Zook's been in Smith's shoes before

CHAMPAIGN – Ron Zook has been in John L. Smith's shoes before. Two years ago.

Just like with Zook at Florida, Smith was fired Wednesday at Michigan State. Just like with Zook at Florida, Smith has been asked to finish the season with a team fighting for a bowl bid.

Northwestern bounces Illini spikers

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois volleyball coach Don Hardin is getting tired of moral victories.

Hardin's team, which has battled through recent injuries, lost 30-25, 25-30, 30-26, 30-27 to Northwestern on Wednesday night.

Solid outing for Carter in exhibition

CHAMPAIGN – By extending his go-go-gadget arms for a rebound, or swishing a long jump shot that defies his 6-foot-9 frame, Warren Carter catches your eye.

Not just his hair, spiked every which way. But his game. Kid's got game, when he shows it.

Bob Asmussen's insider

News-Gazette beat writer Bob Asmussen's weekly look at the game he loves:

Tressel enjoying development of UI's Williams

CHAMPAIGN – Jim Tressel's defenders will spend Saturday chasing Juice Williams across the Memorial Stadium turf. If Tressel had his way, the chasing would have happened during Ohio State's practices instead.

Tressel said the Illinois freshman was a priority recruit for the Buckeyes.

Zook praises Tressel's system

CHAMPAIGN – During last April's NFL draft, player after player from Ohio State's defense went up on the board. To the delight of Big Ten coaches.

Certainly with all those losses, they thought, the Buckeyes couldn't be a BCS team again. Wrong.

Like a fine wine, former Urbana star getting better with age

CHAMPAIGN – During a chance meeting last summer with her former high school soccer coach, Ella Masar heard this supremely confident prediction:

"This is your year – junior year," Randy Blackman told the Illinois forward. "Just like high school."

Projected starters

Here is a projection of tonight's starting lineup:

UI men's basketball practice report

CHAMPAIGN – With a roster in his mind, coach Bruce Weber listed Illinois' available guards. It didn't take long.

"We really only have limited people to choose from," Weber said. "You have Chester, Trent, Jamar, Calvin. And Warren can play a little bit of 3. And then Chris Hicks."

Tate: History tells us patience usually pays

CHAMPAIGN – Ready, set: Don your thinking caps.

Beginning with tonight's exhibition against Lewis, Illini basketball fans will have two opportunities to "help" Bruce Weber in arranging the careers of freshmen Brian Carlwell and Richard Semrau.