'Madness' begins basketball season

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois Madness, the Illini basketball team's first practice of the season, will be at 9 p.m. Oct. 12.

This year's event, which will serve as a fundraiser for Coaches vs. Cancer, features the first men's basketball scrimmage, a shooting contest involving the men's and women's teams and a dunk contest.

Luttrell, Fairchild power GCMS running attack

GIBSON CITY – It might have been a rainy night, but that didn't slow Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's senior-dominated power running game en route to a 24-6 victory against Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Friday night.

After a few scoreless possessions by both teams, the Falcons' first score was set up by a 70-yard run by tailback Brenton Fairchild.

Danville sees change for the better

DANVILLE – It was the kind of off-season a football coach loves.

"We had so many people in the weight room and it was so crowded, sometimes you couldn't get your lifts done," said Kyle Guerrero, a senior guard and the only returning starter on the offensive line.

Cable deal appears grim for C-U viewers

Cable customers in Champaign-Urbana and Danville are unlikely to see the launch of the Big Ten Network.

In a news release from Fox Cable Networks on Thursday, officials predicted they wouldn't reach an agreement with Comcast in time for next Thursday's opening. Though C-U and Danville currently have Insight Communications, the systems are being taken over by Comcast early in 2008. It's doubtful Insight will make a deal without Comcast's approval.

Tate: Smith decision another reminder that image is everything

CHAMPAIGN – It's a free country. We each have a right to our opinion.

That being the case, let me join those – are we a minority? – who respectfully disagree with Illinois' decision to withhold Jamar Smith from basketball this season.

She's learning from the best

CHAMPAIGN – When Leisha Alcia joined the Illinois women's soccer staff in February, there never was a doubt the former Illini great would be assigned to coach the goalkeepers.

Look through the team's media guide and you'll see Alcia's name atop virtually every goalkeeping school rec-ord.

Brightest tennis star leaving early

CHAMPAIGN – A summer of success convinced Kevin Anderson to give pro tennis a shot.

The Big Ten MVP said Thursday he'll forgo his senior season at Illinois, a major setback for a program coming off a runner-up finish at the NCAA tournament.

Coach spreading wealth on offense

RANTOUL – Coach Trevor Lehnen's long-range plan paid off in 2005, when Rantoul won six games and reached the playoffs after a lengthy drought.

The Eagles dropped back during a difficult 2006 season, but Lehnen hopes some changes in the program lead it back to its previous heights.

Veterans might get most from journey

CHAMPAIGN – A preseason foreign tour would seem to benefit the newcomers on the Illinois basketball roster more than most. In the case of the Illini, it is the veterans who might get the biggest boost.

"A lot of our guys are coming off injuries and need to get that extra time," said coach Bruce Weber, who on Wednesday announced plans for a Canada tour during the Labor Day weekend.

Breaking it down

Women's basketball beat writer Tony Bleill's thoughts on the Illini's schedule: