Jim Rossow

Jim Rossow

Bradford bloodied, but not bowed

   CHICAGO  He may have to wear one of those funny-looking masks on national television Friday. And there''s no telling how many nose jokes he''ll hear from teammates between now and then.

   But Cory Bradford''s good looks weren''t among his worries Sunday after finding out he had a broken nose.

Great matchups await if Illinois survives Penn

CHICAGO – Before we dig up those Lon-Kruger-at-Florida stories or revisit the dislike between Illinois and DePaul or study the invincibility of Duke – all inviting NCAA tournament angles – Lucas Johnson would like to remind us of a four-letter word to calm the nerves:

"Penn," he said.

Things looking up for Illini in NCAA

   CHICAGO  The site could be anywhere from Birmingham to Buffalo, the opponent anyone from Butler to Ball State.

   But after Saturday''s 94-84 win against Penn State, the Illini have a better idea of what kind of seed they''ll draw in the NCAA tournament today.

Spartans focus on Griffin

CHICAGO – As they studied film in their hotel meeting room Saturday night, Michigan State noticed something different Illinois had to offer.

He was wearing No. 52.

Healthy Krupalija gives Illinois a lift

CHICAGO — Damir Krupalija has played so well, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo brought up his name during his postgame news conference. That he mispronounced it does not diminish the significance.

“Damir’s a guy who can come in and play with great emotion,” UI forward Lucas Johnson said. “He’s always had that capability of doing it, but now he’s getting the opportunity with more minutes. He’s proven that there’s a reason the coaches have him in there.”

Point guard comes in loud, clear to Illini

CHICAGO – The best sign isn't if his first shot goes in, if his first pass reaches its target, if his first drive to the basket results in free throws.

The surest way to determine if Frank Williams is going to play to his endless potential is watching the freshman's mouth.

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.

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.

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."