Pentagram: Double W Day

Nate & Mikel

Well, fellow Orange & Blue sufferers, we end 2010 on a positive note.  It’s a rarity, so savor it while you can.  With that convincing 38-14 win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, the Fighting Illini gridders enter next season with momentum and promise.  The game’s result was something of a surprise, as many had tabbed the Bears playing in front of a home crowd with their potent offense as the favorite.  More surprising was the manner of victory, with Zook’s boys dominating on defense and ripping off an impressive 13 passes in a row to set up Mikel Leshoure and Jason Ford’s cannonballing runs.

A few hours later, in Iowa City, the hoops team earned a Big 10 road win against the Hawkeyes, 87-77.  These Illini rediscovered their shooting touch, hitting at around 66% for the game (and by the way, if you can’t win when you shoot that well, you might as well stop playing), but many of the previously noted problems with this team were once again present.  Still, Fran McCaffrey’s version of the Hawks, while still undermanned, played hard and smart.  If they don’t lose their way completely they will upset some teams this year.

But back to the bowl win.  Sure, this was one of the also-ran bowls.  Sure this team only finished one game above .500, but for a program that’s struggling to move up in the conference pecking order, that hasn’t won a bowl game since 1999, that has been an irregular post-season participant since the early 90s, you just can’t discount the potential momentum.  Last night we saw the payoff of 15 extra practices with the improved coordinators.  We saw potential in underclassmen and returning players.  Now the coaching staff has something else to talk about when they hit the recruiting trail.  The DIA has additional fodder for season ticket sales.  The Zooker doesn’t have to hear as much rumbling and grumbling from the alumni.   As an example, look at what regular bowl participation has meant to teams like Iowa and Mizzou – teams whose success Illinois should be able to emulate.  Those two squads have parlayed regular post-season success into improved recruiting and program atmosphere and a chance to compete for their conference championships on good years.   And that’s just what we’re hoping for around here.

Five points in your double victory pentagram:

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Pentagram: Two in a Row

Congratulations to the Missouri Tiggers – you proved yourself less inept than the Illini in a battle of vastly overrated basketball teams.  With the game winding down, you finally made a layup or two.  Then the refs made sure of it with the inevitable intentional foul and follow up technical.  Am I the only one who wishes the boys would have just gone for it?  Put in the aggressive press-break that led to lay-ups and dunks two years ago – damn the torpedoes and let’s play this one in the 90s?

Merry Christmas, Illini Fans!  Let’s get pumped for the Texas Bowl!

One comment about the annual Braggin’ Rights game from someone who hasn’t missed one in eleven years:  at one time Mizzou fans may have slightly outnumbered the orange-clad, but the last four or five years it’s Illini fans who show up in greater numbers.  We sat on the Mizzou side this year and there were numerous orange-clads in the sections around us.  Compare that to the Illini sections across the way, which were solid orange.  Don’t know why KMOX and various newspapers perpetuate the myth this game is a Missouri lean (but we can guess), but since the middle of the streak of the aughts, the Tigger faithful don’t turn out in strength.

Five points in your two-loss-in-a-row pentagram: Continue reading

Lame Duck Limps On

So We the People get our tax cut extensions (i.e., no tax increase) next year, and the unemployed get another benefit extension.  Both sides claim they were screwed.  America tunes back in to the Sing-Off  and whatever else, and the lame duck congress plods on.  Did you notice?

  • Hey, we’re hostages! Depending on who you listen to,  the middle class was being held in a dark room, praying the Bush Tax Cuts don’t expire.  What a bunch of posturing flim-flam. How many of us would support a small tax increase, provided it was uniform across the board, to address the monstrous deficit.  We would around here, but here’s our caveat:  whatever percentage you increase my taxes, you cut that same percentage from the government budget. Yeah, we don’t see that happening either.
  • Omnibus Pork Package! Were you paying attention to the grotesque spending bill that was halted lasted week?  The one chock full of the kind of earmarks, pork, and political kickbacks for which this session of Congress will be fondly remembered?  Fortunately, it didn’t make it through, but the audacity of these legislators (many of whom are retiring or were voted out) to try the same crooked caper.  It was another huge 11th hour package that no one could have read.  A lot like the Health Care legislation.  The Tea Party groups deserve some credit for stopping this latest pork-fest if for no other reason than their platform has forced a little tiny bit of accountability back into the equation.
  • Why do these losers get to do anything, anyway? Sure, I understand why you needed two months to get everyone to D.C. and sworn in 200 years ago – maybe even 100 years ago.  But why, with a November election do you not have your new Congress in place by the beginning of December?  Logistically we can certainly do it.  Think of the UPS commercials.  Yeah, this will never happen, but why allow the lame duck sessions to begin with?  Get the losers out, get the new guys in, and get on with it.  The last thing we need is congressmen with even less accountability writing laws after they’ve already been fired.  Name us another profession where you get your walking papers and you hang around for two months to do more damage…

