If you coached for 20 years and somehow managed to luckily win an
amazing 20 games a year, that would be only 400 victories. You'd
have to win 20 for 25 years to get to 500. Certainly Alexander has
seen a fair share of quality players come his way. And with the
exception of one joker he employed, the majority of his assistant
coaches have been top drawer. I don't care. To win 500 games is an
exceptional milestone, and in my mind, only the best coaches in the
business ever reach those lofty heights.
I'm sure his wife and
family have been a big part of his success. You can't accomplish
great goals without tremendous support like he has gotten.
I hope fans realize that they are witnessing something pretty
special. When you travel as much as I do, you go to hundreds of
towns where the home folks WISH that they had a special coach. We
have one in Lincoln, and it has been a wonderful sight to behold. By
the size of the crowds now following the team and the nice home
crowds that seem to be showing up for the games, many more people
appear to be appreciating what we have.
The LDN wants to take this opportunity to salute Alexander for
reaching such an awesome high-water mark! I just hope he has another
few hundred in him before he hangs up his -- Diet Coke can!
Also, congratulations to the coach and his Railers, who went 4-1
in the Meijer Classic at Chatham-Glenwood, including nice wins over
the hosts, Taylorville and Jacksonville.
pictures from the Lincoln-Jacksonville game.]
pictures from the
Lincoln appears to be peaking at the right time and may continue
to surprise a lot of people along the way. They control their own
destiny in the Central State Eight race, and since they'll be
hosting the regional, they hopefully will win those games before
heading to the sectional round.
2006 Illini forging identity of their own
I think Illini fans may be spoiled. After riding along on last
year's 37-2 season of a lifetime, people just expected more of the
same from the '05-'06 contingent. However, gone are Nick Smith,
Roger Powell, Jack Ingram, Luther Head and Deron Williams.
Even Greg Taylor was telling me how good Illinois was going to be
this season. I kept asking him, "Where are the points going to come
from?" and he kept telling me not to worry, that the boys will just
keep winning. In a way, we were both right. Sometimes the points
don't come and sometimes we win anyway -- which is a nice gig, if you
can get it!
This particular team has the opportunity to write its own ticket.
There are two or four teams that look particularly imposing to this
incredibly partial onlooker. Duke, Villanova, Connecticut and maybe
even Florida look to be the class among the nation's elite teams,
but there is not a dramatic falloff to the next tier of teams. What
I'm trying to say is that this may be a year where there is no clear
favorite or two and that any of about 12 teams or so could come away
with the ring.
However, if Illinois has any vision of being one of those teams,
there are a few things they will need to do consistently to maximize
Play the stifling,
suffocating defense they opened up on the Northwestern Wildcats
Saturday for 40 minutes, instead of the 25 they demonstrated in
the ballgame. Illinois was closing out on the perimeter so
tenaciously that they were giving NW only a single-threat
option -- if even that. Northwestern made only four baskets in the
fist half. That's pretty good D in my book on any level.
James Augustine led the way, holding the Big Ten's leading
scorer Vedran Vukusic to only five points, and by the time he
finally scored, his contribution was inconsequential.
Dee Brown and Chester Frazier put amazing pressure on the ball
and just wouldn't let the Wildcats go where they wanted to go.
Warren Carter continued his excellent play of late and
contributed a career-high 12 rebounds to go along with his
rapidly improving defense.
Rich McBride has been pretty consistent in his defensive play
most of the season, and I think it has kept him on the court
while many have clamored for more PT for Jamar Smith. I don't
see it. I say, let Rich continue to bring it, and don't be
surprised if his stroke gets better and better as his confidence
improves -- but, I digress. This topic was defense, and Rich has
handled his assignments well, or Weber would already have
impacted the team significantly in this area.
execution improved some Saturday, but it still has a long way to
go. The Illini seem to sit back and not penetrate as much as we
all know they can. They seem to be willing to rely on 3-point
shots a little too often. All this while the bigs are emerging
into a force down in the paint. I'd like to see the guards pound
the ball down into the posts, especially early in games. Plant
the seed that the defense needs to collapse, which could create
way more open looks for our shooters. It may also get us to the
free-throw line a little more often (more on that later). I
would also enjoy seeing many more cutters and crisp, unselfish
passes to people with better shots than the original look. It
wouldn't hurt to see more production in transition and more
run-outs for easy hoops. That would take a lot of pressure off
the half-court offense.
Shooting a higher
percentage of free throws will definitely win us a couple of
games. Make them or miss them, I expect that whatever we do may
well, in fact, determine our fate in the Big Ten race. Also, if
we improve in this aspect of the game, it could bode well for us
during the NCAA tourney. As this past weekend was Upset
Saturday, we saw losers and winners oftentimes crowned at the
may well decide what kind of a year these Illini eventually end
up with. It was a good sign in the comeback against Indiana, and
it certainly was in effect versus Northwestern that the Illini
demonstrated a steely determination. That kind of gritty play
could help them grind out some wins that could push them over
the top. I still think that Illinois' unfavorable schedule will
hurt them the most in their quest for an unprecedented threepeat.
More help from the
bench wouldn't hurt this team at all. In fact, the great play by
Warren Carter and key contributions from Jamar Smith, Marcus Arnold and Chester Frazier (who I thought
played extremely well in the Northwestern game) would complement
the starters nicely. The games the Illini have lost have been ones
in which we did not get enough help from the reserves. That will
need to change dramatically in the days ahead to entertain serious
thoughts of winning the league and or having a deep tourney run.
