Jim Rossow

Jim Rossow

Rossow: New Year's resolution: Win league

The toaster still works, the "Fast Cash" button at the ATM still spits out $20s and you still can catch a flight out of Willard.

Now that the turn of the century concerns are kaput, we can start banging our heads about something really important. Like, can Lon Kruger's Illini win the Big Ten?

Big Ten at the break

   Can Michigan State win its third consecutive title? Can Ohio State get by with its two-man attack? Can Illinois get healthy? Can anybody name a starter for surprising Minnesota? Can anybody name an opponent Northwestern has a chance of beating? The answers to those questions and others will begin to surface Wednesday when the Big Ten kicks off another men''s basketball season. News-Gazette sports editor Jim Rossow checks up on Illinois'' 10 rivals with Big Ten bouts about to begin:

Jim Rossow's Bowl Report Card

Illinois 63,

Virginia 21

Missouri guard Gilbert; the mouth that roared

ST. LOUIS – Turns out Clarence Gilbert talks as well as he shoots.

Thirty minutes after the Missouri guard finished off the Illini with the range of an NBA player, Gilbert was sounding like a pro, too. If not for the Kiel Center security guards wanting to clear out the gym, he might have talked past midnight.

Loss kills Brown''s holiday spirit

   "Coach told us over and over they could shoot the three."

    UI center Marcus Griffin

Illinois sicks Griffin on Kansas' frontcourt

CHICAGO – At breakfast he was fine, chowing down on eggs, pancakes, cereal and toast with the rest of the Illini.

But as he arrived at the United Center for Saturday's game against No. 8 Kansas, Marcus Griffin felt his stomach knot up like it has several times the last two weeks. Seems bronchitis and basketball aren't always a good mix.

Illini keep Cardinal on the go

   CHICAGO  Rod Cardinal looked every bit as tired as Cory Bradford, who played a game-high 37 minutes, after Saturday''s upset of Kansas.

   The Illinois trainer broke a serious sweat dealing with players both ill and injured. A bruised finger here, a bad back there ... Cardinal was running low on both aspiring and gauze by late afternoon.

It's too bad Illini can't stay in C-U

It's fantastic Illinois gets to play Duke and Kansas before the Big Ten season starts. It's too bad both games are in Chicago.

Nothing against the United Center. It has comfortable seats, good sightlines and concession stands with North Prospect menus. There's even a statue of everybody's favorite player out front.

Williams feels growing pains

   CHICAGO  Maybe in March, Frank Williams doesn''t take the last-second three-pointer with the game on the line. Maybe he penetrates the lane and kicks the basketball to the wing where one of his teammates has an open look.

   Maybe then he''ll feel comfortable as a point guard. Because today he isn''t. When he''s supposed to pass, he''s looking to shoot. When he''s supposed to shoot, he''s looking to pass.

Krupalija sizes up situation, hits key shots

PEORIA – When it comes to big men shooting the basketball, there's no Illini better than Damir Krupalija.

Just ask him.