Grading Every Chicago Bears Starter's 2013 Regular Season » The Chicago Bears were sent on early vacation after a crushing loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Bears finished with an 8-8 record in what is considered an underachieving season.  Changes to the roster will come, but before the Bears can move forward they must evaluate the team. The ... Packers vs. Bears: Takeaways from Chicago's 33-28 Loss to Green Bay » The NFC North division crown and a trip to the playoffs were laid out before them, but the Chicago Bears could not capitalize and lost to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 33-28 on Sunday afternoon. The offense sputtered in the first half but was able to stay in check due to the defense. Unfortuna... Jay Cutler More Than Deserves to Be Bears' QB of the Future » The disappointment of once again falling short of the postseason should not cloud the decision-making process that lies ahead of the Chicago Bears on soon-to-be free agent quarterback Jay Cutler.  While the Bears were unable to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 17, Cutle... Referee Error Aids Green Bay Packers in Win over Chicago Bears » The Green Bay Packers, now NFC North champs and playoff bound after their 33-28 win over the Chicago Bears, converted on fourth down three times on their final drive, culminating with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb on 4th-and-8. However, one of those fourth-down con... Packers vs. Bears: Final Game Grades and Analysis for Chicago » Aaron Rodgers throws a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to eliminate the Chicago Bears from playoff contention.     Final Score Green Bay Packers: 33 Chicago Bears: 28 Final Analysis for the Chicago Bears Passing Offense: Jay Cutler did everything he could to keep his team in t...
Friday, 31 October 2014

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Photogallery: ESPN 2 Fight Night
Chicago, IL - ESPN 2 Fight Night came into Chicago and brought with it Antonio Escalante vs Gary Starks Jr.  These two feather-weights battled it out and in the 3rd round Escalante dropped Starks to the mat, thus possibly ending Starks' career as a boxer.
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University of Illinois
Illinois Basketball: Midseason Report Card for the Illini
Sunday, 03 February 2013 21:02    PDF Print E-mail

After a 12-0 start to the John Groce era, Illinois has found themselves on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble following a six-point home loss to Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon, dropping the Fighting Illini's Big Ten record to 2-7.

The next week doesn't get any easier however, as the soon-to-be top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers aim to make their presence known at the original Assembly Hall, in Champaign, Illinois. After that, the Illini travel to Minneapolis, to take on a Golden Gophers team that has already knocked them off this season.

All is not lost yet, as an 8-10 Big Ten record could still get Illinois into March Madness, thanks in large part to a strong nonconference campaign highlighted by a Maui Invitational Championship win over Butler, as well as a road victory at Gonzaga.

The following slideshow will contain a glimpse at each of the eight players in Illinois' rotation, along with a final slide grading the five players who normally don't see the floor. These midseason report cards need improvement if the Illini don't want to fail, which would equate to no NCAA Tournament berth.

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Illinois Basketball: Are Illini a B1G Contender or Pretender?
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 04:08    PDF Print E-mail

After a 68-61 loss last Wednesday night at Purdue, many of Illinois' early season doubters were left smiling. After all, the Illini had just fallen to the team with the worst record in the Big Ten, the then 6-6 Boilermakers. 

Every flaw that Illinois' critics had pointed out through the nonconference campaign had been exposed. They were beaten on the boards by a young Purdue frontcourt, struggled shooting from behind the arc, and lacked the toughness needed to win any Big Ten road game.

Just three days later, though, the Fighting Illini got back on track. The team returned home to face the eighth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, whom they blew out 74-55. In the rugged Big Ten you can never take a night off, as John Groce's team will learn this Wednesday when they face now eighth-ranked Minnesota.

Regardless of Wednesday night's outcome, Illinois has shown enough gut and grit to prove they are a legitimate contender within the Big Ten Conference. Wins over Butler, Gonzaga, and Ohio State outweigh their slip ups against Missouri and Purdue. 

Last season, the three teams atop the Big Ten standings finished with 13-5 league records. It's hard to imagine winning a Big Ten title with any less wins than Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State a year ago, so can Illinois find a way to win 13 Big Ten games?

The presumed answer to that question is no.

