The NBA''s gain isn''t really loss for the NCAA

ST. LOUIS – In the last two years, the NBA took LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and a grand total of 60 college and high school players possessing unused NCAA eligibility.

And already, on the eve of the Final Four, we see Utah''s Andrew Bogut, Arizona State''s Ike Diogu, Connecticut''s Charlie Villanueva and a couple George Washington athletes igniting another youthful flood into the pro circuit.

Who''s that Illini?

I was the first player in Illinois basketball history to lead the team in scoring for three consecutive seasons, averaging 6.5, 5.8 and 7.9 points a game in 1925, ''26 and ''27, respectively. I followed Ray Woods and Chuck Carney as the third UI player to twice be honored as an All-Big Ten first-team selection. I started at forward for Coach Craig Ruby and served as his captain in 1927. I''m one of Streator''s greatest prep players.

Illini''s ''instant classic'' earns an instant replay

Forgot to set the timer on the VCR? Haven''t been willing to pony up for TiVo?

Russ Hamilton''s got your back.

Cardinals, Illini take out trash

Since Sunday, Bruce Weber has been picking brains.

He has called, it seems, every coach he knows who''s ever been to the Final Four, asking about hotels and tickets and how long a leash to give his players.

UI coaches go out of their way to make fashion sense

CHAMPAIGN – Bruce Weber might be styling when he dons his orange sport coat, but when you want to talk about style, look no further than Illinois assistant coach Wayne McClain.

If you''re wondering who''s considered the best dressed on the Illini coaching staff, it''s really no contest.

What a site to see

News-Gazette staff writer Brett Dawson ranks the top destinations for the NCAA men''s Final Four:

We got the beat (writers)

The News-Gazette asked beat writers who cover all four Final Four teams to weigh in on their chances to cut down the nets Monday in St. Louis. Here are their reactions:

Building blocks in place for future

ST. LOUIS – When great sports towns are mentioned, invariably St. Louis is included in any discussion.

The city''s fervor for its beloved baseball Cardinals is renowned. Once deserted by the NFL, the Gateway to the West has enthusiastically embraced the transplanted football Rams as its own. The hockey Blues long have been one of the hottest tickets in town, the team playing to at least 92 percent seating capacity every season except one since 1989-90 (before this season''s owners'' lockout).

Brown, Williams'' time together coming to a head

CHAMPAIGN – He has been asked the question (like most questions these days) more than once, and Dee Brown is quick to answer.

Yes, he has considered that he is about to begin his last weekend with Deron Williams as a teammate.

''Test drive'' was a success

ST. LOUIS – Charlie Spoonhour had no idea how many fans would come to a St. Louis University-Illinois basketball game at the relatively new TWA Dome in St. Louis. The popular Billikens coach was just happy to schedule a game against Lon Kruger''s Illini.

"There was a thought we''d get around 25,000," said Spoonhour, who since has retired and lives in Las Vegas. "It was just so new and different, we didn''t know. It was so big at the time, you''re thinking, ''Man, this was huge.'' I didn''t have anything to compare it to other than a baseball game. We''d been in the NCAAs before but not in front of anything like that."