Land-o-Links – 2/17/2006

Some links before the weekend:

1) Oz vs. Them: Guillen Takes Swings I’ll admit it right now: I have a man-crush on Ozzie Guillen.

2) Chicago Merc to Trade Snow Futures and Options – Wagering on whether it’s going to snow isn’t a drunken bar bet anymore, particularly if you run a hedge fund.

3) Cheney Hunting Accident Report – Heh…

4) The Empire Brokeback (movie and sound; submitted by Minneapolis Red Sox) – Easy connection to make, yet still amusing.

5) Suspended Daily Illini Editor Tells His Side in Cartoon Flap – Eric Zorn received an email from suspended Daily Illini editor Acton Groton.  There have been numerous posts and comments on the whole fiasco on Zorn’s blog this past week. 

And finally…

6) Stanford Tree Mascot Fired for Drinking at Basketball Game (submitted by Minneapolis Red Sox) – If you haven’t come home from a night of drinking and then played EA Sports NCAA March Madness on your PS2 using Stanford (preferably against Syracuse) in Mascot Game mode, you haven’t lived.

Advertisement and Alford’s Dilemma

Well, at least Illinois isn’t like our next opponent, Indiana.  The Hoosiers’ victory over us in Bloomington a month ago is as dusty of a memory for IU fans as Keith Smart’s jumper in 1987.  Since that game, Indiana has gone from being a top ten team to a club that is in serious danger of not making the NCAA Tournament at all for the third season in a row.

Indiana coach Mike Davis has been on the hot seat at Indiana since the day he was named as Bobby Knight’s replacement in 2000 and yesterday, he finally broke down and announced that he would resign from his position at the end of this season.  In the aftermath, the sports world is pretty divided between those who believe Davis was never given a chance to succeed and others who think that it was his own fault for the dearth of wins at Indiana.

I believe that it was a little of both.  It’s always tough to be the successor to a legend – look at the coaching carousel at UCLA since John Wooden left and how North Carolina ran its first two coaches after Dean Smith out of Chapel Hill.  What made the Indiana situation even tougher is that while Wooden and Smith retired on their own terms and hand-picked their successors, Bobby Knight was fired to the chagrin of much of the Indiana faithful.  That meant Mike Davis had absolutely no margin for error from the fans and resulted in immense and irrational outside pressure.

Regardless of that pressure, however, Davis wasn’t ready to take over the head coaching reigns of any Big Ten-caliber team in 2000, much less replacing a legendary coach at one of the nation’s most storied basketball programs.  Even worse, he hasn’t really improved either as a coach on the floor (Indiana not making 3 NCAA Tournaments in a row is unconscionable to Hoosier fans) or as a recruiter (two of the top high school players in the nation – Greg Oden and Eric Gordon – are from Indiana’s backyard of Indianapolis, yet they have committed to Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Illinois, respectively).  In the end, like any other program in the country, Indiana judges its coaches by wins and losses and Mike Davis simply didn’t meet the school’s standards.

It seems to be a forgone conclusion that Iowa coach Steve Alford is heading to Indiana.  The media loves the potential story of a former Hoosier hero swooping in to save the program.  However, I believe Alford would be absolutely nuts to leave his current job to go to Bloomington.  He’s had pretty much the same record at Iowa as Davis had at Indiana, as in there have been a couple of good seasons sprinkled in with general mediocrity and unfulfilled expectations.  For as much pressure as Indiana fans put on Davis, it seemed like they expected him to lose.  In Alford’s case, the same pressure would be there along with raised expectations for winning, even though his record doesn’t justify any higher expectations than what they expected out of Davis.

Plus, Alford would be going from a Big Ten school to a rival program in the same conference.  In a situation like that, the new program better be a huge upgrade over the old one, which I don’t think is the case at all.  Sure, the Hoosiers have the history and the alma mater factor, but for the past decade, Iowa has been at least as good or better of a basketball program as Indiana.  So, Alford would be trading his current job for another one that’s essentially a lateral move with a lot higher expectations and pressure.  That doesn’t sound like a great deal for Alford.

The Real Illini Hole on Defense

After all of those Daily Illini posts, it’s time to get back to another serious matter: the state of the University of Illinois basketball team.  It felt good to snap that 2 game mini-losing streak, even if it was beating up on Big Ten sacrificial lamb Northwestern.  This puts us back into position to grab a share of the Big Ten title since we still have one more date with league leader Iowa.

The disturbing thing for me over these last three games, however, is that our defense has broken down in one specific instance: our opponents’ fluky jump shooters keep having career days against us.  Look at Travis Parker from Penn State (4 of 5 from 3-point range and 21 points), Je’Kel Foster from Ohio State (6 of 8 from 3-point range and 18 points), and Vince Scott from Northwestern (3 of 3 from 3-point range and 11 points).  As my wife noted, Scott kept hitting ridiculous shots yet had so little athleticism that his feet didn’t even leave the ground while shooting.  As I’ve said before, not locking down on 3-point shooters is the way to get bounced early from the NCAA Tournament by a lesser team.