childhood buddy, played with me at Edwardsville High School, then we joined the Illini. As a 6-3 1/2 forward, I ended my collegiate career in 1960 ranked third on UI''s all-time scoring list with 1,001 points. Mannie and I earned second-team All-Big Ten honors our senior year. I then joined the Harlem Globetrotters and played several seasons for them. In 2004, I became only the 23rd person in the Trotters'' 78-year history to receive the coveted "Legends" award. Today is my 68th birthday.
Come mid-March, all the "old salts" will be gone from Big Ten basketball wars.
Purdue''s Gene Keady is the last of a thinning breed: coaches who survive at one location for more than a decade.
There were no champagne corks popping in the background when Bruce Weber answered his cellphone Sunday, no music blasting in the background.
In fact, for a man who''d just won his second consecutive outright Big Ten title, the Illinois coach was remarkably staid.
During the college basketball season, Brett Dawson, our resident expert, will answer a question each week on his specialty. This week''s question:
There was a little trepidation on Bruce Weber''s part when he let College Sports TV have total access to his program back in December for an episode of "Nike Training Camp."
Turns out, Weber needn''t have worried.
Though I was a formidable player myself, I played in the shadow of scoring star Don Freeman in the mid 1960s. As a sophomore during the 1965-66 campaign, I averaged 21.2 points a game, scoring 30 or more points six different times. I was a dominant rebounder, too, averaging more than 14 boards a game during my career. Thirty-nine years ago today, I had a fabulous game against Purdue, scoring 30 points and snatching 20 rebounds. Only five games deep into my junior season, Ron Dunlap, Steve Kuberski and I were declared ineligible as a result of the infamous Slush Fund.
Clarify something that''s bugging me.
Isn''t the Big Ten composed of the Midwest''s most prestigious universities? Hasn''t this been an outstanding basketball conference? Shouldn''t these 11 schools be able to attract quality preps from their seven states (or anywhere)?
This time of year, college basketball fans hear about the RPI every day.
But nobody really seems to understand it. At The News-Gazette, we get calls and e-mail all the time asking us to explain the mysteries of the Ratings Percentage Index, a formula the NCAA tournament selection committee uses to help determine selections and seeding come March. The only problem? We didn''t exactly understand it ourselves. So we asked staff writer Brett Dawson (who''s no math whiz) to uncover the secrets of the RPI. Here''s what he came up with.