Posted in College Sports, tagged Chester Frazier, Craig Moore, Duke, Eric Gordon, ESPN2, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana, North Carolina, Northwestern Wildcats, rivalries on February 12, 2009|
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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team If there’s one game that Northwestern circles on the schedule each year, it’s Illinois. The Illini directly compete with them within the city of Chicago on all levels: for coveted recruits, building a dedicated fan base, and the publicity of coverage from the nation’s third largest media market. While NU fans utterly despise Illinois, Illini Nation abhors Indiana, the only Big 10 program with more tournament appearances and wins than Illinois, the most. Eric Gordon certainly turned that up a notch! It may not be Duke/North Carolina, but it’s unfortunate that this season sees our in-state rivals meet just once: Thu 8PM at Welsh-Ryan Arena, ESPN2.
Illinois-Northwestern is an exciting rivalry in football, but in basketball it’s EXCEEDINGLY one-sided. UI leads the all-time series 125-34, with a 60-21 advantage in Evanston. The Illini also carry a nine-game series winning streak into Thursday’s game. However, nothing is certain for opponents game-planning against the Wildcats’ unique style on both ends of the court (Princeton set on offense, 1-3-1 zone on defense) Despite the recent records overwhelmingly in Illinois’ favor, Illini senior point guard Chester Frazier expressed caution towards the Wildcats, who enter the game with an 11-2 home record and the nation’s 20th ranked scoring defense. “That’s gonna be one of the roughest games of the year in my opinion. Their style of play is very different, very unorthodox. With the 1-3-1 they cause a lot of turnovers and create a lot of havoc, so we gotta take care of the ball and be ready to play every possession,” Frazier said.
Northwestern senior two-guard Craig Moore is NU’s emotional and scoring leader. He’s also second nationally in 3pt field goal percentage. Moore discussed the Illini’s upcoming visit to the North Shore. “It’s a good rivalry, they’ve handled us a bit the past couple times we’ve played them,” NU’s all-time three point scorer said. Even though Illinois has looked uglier than Michael Phelps’ recent PR on the road, I predict they’ll win 61-59. They have an impressive RPI of 15, according to all 3 (Real Time, ESPN Inside, and Jerry Palm) ratings percentage indices. The Illini slaughtered the Wildcats 70-37 in their only meeting last year and Cats coach Bill Carmody is just 1-14 against the Orange and Blue.
See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times and The Sports Bank
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Posted in College Sports, Uncategorized, tagged Big Ten, Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Bill Carmody, Craig Moore, defense, Illinois Fighting Illini, Juice Thompson, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Northwestern Wildcats, Princeton offense on December 2, 2008|
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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Most college basketball geeks around the country didn’t expect much from Illinois -predicting them to reach the NIT at best- and Northwestern, who has never reached the NCAA tournament in program history. Their conference, the Big Ten, was expected to be very weak as far as the six power conferences go. Yet our state’s two Big Ten teams have a combined record of 11-1 today. As the made-for-ESPN event that is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge begins, the Midwestern power conference has a 55-9 overall record, second to (yes, you guessed it) the ACC’s 61-10. What’s the secret to this early season success? Defense, as the Big Ten is first in scoring against average, holding opponents to 59.3 points per game. Northwestern is second only to Ohio State with a 50.2 scoring against average. Illinois is third, yielding 56.2 ppg.
After a 59-43 drubbing of UC-Riverside, NU coach Bill Carmody spoke about the size added to his lineup this year and how it’s improved his team’s defense. “They (bigger teams getting extra shots) have plagued us for years. I don’t know if the big guys necessarily get all the rebounds, but they’re always at least keeping their man away from it, so maybe it’s just our presence inside,” Carmody said. Senior guard Craig Moore, holder of the school record for three-pointers, talked about the team’s new crashing-the-boards philosophy and how it helps augment the team defense. “Coach always says in practice, keep crashing, keep crashing, he told me to crash and I looked at him like he was crazy, but it’s a different style and we’re just trying to play hard and really get after it on defense,” Moore said.
On the other end of the floor, both teams have found unexpected leaders. Point guard Juice Thompson runs NU’s Princeton offense with a solid 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And if you play the one at a Big Ten school, “juice” is the perfect word to describe your on-campus reputation. The Illini were expected to rely heavily on their guards for offense this year, but their leading scorer, Mike Davis actually plays the four. Mike Tisdale, his complement in the post, was just named Conference player of the week. Sure, the season is less than a month old and the Big Ten has largely feasted on cupcake teams with almost as many hyphens in their names as victories, (both UI and NU beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by about 20 points) but both squads look much better than expected so far.
For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.
For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”
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