Shootout at the Hall Report

Longtime Beemsville ally and one-time power forward, Rick, checks in with this report from the annual Shootout at the Hall in Champaign.  He took in a number of high school games, watching future Illini and recruiting targets during the day.  His analysis, colored as it is by his power-forward mentality (do all the hard work rebounding and on D, but never get the ball from the guards when you want it), is nonetheless a welcome addition…

Larry Austin Jr. was the real deal but most of his 14 + points came from being in the right place at the right time.  He had 2 outstanding 5’8” point guards that broke the press down well and distributed.  Granted he had to be hustling to get in the right spots.  He also got popped in the mouth at one point, and the coach immediately put him back in.  Played about the most minutes on the team.

Max Bieldfelt is a big strong boy that knows how to get position and finish.  It seemed like everything he threw up went in.  There was a lot of time when he and Nanna Egwu were not on the floor together and when they were another 6’7” kid from PND was guarding Nana and vice versa.  Don’t know if he is a BIG TEN power forward as he isn’t quick enough to be a 3 but he understands the game and physically knows how to play it. Continue reading

BPC 2010

‘Tis the season for college football playoff hypotheticals,  and so we bring you the 2010 version of the Bowl Playoff Championship, brought to you by Beemsville.  Last year we laid out some of the rules for this system.  It’s very likely similar to many other playoff scenarios out there on the web – a sixteen team tourney with the final three games at the traditional championship bowl sites.  But just to review the setup…

  • Six automatic conference qualifiers, your champions  from the six current BCS conferences.  That would be SEC – Auburn, Pac 10 – Oregon, Big 10 – Wisconsin, Big 12 – Oklahoma, ACC – Virginia Tech, and Big East (cough, cough) – U Conn.
  • Two at-large conference qualifiers, the champions of the next two highest rated conferences.  This year that’s the Mountain West – TCU, and the WAC – Nevada.  Some years you might get a  Conference USA or MAC team in here.
  • Eight at-large teams, selected from the remaining highest rated teams using the BCS formula.  No limits on the number of entries from a conference.  This year your at-large teams are Stanford, Ohio State, Arkansas, Michigan State, Boise State, LSU, Missouri, and Oklahoma State.
  • Teams are seeded according to BCS formula. #1 to #16 based on relative ranking.  Higher seeds host the first round; highest surviving seeds then host the second round.  Bye week over Christmas.
  • Semi-finals and the final rotate between the four BCS bowl sites. Jan. 1 is your semi-final date.  This year the Fiesta Bowl gets the championship on Jan. 11.

So how does the BPC stack up this year?  Have a look:

click on image to see full size


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Illini Chutes, Ladders

For Fighting Illini fans, the weekend was a tale of programs moving in opposite directions.  Friday night we were treated to the rare West Coast swing as the football team lost another close game to California powerhouse Fresno State, 25-23.  Then Saturday, the basketball team took the floor in Seattle to decisively beat Gonzaga in a “neutral site” matchup, 73-61.  So, in review: sell Zook, buy Weber.

The football team came out very aggressively against Fresno, and the Bulldogs deftly used that against them with a series of draws, screens, and short passes to move down the field and score on the first drive.  It didn’t help that the field was in terrible condition and the Illini players couldn’t seem to keep from falling down.  On offense, Fresno stacked 8, 9, and yes on one play 10 men in the box to stop Leshoure and the running game.  And it was working.  Meanwhile, Scheelhaase was running for his life everytime he dropped back to pass (which wasn’t often), and before they knew it, Illinois was down 16-0.  We’ve seen this before – lack of execution or emotion leading to a terrible start.  In this case it looked like the team was fired up and Fresno gameplanned against it.  And it doesn’t help when you have no passing game. Continue reading

World Cups for Sale – Sold

Sepp Blatter

Yesterday FIFA confirmed what many have long suspected about the rulers of international soccer – they’re more interested in bribes and their own egos than what’s good for the game and its fans.  Using their secret-ballot elimination round voting (in which the participant with the least amount of votes is eliminated until you have a winner), the 22 voting members of the FIFA Executive Committee (two of the committee were suspended from voting for attempting to take bribes) awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

This wasn’t about who could provide the best cup experience for the fans, sell the most tickets, provide the best security and infrastructure.  It wasn’t about growing the sport.  It was politics, plain and simple – the kind of politics with which those of us who live in Illinois are painfully familiar.  This was a money and legacy vote. Continue reading