Winner puts Illini in prime tourney spot

CHICAGO – And you thought last year's worst-to-almost-first burst was something to see.

If Friday's postseason opener is a sign of Big Ten tournament things to come for Illinois, we could be in for an even madder March this time around.

McClain passes tournament test

   CHICAGO  Television replays were inconclusive, but it appeared Illinois coach Lon Kruger might have given Sergio McClain a peck on the cheek during an emotional embrace seconds after Friday''s 72-69 win against Indiana.

   "Oh, I don''t know about that," McClain said, declaring it a hug-only situation. "He was just happy."

UI foe has bone to pick

CHICAGO – Beating Ohio State is great, but Joe Crispin can think of an even better development: two free throws with the game on the line against Illinois, with no blood and no referee saying he can't shoot them.

"That still lingers with me," Crispin said.

Bradford instant hero

CHICAGO – It wasn't until he returned to his downtown hotel room late Friday afternoon that Cory Bradford could digest fully what he did against Indiana.

He certainly didn't have time to himself at the United Center after his three-pointer rescued Illinois in its 72-69 first-round lump in the throat.

NCAA or bust

The NCAA Indoor championships are being held today and Saturday at Fayetteville, Ark. Here is a rundown on Illinois' entries:

Film shows basketball at its roots

As sports films go, there aren't many that I've liked better than "Hoop Dreams."

The story of two Chicago high school players was compelling both on and off the court. Years later, it's easy to remember William Gates and Arthur Agee.

Any basketball documentary that follows, fair or not, is going to be compared to "Hoop Dreams." If the film happens to be in Illinois, the scrutiny gets worse.

Tattoo U: Illini individuality written in ink

Used to be bikers and military men were the ones who kept Eric Cain's Campustown tattoo parlor in business.

Now it's power forwards and point guards.

Big Ten notes: Vitale picks Illinois for Sweet 16

   CHICAGO  He won''t do a headstand if he''s wrong, but Dick Vitale made another bold prediction about Illinois on Thursday.

   "I look at them for sure as a Sweet 16 team," Vitale said on a conference call with reporters. "Illinois is very dangerous."

UI softball gets jump on season

CHAMPAIGN – When Annie Rymer recalls the "good old days" of her softball career, it won't include her first two years at the University of Illinois.

A former pitcher at Unity High, Rymer joined the Illini club team after enrolling in college.

"Practices were short," she said, "and if I had homework, I wouldn't show up at practice."

Illinois senior looking forward to life in slower lane

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – You'll never see Tara Mendozza doing sitspins at the UI Ice Arena or ripping through the Quad on rollerblades. But "never" ends in June.

For four years, the Illinois middle distance runner has followed assistant coach Michelle Byrne's orders and avoided hazardous leg activities.