Illini Insider

   News-Gazette staff writer Jeff Huth''s weekly review and preview of Illinois sports:

UI first-round foe battles adversity

   CHAMPAIGN  Four months after she arrived at Western Kentucky as an assistant coach, Marti Whitmore is the Hilltoppers'' acting head coach.

   What has happened to the Western Kentucky women''s basketball program during that time could fill a notebook or three.

Illini looking within

   CHAMPAIGN  Forget about the Gipper.

   Don''t expect to hear chatter about disrespect coming out of the Illinois locker room. Don''t expect to hear tales of motivation borne of TV announcers or newspaper columnists.

First round often a horror show of upsets for No. 4 seeds

   Davidson, San Diego State, North Carolina-Wilmington, Valparaiso. Easy pickings, right?

   Not exactly. Just ask Bruce Parkhill.

Scouting report

   The News-Gazette asked New Mexico State coach Lou Henson to give us the lowdown about San Diego State. Henson''s Aggies beat the Aztecs 94-79 earlier in the season:

USC: Usual stupid choice

   It''s official: I have lost my mind. The first signs came Sunday, when I boldly picked Illinois as a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region.

   The tournament selection committee did not agree, giving the Illini a No. 4 seed and basically telling me to keep my bracket to myself.

NCAA crown would honor Williams more

   CHAMPAIGN  Given that he didn''t repeat his performance as Big Ten player of the year, it comes as no surprise that Frank Williams wasn''t named a first-team Associated Press All-American on Tuesday.

   Not that it matters much. Williams said his season starts Friday.

Asmussen: C-U receives heavy dose of Big Ten

   Like it or not, when CBS maps out NCAA tournament coverage, it loads up Champaign-Urbana with Big Ten games.

   It won''t get much of an argument from people at the local affiliate, WCIA, who know basketball fans in the community like to see familiar teams.

Big Ten teams miffed about lack of respect

   The Fab Five was history, the Big Dog was woofing at NBA players and the Flintstones meant Fred and Barney instead of Mateen and MoPete.

   After a stretch of banner seasons that saw the Big Ten put two teams in the NCAA tournament championship, another in the Final Four and four others in the Elite Eight in three years, the conference fell on hard times in the mid-1990s.

Tate: Fisher, team make most of new shot

   A second-chance coach withsecond-chance players. - That''s San Diego State with Steve Fisher at the helm and all variety of transfers leading a surprise team into Friday''s 2 p.m. NCAA date with Illinois in Chicago.

   A native Illinoisan who grew up in Herrin around the likes of Lee Cabutti and Itch Jones, Fisher attended Illinois State and later coached with Les Wothke at Rich East and Western Michigan.