Saturday, March 17, 2007

NCAA Tourney so far...

Well, last night was a roller coaster for Illinois fans. The partygoers who did not care about basketball had a grand time watching the rest of us. I was so happy when Illinois came out like real men, defensively intense and actually showing some offensive aggression. I was happy until about halftime when I just had this sense of dread as the lead started slipping and I felt the onset of the "hurry down, run around, pass a lot until the person stuck holding the ball with five seconds left on the shot clock has to take a shot" offense. The last 8 minutes of the game were painful to watch. We had some questions about the fouls that VT was getting away with and the calls going against Illinois, but let's just face it...the Illini let it slip away and sullied the Big Ten's almost-perfect opening round record. Here's to hoping one of next year's recruits actually wants the ball when the going gets tough.

Watching Michigan State put up a hell of a fight against Tyler Hansborough (whoops North Carolina) at the moment. MSU up by 1! Izzo is just such a class act and seems to inspire his players in the tournament. I'm never going to change my colors, but MSU is officially my second favorite college basketball team now. Go Spartans! And should they not survive, I will turn my support to the Salukis. Should they both take down #1 seeds UNC and Kansas, I would still be a pretty happy camper.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Is anyone else really having trouble filling out their brackets this year? Mine just seems so boring at the moment. Lots of 1s and 2s making it to the Final Four, and we all know that hardly ever happens. I feel a little bit disconnected this year, because usually the hubby and I make a trek to the 1st/2nd round games or even the Sweet 16. Alas, this year there will be none of that due to the impending family nuptials and academic commitments. And my schedule's kept me from having the time to do my brackets justice. Watch this be the year I rock the pools!

I will admit I'm still more than a little angry with Illinois for the whole Carlwell/Smith/Frazier mess. I understand that they are just teenagers, but there has to be some common level of responsibility, decency and humanity that I'm still upset they were missing that ugly snowy night. But somehow I can't stop my orange and blue loyalties from rooting for these kids, and I still want to pick the Illini to upset Virgina Tech. Although it kills me to watch them try to generate offense, I still think the Illini are a dangerous #12 seed. If everyone shows up offensively on Friday (Frazier, Carter, Pruitt, and perhaps even Randle and McBride), then I think the Illini have a good shot. Weber has generally been a great tournament coach. But Virginia Tech has also beat Duke and North Carolina this year...and a hard-fought win over a quality ranked program is something this Illinois team does not yet possess. And after reading about the adversity Virginia Tech has faced off the court the past few years, I have a feeling I won't hate their team if they win either.

I also think Illinois would also give Southern a run for their money. As someone who has been to and watched a number of Missouri Valley games over the past few years, I can't help but think the conference is overrated. However, they can generate offense...which is more than I can say for the Big Ten most nights so who knows! David Mihm has some interesting commentary on how the brackets fell over at his Bracketography site. They also have a discussion board at the site for those of you who can just not get enough speculation.

In other news, my household officially despises the U of I board of Trustees' cowardice, and my husband is buying up all the Chief merchandise he can get his hands on... He almost bought a baby blanket today, and we don't even have a kids on the way yet. I'm headed down to campus tomorrow and may just pick up a few goods myself. Darn them.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thoughts on life and the Chief's departure...

I apologize for the long absence from the blog, but things are nuts here again as per usual. The big news in my neck of the woods is that we are quickly approaching a family wedding. Almost exactly two weeks from now, my sister will be married off and I'll be gaining a pretty great brother-in-law. So that's exciting and the last few months have been a flurry of showers, parties, dress fittings, and what not.

I've meant to post on Chief Illiniwek's retirement, but I must say that I lack the time to give this the appropriate consideration it deserves. I understand why the university felt they had to make the move, as the NCAA dictatorship was going to ban them from hosting events and potentially, eventually the NCAA tournaments. But at the same time, I feel cheated by the hypocrisy of this whole thing. It's fine for Florida State to keep their nickname, because they pay the Seminole tribe on a regular basis and were able to receive their okay...but it's not okay for Illinois to keep its symbol because they have no tribe to pay off?

I think part of this problem is that people do not understand the true role that Chief Illiniwek played at the University of Illinois. I was surprised to find this interview with the final Chief (Dan Maloney) on CNN/SI On Campus, but I thought it did an excellent job portraying his true role. The chief is not like the Cleveland's Indian or even the Atlanta Braves mascot. He's not a caricature that dances around when good and bad things happen during sporting events. He was more of a symbol or an icon at the university, making his appearance only at the halftime of sporting events in an incredibly dignified manner.

I think what makes me the saddest about the Chief's departure is that the NCAA has arbitrarily stripped our state of a celebration of its heritage. Perhaps it was not a 100% accurate portrayal, but it was better than nothing. This angers my husband to no end, perhaps because of his 1/8 Fox ancestry and his family's past involvement with athletics at the university. He was incredibly proud of Chief Illiniwek, the Three-in-One, and the reverence it received in this state, and he was incredibly angry when the Chief's retirement was announced. He's upset that he won't be able to take his children to football games and explain the significance of this tradition and their heritage.

I know college sports are just a game, and I know that Chief Illiniwek is just a symbol. But as I watched his final dance a week and a half ago, I got goosebumps and I felt incredibly sad. Sad that an honorable celebration of my state and its heritage had to go. Sad that our society is so incredibly overly-sensitive that the discomfort of a few has caused the removal of a tradition that truly celebrated our state's heritage and was so beloved by so many.

Updated 3/12: To correct my labeling slip in an ongoing fit of tiredness.