CHAMPAIGN – A well-dressed Chicago TV broadcaster, making an infrequent sojourn into the hinterlands, questioned the wisdom of Wisconsin, ranked 10th in the coaches'' poll and No. 12 with the Associated Press media, being a four-point underdog against unranked Illinois on Wednesday night.
This was an hour before tipoff. The Assembly Hall was empty and quiet. It was the calm before the storm.
After Illinois'' 75-51 rout of Michigan State last Tuesday, it seemed appropriate to tune into the national view of it.
Listened to ESPN Radio on the drive home. No mention. Tried ESPN on the home TV. Must have missed it. Checked AOL Sports. Zero.
CHAMPAIGN – Ask Bruce Weber what has changed since the last time his team played Wisconsin, and you might be listening to his answer for a while.
Deron Williams is healthier. Illinois'' defense is heartier. The mood at the Ubben Basketball Complex is happier.
Illinois'' Justin Spring was named NCAA Men''s Gymnast of the Week by Inside Gymnastics Magazine for the second time in three weeks.
CHAMPAIGN – As a kid growing up in the tradition-rich hoops hotbed that is Peoria, Jerrance Howard always dreamed of playing college basketball.
Beginning Wednesday, Illinois fans can vote online for the UI''s All-Century Basketball Team. Voting runs through April 5 at www.fightingillini.com. Fans are required to vote for three players from each of three eras, and six more players from any era for a total of 15 players. The nominees:
CHAMPAIGN – Illinois probably will wear white when it faces Wisconsin on Wednesday.
Don''t be surprised if the language on the court gets a little blue.
When a program has four head coaches in nine seasons, continuity is interrupted.
At Illinois, it goes much deeper. Looking into the past, we saw the late Harry Combes, successor Harv Schmidt and short-termer Gene Bartow leave with a sour taste. And after the 21-year Lou Henson era, Lon Kruger and Bill Self used their Illini successes as steppingstones.
The Illinois men''s tennis team isn''t the only top-ranked squad on campus. Yoshi Hayasaki''s men''s gymnastics team joined Craig Tiley''s group on Monday as No. 1 in the nation.
The GymInfo top ranking is the first for the Illini men since 1989, when they won Big Ten and NCAA titles. Illinois will host both events this year.