Illini head to the Dance, undeservedly

While I thought we would get a bid to the Big Dance, I don't think we were deserving. Especially when you consider some of the teams that were left out, like Syracuse, Florida State, and Oklahoma State. The Big East didn't get as much love as I expected, which is surprising considering that I think it's the best basketball conference in the nation. Top to near bottom, it's a bitch. When you compare us to Syracuse, you can see why Jim Boeheim might have a good argument. SU beat Penn, 'Nova, Marquette, and G'Town, all teams in the Tourney. I think they're big two wins, over Marquette (on the road) and Georgetown (a game I watched) stand up much better than our two marquee wins over Indiana (at home and neutral). Then there's Oklahoma State, who has two elite college players, and beat Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and lost by just two to Tennessee. Florida State beat Florida, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Duke, and North Carolina State.

We're damn lucky to be dancing, methinks. And I think we'll get bounced in the first round by Virginia Tech, ruining the possible Weber-SIU matchup the tourney folks set up for round two. Here's what I know about the Hokies:

1) A Hokie is not a turkey, as their mascot would lead you to believe. It's actually an old-timey, sorta made-up word that basically means "hooray." True story.

2) They're beatable, as they proved in their non-conference season, beginning the year 4-3 with losses to Western Michigan, Southern Illinois, and George Washington. They dropped another game in surprising fashion when they lost at Marshall (by one). Other than that, their remaining losses were all to good teams within conference.

3) They're also damn good, as evidenced by their two wins over North Carolina. The Hokies can put the ball in the bucket. They scored 90+ points this season twice in ACC play, including a win over the Tarheels. They're led by guard Zabian Dowdell, who is averaging 18.0 points per game and hits 39 percent of his threes; Deron Washington, a 6-foot-7 wing with mad hops; point guard Jamon Gordon, a talented distributor and defender; and swingman A.D. Vassallo, their best three-point shooter. In general, they shoot fairly well from both inside and outside the arc, but like us can struggle at the line. They force a good number of turnovers and create havoc on defense with their athleticism. They remind me in many ways of a poor man's Ohio State -- poor in the sense that they're lacking a Greg Oden.

Our best bet to win: we take a sudden liking to feeding the post, hit a majority of what open looks we can get from beyond the arc, and better our season average at the charity stripe. My prediction: VaTech 61, Illinois 54.


Chris said...

Me pick Illinois in my bracket, but let's honest, as you've been: We're likely to take an ass whoopin.

Don Gerard said...

I heard on the Score AM670 an oddsmaker from Vegas said this year's Illinois team is quite likely "the best 12-seed ever in the history of the tournament".

The "teams left out" argument is horse sh*t because, again, Vegas oddsmakers unequivocally agreed they would pick Illinois to beat any of those teams.

Money talks, bullsh*t walks, my friend...and Vegas is money.

Now go paint your face orange and blue, ya big lug!

Eye! Ell! Ell!