Jim Rossow

Jim Rossow

Guenther following Illin basketball team closely

SAN ANTONIO – His playing days ended in junior high, his jump shot isn't the prettiest to watch and he's more familiar with off-tackle dives than pick-and-rolls. But there's no bigger basketball fan these days than Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther, who is in San Antonio today and hopes to be in Minneapolis next weekend.

News-Gazette sports editor Jim Rossow spent a few minutes with the 1966 Illinois football MVP at the Alamodome, where the Illini play Arizona today for a trip to the Final Four:

Talk is cheap with Final Four berth on the line

SAN ANTONIO – Trying to separate fact from fiction at the Midwest Regional is trickier than guarding Frank Williams. The innuendo is as thick as some of the burritos in town.

Lucas Johnson is either a raving maniac who belongs in the XFL or a good kid from Des Plaines who gives it his all. Arizona is either soft as elevator music or silky smooth like college basketball should be. The Big Ten either encourages its players to swing elbows or goes by the rules set by the NCAA. Bill Self is either a master motivator or someone who lucked into a winning lottery ticket.

It all depends whom you ask.

In elite company

SAN ANTONIO – Jump in the car, hop on the train, book a flight.

Do whatever it takes. Just leave early enough to get to the Alamodome by 4 p.m. Sunday.

Johnson scores knockout blow

   SAN ANTONIO  You can''t blame Lucas Johnson for being tired after his Illini beat Kansas 80-64 Friday night.

   It wasn''t so much the season-high 25 minutes on the floor for the junior reserve.

Illini aren't intimidated by Sweet 16

SAN ANTONIO – There are teams that break into a cold sweat before big games. Others tap their toes and fidget incessantly. Some don't get a wink of sleep.

Illinois? It whips out the crayons and starts drawing.

Kansas fans give Cook the business

   SAN ANTONIO  When John Bush ran into Illinois'' Brian Cook on Wednesday night along the Riverwalk, the Kansas alum couldn''t help but give Cook some advice.

   "I told him to stay out all night and to start thinking about Arizona," Bush said. "I told him not to think about Kansas at all."

Togetherness can see UI through

SAN ANTONIO – He noticed more cameras in his face, more seats in the arena and more hangers-on in the hotel lobby.

But the thing Bill Self noticed most during last season's trip to the Sweet 16 was the unusually attentive look on his team's face.

Self rumor mill grinds to a halt

SAN ANTONIO – If Tennessee makes a pitch for Bill Self, the Illinois coach will politely take a pass.

Self on Wednesday night denied any interest in the Volunteers opening after radio reports indicated he had agreed to interview for the job.

Illini stay freee of superstitions during preparation

CHAMPAIGN – Bill Self's season as an assistant coach at Kansas was memorable because of a 35-win team and a superstitious coach.

When the Jayhawks put together a late-season winning streak, Larry Brown linked it to staff bowling outings arranged by Self. That none of the coaches could carry Dick Weber's bag didn't matter.

Williams, big sister staying alive in tournament play

CHAMPAIGN – When they were younger, Marlena Williams used to pick on younger brother Frank when the two played basketball.

Times have changed.

"The script flipped," Frank Williams said. "Now I'm in the teaching stage."