As a huge Illinois fan and optimist, I do not think Illinois will win that many Big Ten games, but I think it's certainly possible. Let's take a look at the remaining 16 games for the orange and blue and figure out a way to get to 13-5.

vs. Minnesota: W (2-1)

@ Wisconsin: W (3-1)

vs. Northwestern: W (4-1)

@ Nebraska: W (5-1)

vs. Michigan: W (6-1)

@ Michigan State: L (6-2)

vs. Wisconsin: W (7-2)

vs. Indiana: W (8-2)

@ Minnesota: L (8-3)

vs. Purdue: W (9-3)

@ Northwestern: W (10-3)

vs. Penn State: W (11-3)

@ Michigan: L (11-4)

vs. Nebraska: W (12-4)

@ Iowa: W (13-4)

@ Ohio State: L (13-5)

Going unbeaten at home for the entire 2012-13 campaign would be no easy task, but if the Illini can defeat the Golden Gophers at home on Wednesday, it becomes a plausible feat.

Only Michigan and Indiana would pose as threats to defeating Illinois in Champaign, which they are certainly capable of doing, but Illinois showed a lot to me in their home performance against OSU Saturday.

If they can accomplish home dominance, a 4-5 Big Ten road record is within the works, though as the Illini learned no Big Ten road game is a gimme. Road wins at Wisconsin, Northwestern, Nebraska and Iowa may be needed, none of which are easy places to play. That leaves road losses at Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State—all top 25 teams who would be favored over these potential road warriors.

Whether or not Illinois reaches Big Ten supremacy atop the conference standings, plenty of postseason accolades could go Illinois' way if they continue to play like they've played for the past two months.

Brandon Paul is on pace to become a First Team All-Big Ten performer and All-American. DJ Richardson and Tracy Abrams could find themselves on an All-Big Ten team, or Honorable Mention at least.

Joseph Bertrand is a spark off Illinois' bench and could contend for the league's top reserve. Nnanna Egwu has shown tremendous improvement from a year ago, while Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey have contributed to the frontcourt contributions.

Last but certainly not least, is first-year head coach John Groce. Not only is Groce a serious candidate for Big Ten Coach of the Year, but also National Coach of the Year.

How far do you think he can take the Illini in his first season? Only time will tell. 

Read more Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball news on BleacherReport.com


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Illinois Basketball: Ranking the 5 Biggest Roadblocks to the Big Ten Title
Friday, 04 January 2013 19:11    PDF Print E-mail

This time a year ago, Illinois basketball seemed like it was back. With a future lottery pick center and experienced backcourt, the Illini were finally going to get over the hump. Instead, following an upset win over Ohio State behind Brandon Paul's 43 points, Illinois sputtered and missed any postseason tournament.

The team had trouble winning at home, a place they rarely lost just years before, and were getting blown out on the road, as evidenced by a late season loss at Nebraska, in which Meyers Leonard started crying from the bench.

All in all, it was a cumulative effort between the players giving up and the lack of head coaching competence that led to Bruce Weber's firing following a loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. This year, Illinois needs to avoid that late season meltdown.

After a 13-1 nonconference record for the team picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten in preseason polls, I do not foresee John Groce allowing a collapse to occur, nor do I see this year's group of seniors cashing it in. Though still a long shot, a Big Ten title is not yet totally out of the mix in the nation's deepest and best conference. The following will emphasize the five things that could hold Illinois back from reaching college basketball's elite this season.

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Big Ten Basketball: Nebraska vs. Ohio State and Illinois vs. Purdue Predictions
Friday, 04 January 2013 19:11    PDF Print E-mail

After season-opening wins for Minnesota and Indiana on Monday over Michigan State and Iowa respectively, Big Ten basketball once again tips off Wednesday evening.

First, Nebraska travels to Columbus to take on the eighth-ranked Buckeyes, followed by a road game for Illinois at Purdue. Here's a breakdown of each team's starting lineups, accompanied by game predictions.

 

 

Nebraska vs. Ohio State

 

Center: Andre Almeida vs. Amir Williams

Power Forward: Brandon Ubel vs. Deshaun Thomas

Small Forward: Dylan Talley vs. Sam Thompson

Shooting Guard: Ray Gallegos vs. Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Point Guard: Benny Parker vs. Aaron Craft

Williams recently won the starting center job over Evan Ravenel for Ohio State, though hasn't performed at par with preseason expectations. That's why gigantic Almeida gets the edge here.

