My first substantive post on this blog – “The Paranoia of Illini Nation” – was about how we Illini fans have been too sensitive about the “lack of respect” our team gets from the national media. However, I’ve got to backtrack a little bit from that comment when it comes to Dee Brown.
How is it possible that there’s been absolutely no buzz from across the country for Dee as National Player of the Year? Check out the latest mid-season predictions from the ESPN.com crew. It’s one thing to be skeptical about our Final Four chances this season (although last night’s victory should put to the rest the claim that we haven’t beaten anyone yet), but it’s something different when last year’s Sporting News Player of the Year isn’t even considered an All-American by 6 out of 8 “experts,” much less this year’s player of the year.
All of the discussion has centered around the battle between Duke’s J.J. Reddick and Gonzaga’s Ugly Mustache Known as Adam Morrison. It’s incredulous to me, however, that a guy who was named national player of the year by one organization last season and has led his team to a 15-0 start this season despite losing 3 key teammates as starters isn’t even mentioned as a possible candidate. Maybe a few more 34-point games like last night will get Dickie V and Company to notice Dee again.
Speaking of the Illinois win over Michigan State, this looked more like an extension of the Big Ten football season than the start of conference basketball play with the exception of Dee’s ridiculous shooting performance (check out Rick Morrissey’s column on Dee and last night’s game in today’s Chicago Tribune). The Illini continued their dominance on the defensive side of the ball – MSU’s Maurice Alger couldn’t get anything going whatsoever. We just need to get James Augustine to stop traveling every other time he gets a feed into the post.
All in all, this was the first “marquee” victory for the Illini this year and sets the team up for yet another run at the Big Ten title. As for Dee’s game, it could be summed up with Tom to the Izzo’s answer to Erin Andrews’ halftime question on what plan he had to stop the Illini point guard: “Recruit Michael Jordan.”
Some other sports tidbits:
1) NFL Wild Card Picks – If there’s one thing that keeps me from having a holiday hangover every year, it’s the fact that the NFL playoffs go on for the month afterwards. With the bonus of the Bears actually participating this year, I can hardly contain myself. So, here are my Wild Card picks in order of confidence but not against the spread (home team in CAPS): (1) NEW ENGLAND over Jacksonville, (2) Pittsburgh over CINCINNATI, (3) TAMPA BAY over Washington, (4) Carolina over N.Y. GIANTS.
2) TNT’s NBA Studio Team – Even if you’re not a big follower of the NBA, do yourself a favor and check out the halftime and postgame shows for TNT’s NBA games on Thursday nights. Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith, without question, give TNT the best combination of insightful analysis spiced with entertainment (it’s important that it’s not the other way around) of any studio team of any sport on any network.
3) S.O.B(ulls) – Speaking of the NBA, the Bulls seriously need to win tonight. It’s getting Blackhawks-ugly right now for the Scott Skiles crew.
4) Dancing with the Stars – OK, this isn’t a sport, but the competition is inexplicably compelling to me (Evander Holyfield was awesome last year). Since I switched over to the Illini – MSU game halfway through, my only comment is this: if Nick Lachey is riding shotgun on his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jessica Simpson’s ride to superstardom and Ashlee Simpson is in the backseat, then Nick’s brother Drew has got to be in the trunk.
I won’t be able to see tomorrow’s Illinois – Iowa game live since I’ll be attending DePaul’s inaugural Big East home game against Catholic school rival Notre Dame (floor seats!), but I’ll be keeping track. Enjoy the NFL, go Bulls, go Illini, and go Blue Demons!