Hey...How 'bout them Illini. They have crawled into the Top 20 in both national polls and are sporting a gaudy 17-3 record, surprising even the most ardent of their snow-covered fans. In reality, they took Clemson to the last possession and lost at Michigan State...but played well in both losses.
And in an early Big 10 loss at Michigan, the Farming Illini competed and played hard, but fell apart in the last 5 minutes...Couldn't find the cylinder for love or money or with the aid of their GPS powered iPhones.
My point, you ask? This team has finally caught the attention of the...um...'experts' and has quietly positioned themselves for some postseason action. What questions face Bruce Weber's gang of five as they prepare for the back half of the Big 10 season? You, mon frere, have come to the right place.
5. Can we please increase Mike Tisdale's (7'1", 125lb.) calorie intake? He is on a daily limit of 6,000 calories and has gained like three pounds. I say bump to 10 grand....heck, Michael Phelps did 6,000 for breakfast. Tizzy has great skills on the offensive end, but gets pushed around the bucket and struggles with a banger.
4. Will Kentucky transfer Alex Legion become a consistent scorer off the bench? Weber has brought Legion along slowly, giving him 8-10-12 minutes per game. Legion has shown hints of his shooting prowess, but has been up and down. He has a quick release and doesn't need much space for his jumper, but he can throw up a quick shot early in the offense that drives Weber crazy.
3. Will point guard Demetri McCamey continue to buy in to Weber's system? D-Mac has D-Will-like skills, but has butted heads with Bruce and his work-hard-at-all-times philosophy. On occasion, McCamey will mail it in at practice...on occasion, Bruce will not start Demetri...on occasion, D-Mac will put up 25 points and eight assists against Wisconsin.
From my vantage point, it looks like McCamey has realized that Weber will not change his system and that Bruce is going to win this tug of war.
2. Can we get a rebound....puhlease? One of the few weaknesses of this quintet, is their inability to rebound. The Illini are not real big, no big bodies in the paint...and therefore, struggle to clean the glass.
Stats don't lie...they are being outrebounded by nearly four per game...but...BUT...are 10-1 in games where they get whipped on the boards. Go figure.
1. Can Chester Frazier stay healthy? I never thought I would say this, or think this, or write this...Chester Frazier is the key to this team. He is the mini-coach on the floor. He guards the other teams best player (see Evan Turner...OSU...four points). He plays through injuries. He dives for loose balls.
He chest bumps Eric "I'm going to Illinois" Gordon. He is the heart of this team. He must keep all of his tendons, muscles, and neurons connected to his skeleton. He must stay healthy for this team to stay..uh...healthy.
There you have it...Five burning (ouch) questions of your Fighting Illini. Stay tuned....February will be: A. Fun B. Our questions will be answered C. Warmer D. The month when Blago admits he took money for a toupe.
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