ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Sergio McClain had it all mapped out.
He was going to get the basketball, drive or pull up for a three-pointer and show Missouri what it was missing when it failed to sign the captain of the Peoria Manual dynasty.
The plan went bad.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Timing is everything.
That's Lon Kruger's explanation for his off-target basketball team, which is shooting worse than any Illinois outfit in 40 years.
Lon Kruger is sweating right now.
Not about playing 13th-ranked Kansas in its back yard without a proven point guard. He'll deal with that potential turnover disaster late Saturday afternoon.
Craig Morton wants to talk about his son, but there''s someone else on the other line.
"It''s a coach," Morton says. "Can you hold on?"
CHAMPAIGN – It's a good thing Ruben Bradford was home in Memphis, Tenn., and not at the Assembly Hall on Monday night.
Otherwise, his nephew would have gotten an earful.
Cory Bradford's been hooked on the NCAA tournament ever since watching Christian Laettner grab Grant Hill's desperate pass, turn around and beat Kentucky with a jumper at the buzzer of a regional final.
Victor Chukwudebe's been craving madness in March ever since watching five Michigan freshmen in real long shorts march all the way to the championship game.
It's not just basketball.
It could be tiddlywinks, bowling, arm-wrestling, Monopoly for all we know. Anything that involves an outcome.
If Sergio McClain's not winning, he's steaming.
CHAMPAIGN – They might disagree on pizza toppings, television shows and who owes what on the phone bill.
But when the topic turns basketball in the dorm room they share, freshman roomies Robert Archibald and Lucas Johnson are on the same page.
It''s OK if you don''t know much about Nate Mast.
He doesn''t have a scholarship, a build or a reputation, rare today in Big Ten basketball.
What he has is a place in Lon Kruger''s rotation, starting Monday''s exhibition against Athletes in Action.
CHICAGO – Given her sometimes strenuous relationship with her peers, Theresa Grentz could only laugh when told Illinois was not among the top five Big Ten teams in a preseason survey of league coaches.
In the media poll released Sunday, the Illini were predicted to finish second behind Purdue with nine first-place votes.