There are many others, but those are just a few of the
observations I can make in seeing just a handful of games this
season. Coach Weber and his staff never cease to amaze me with the
stuff they come up with in preparing for opponents and in trying to
get our guys to improve. The Illini seem to be incredibly
well-prepared for their opponents, and it seems they lose only when
they don't execute. If he can continue to reload like this instead
of having one of those down years every two or three years, it's
going to be a lot of fun in Illini Nation.
[to top of second column]
Speaking of fun, I'm definitely NOT down with all the flamers on
message boards who have conniption fits when we lose to Iowa and
Indiana. I don't like it either, but I know what we're going to
encounter on the road, and I expect a few that won't go our way.
Hopefully Illinois will take care of business in their next two
home games, versus Minnesota on Wednesday and Purdue on Saturday;
and then, who knows, maybe will play well in Cheeseland once again!
It's Seattle and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl
I am so happy for Seattle and the Seahawk fans. If you know
people from out there, you know how passionate they have been about
their teams, and this is just a great sports story. And how 'bout
their 12th man? I've heard a lot of loud crowds in my day, but few
can rival the raucous, zany Seahawk fans. Coach Mike Holgren
promised to take all of them to the Super Bowl. Just how big is that
stadium in Detroit? It must be bigger than we originally thought.
I've never been a fan of the Steelers, but you have to marvel at
a team that went on the road for three straight weeks and didn't
just win, they dominated their opponents. That may be worthy of a
spot in the Super Bowl.
However, I'm still not convinced that the wild card format is
what's best for the game. Yes, it keeps a dozen or so clubs and
their fans interested until the final two weeks, but where's the
reward for being consistent all year? I'm hoping that the game will
reach the hype, but mark me down as someone not all that crazy about
a sixth seed representing the conference as the league champion.
Something just doesn't seem right about that to me -- and when
Commissioner Taglibue calls me, I'll be happy to point that out.
Lady Railers off the snide
If my stats are correct, the Lady Railers stopped a nasty losing
skid to beat SH-G and Peoria Manual to lift their record back up to
.500. The team is starting to come into its own and hopefully will
be primed to make a nice playoff run in the near future.
Lincoln College teams making lots of noise
Stand up and be counted if you are a fan of the Lincoln College
Lynx or Lady Lynx right about now. How 'bout the play of your squads
of late? The ladies came from behind to win a thrilling 67-62
contest over the seventh-ranked team in the country, from Lewis and
Clark. Lincoln's Tiffany Tungate continues to lead the team to
victory. Coach Carol Wilson's cagers are enjoying the finest season
under her command and find themselves at 4-2 in the league and 14-7
The men bounced back from a disappointing loss at Parkland last
Saturday by outlasting Lewis and Clark 97-91 in double overtime.
Lincoln High School product David Pickering dished out nine assists
for the Lynx and continues to do everything needed for the hosts as
they are enjoying a top five national ranking!
[See other stats from the
Lincoln College games.]
Congratulations to these two fine teams and good luck in the
Lincoln Christian College announces Hall of Fame weekend
LCC will be hosting its annual
Hall of Fame festivities this
weekend in the Laughlin Center. The event gets under way Friday as
the volleyball alums play a match at 6 p.m., which will be followed
by a women's alumni basketball game at 7:30 p.m. Men's basketball
alums will take the floor at 9 p.m. (IF they can stay up that late).
Then on Saturday, LCC will host the Hall of Fame banquet at a 10
a.m. brunch. It figures to be a wonderful time of fun and
In addition, the LCC Angels have been playing quite well of late
and are searching for an unprecedented third straight trip to the
The Preachers will be scrambling in hopes of capturing another
win in what has shaped up as a rebuilding year. LCC will host St.
Louis Christian College Saturday at 3 p.m., and they invite a large
crowd from the general public to come out for the contest.
One last thing, I want to personally salute all the LCC Hall of
Fame inductees. It is a well-deserved honor! [See
Have a great month, everybody!
Non-sports item of the month
I'm glad I was born. I know I can't speak for everyone on that,
but I've enjoyed this adventure we call life. As I reflect on this
anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, I can't even fathom the
impact it has made on me, our nation and our world. I get depressed when the media spends the week or the month just
trying to get me to see why a woman has the right to choose or why
she doesn't. It sometimes even shocks me as a rather drastic measure
just for the convenience of a better-late-than-never birth
extinguisher. But yet as a country, we don't want to legislate
I guess I'm still just puzzled as to why the child has no say in
the matter. I'm equally foggy as to why if someone goes into a
hospital and shoots a newborn it is murder, but a doctor killing
that same child days before is a "procedure."
Now, you can lecture me and point out all the places where I am
wrong in this argument, but who's going to explain it to the
millions who have been slain? And at what price has this decision
been wrought? If people are truly our greatest resource, what damage
have we done to our country and our world?
A counterargument would be how much has been saved and that the
world is already overpopulated. Touche.
But it could also be asked, How many potential friends have we lost,
and have we possibly killed off the person who would've invented the
cure for cancer or a diplomat skilled enough in harmony to bring
about peace in certain sectors of the world?
And what about people waiting to adopt? It seems ironic to me
that babies are being destroyed when loving couples are on waiting
lists hoping to be blessed with one of these precious little ones.
And I wonder, and I wonder and I wonder.
And yes, I've been to Washington during this eventful week and
can only describe the scene to you as a sad picture of modern-day
society. While I was happy to live in a free country where I could
assemble and march, it appeared to me then and it sometimes does now
that many people there then and many that make their voices heard
now just want "their side" to win or to be right.
I guess I just wonder about those who have no voice in the matter
at all, and I wish I could speak for them.