First, let me acknowledge ... I had reservations, in light of ailments that kept 15 Illini on the sidelines, about the advisability of conducting a spring football game Saturday.
We are left to wonder:
Why are University of Illinois men’s spring sports having such success while the school’s teams in the “money sports,” football and basketball, struggle?
— Why did Illinois men’s tennis coach Brad Dancer break up Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon, the nation’s sixth-ranked doubles team a year ago and third-ranked as they entered their senior season?
If you’re an athlete, don’t give up freebies. Make your opponent earn it.
That goes double for free throws and walks. And the latter explains part of the success by the best Illini pitching staff in many years.
In the fourth inning here Saturday, ace lefty Kevin Duchene walked Purdue shortstop Harry Shipley. Shame on you, Kevin.
SPRINGFIELD — And the worst shall become the best.
That’s the look of Illini football this spring. After three seasons marked by weak-kneed defenses — ranked among the nation’s worst -— Tim Beckman’s much-maligned unit may be asked to carry the load in 2015.
You know softball. All those 1-0 and 2-1 pitchers’ duels. Hockey scores. Frozen bats, like at a Cubs-Cardinal game.
Maybe someday, as happened with Duke, the Wisconsin Badgers will join the one-and-done basketball elitists.
Maybe, after Bo Ryan retires, they’ll hook on with the rent-a-player crowd,with transfers and/or junior college pickups.
The NCAA men’s gymnastics title is Oklahoma’s to lose.
The Sooners own four consecutive runner-up finishes, boast seven high-scoring seniors and will compete Thursday through Saturday in fan-friendly Norman.
But if Ohio State can rock the football world, and if Wisconsin and Michigan State can crack basketball’s Final Four, who’s to say?
Oh, what might have been.
It is virtually unanimous that Illinois needs help at point guard and center. UI basketball coaches must agree, otherwise John Groce wouldn’t be waving April offers for those positions.
If Dan Hartleb’s batters learn to hit crafty lefties, this could be a banner season.
That shortcoming will be forgotten on a chilly Friday night, as big sophomore Pat McInerney rode the west wind for an opposite-field homer inside the right-field pole leading to a 3-1, 13-inning win against Northwestern.