At power forward, each team's best player stands. Unfortunately for Nebraska, Deshaun Thomas gets the easy win here as he's able to beat opposing defenses in a multitude of ways.

Ultra athletic sophomore Sam Thompson matches up with Dylan Talley at the three position, one in which the more experienced Talley wins.

The backcourt is in the Buckeyes' favor as both Smith Jr. and Craft beat out Gallegos and Parker. Smith Jr. has made a huge jump from a season ago, while Craft is OSU's floor general and defensive stopper, though has struggled offensively.

Prediction: Ohio State 68 Nebraska 53

 

 

Illinois vs. Purdue


Center: Nnanna Egwu vs. AJ Hammons

Power Forward: Tyler Griffey vs. Jacob Lawson

Small Forward: Brandon Paul vs. DJ Byrd

Shooting Guard: DJ Richardson vs. Terone Johnson

Point Guard: Tracy Abrams vs. Ronnie Johnson

In the middle, freshman force AJ Hammons of Purdue gets the nod over Egwu, a sophomore from St. Ignatius in Chicago.

Senior Tyler Griffey gets the Illini on the board up against sophomore Lawson, who's sporting a mohawk this season.

The biggest matchup of the game comes at small forward as gunslinger DJ Byrd will need to keep Brandon Paul in check as Paul leads the Illini in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Paul's better all-around games get him the edge here.

At shooting guard, slasher Terone Johnson eeks out a win over long range bomber Richardson.

The point guard position breaks the tie as Abrams is coming off the best game of his career, while the younger brother of Terone, Ronnie, has had his freshman ups and downs.

Prediction: Illinois 69 Purdue 66

Read more Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball news on BleacherReport.com


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Illinois Basketball: Interior Woes Against Missouri Expose an Illini Flaw
Tuesday, 25 December 2012 23:47    PDF Print E-mail

Down by six at halftime, Illinois found themselves with a lead during the under-four-minutes timeout late in the second half. However, Missouri finished the game on a run of their own and won the annual rivalry game for the fourth straight season by a final score of 82-73.

Illinois struggled shooting, both from the field and behind the arc, although they knocked down 15 of 19 free-throw tosses. Missouri also struggled from the field and deep, but knocked down all but five of their 24 free throws. 

The biggest difference in the game, the one that may have cost the Fighting Illini their first loss of the 2012-13 campaign, was the fact they were outrebounded 51-29 to the Tigers. Illinois's best players are their guards, and although their frontcourt players scored more than their averages on Saturday, they were outmuscled by a Missouri frontcourt that was lacking a year ago aside from Ricardo Ratliffe.

Lawrence Bowers was the game's top player, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Alex Oriakhi also had a double-double with a 13-point, 14-rebound effort. Transfers Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross and Tony Criswell brought in seven, six and five rebounds, respectively.

While the Illini were able to limit Phil "Flip" Pressey to 3-for-19 shooting on the evening, Pressey nearly compiled a triple-double of 12 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. As usual, Pressey was able to get into the lane and find his open Tiger teammates, putting them in easy scoring positions.

Of the five players on Missouri's roster that played at least 28 minutes on Saturday, none registered more than two fouls. This is an indicator that the Illini frontcourt players were not able to draw fouls and were outmatched by tougher and more experienced veterans.

Bowers and Oriakhi combined for 12 of Missouri's 20 offensive rebounds, an area of the game that the Illini desperately need to improve upon within the rugged Big Ten. Brandon Paul did grab eight rebounds for Illinois from his guard position, although he struggled shooting the ball.

Despite the Illini getting beat badly on the boards, both starting big men scored in double figures for John Groce's squad. Tyler Griffey nailed four three-pointers en route to 14 points against his home state's team.

Sophomore center Nnanna Egwu nearly had a double-double, as he scored 12 points and brought in nine rebounds. Transfer forward Sam McLaurin didn't have a big night in his first and only Bud Light Braggin' Rights battle, as he was held scoreless and grabbed two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

Prior to Saturday's game, I said that I wouldn't judge the Illini too harshly based on Saturday's effort. And while there are still plenty of areas to improve, including the interior as stated here, I believe that John Groce has made this team a contender. Losing to the 12th-ranked team in the nation is nothing to hang your head over, but U of I must get back to business this coming Saturday against Auburn at the United Center because it won't get any easier from here.

Read more Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball news on BleacherReport.com


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