When saddled with high expectations the first time around, Illinois came across like a TV station that dumps its well-groomed anchors.
It disappointed a lot of folks.
Given a national ranking and a shot at winning the Big Ten, the Illini performed carelessly. They lost as many leads as they did players to injury.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The colors haven't changed. Four years later, Ryan Blackwell is still wearing orange and blue.
But the record is better. A lot better.
Eighteen games into his senior season at Syracuse, Blackwell is more than halfway to perfection. The Orangemen have pounded their opponents by an average of 17.6 points. Only three games have been decided by less than 10.
MAHOMET – Brett Melton was the best basketball player on the court Friday during Mahomet-Seymour's 69-56 win over Bloomington Central Catholic.
The Mahomet-Seymour senior, however, was the first to acknowledge he might not have been the best basketball player in the gym.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Both Marcus Griffin and Damir Krupalija will be in uniform Sunday, but only one of the achy Illini will be on call against Penn State.
Griffin, still recovering from Jan. 24 knee surgery, won't play today and is expected to miss Wednesday's home game against Michigan as well. But coach Lon Kruger plans to let his center dress Sunday as a measure of getting him back into the routine.
Illinois senior Jeff Laski and sophomore Jamal Parker lost 6-3, 6-4 in doubles to Texas' Micheal Blue and Nick Crowell in the semifinals of the Rolex Intercollegiate Tennis Championships on Friday in Dallas.
CHAMPAIGN – Adam Tirapelle's done messing around.
You make a mistake against the Illini junior wrestler now, and you find yourself staring at the ceiling.
"I'm going out there to pin guys. Last year I really wasn't," said Tirapelle, who posted the only fall in sixth-ranked Illinois' 32-7 victory against No. 15 Wisconsin on Friday at Huff Hall. "Last year, if they got on their back, OK. But if they didn't, that was OK, too. This year, I'm going out and trying to pin them."
Illinois senior Jeff Laski and sophomore Jamal Parker moved into the semifinals of the Rolex Intercollegiate Indoor Championships on Thursday with two victories.
CHAMPAIGN – Kerry Ann Richards is leaning on a wall at the UI Armory. She's tired.
Tired of Midwest weather, for one thing. After more than four years in Champaign-Urbana, the Kingston, Jamaica, native and Illinois sprint star still has no appreciation of wind chill factors or 3 inches of slush. Go figure.
"I'm pretty sick of it, to be honest," Richards laughed. "I'm in bewilderment that people live here by choice."