By Jim Caple
Page 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Caple solicited suggestions for a place to stay during his visit to the Illinois campus this week; and, thanks to these e-mails (first published last Friday), came up with a strong list of contenders. His decision was so tough that he decided to spend each night with a different group and chronicle his experiences -- starting with his first night in Champaign on Monday.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee thinks it has a difficult task this weekend? I wish I had it that easy. All they have to do is determine the 65 best teams in the country and seed them according to strength. I have to choose from more than 100 students who have invited me to live with them at the University of Illinois during the first week of the tournament.

A few of the more interesting offers ...

"Dear Jim: Come live in luxury at 6th and Stoughton in Champaign with nine creepy guys. The house is pretty dirty and we had a raccoon living in the attic last week. If you enjoy late-night dance parties with about 30 guys and two girls, this is the place for you. There is plenty of room to sleep, but be prepared to freeze because the heat does not get turned on that much."

Tigger Karaoke
'Start spreading the news . . . ' Jim REALLY loves New York now.

Hmmm. Dirt, a raccoon and no heat? I'm pretty sure they're not going to get past the play-in game.

"Dear Jim: We would like to invite you to spend a day, or even the whole week, with us. We don't drink, smoke or swear (in English; Korean is another matter), and we'll be relying heavily on your corporate expense account (unless you really like kim-chee), but we do occasionally have Bible study with Roger Powell Jr. I don't think he'll be joining us that week."

Then again, maybe the raccoon guys will get past the play-in.

"Wow, I hope you like corn and winds coming off the plains, because that's what you're going to get at the U of I. Well, I'd like to throw my hat into the ring to give you a place to stay. I live in an apartment just off campus with an open couch. Word of advice, don't stay in the dorms unless you like prison cells. Oh, and steer clear of the bar C.O. Daniels; you'll know why when you go inside."

Gee. Why couldn't Pepperdine be in the tournament this year?

"Jim, come on down to Baton Rouge. I live in the Pi Kappa Phi house on campus. We can take you out to watch games in Tigerland (the bar area) and we can go to the casino boats while you're here, too."

As much as I would welcome a week at LSU, there is this one stubborn fact about the University of Illinois: It's in Illinois, not Louisiana.

"Why would you want to stay in a frat house or with a bunch of guys for a weekend when you could be staying in a three-level apartment with four ladies that is conveniently located directly behind a bar and across the street from some of the best drunk food you can get? Exactly ... you wouldn't. We've got kegs on the balcony, beer in the fridge, and basketball on TV. It's like a frat house ... but with chicks. It doesn't get any better than that."

Just a minute, let me check with my wife: "Honey, do you mind if I spend a week living in an apartment with four coeds? ... Honey? Honey? Honey?"

"I'm the resident advisor for Blaisdell 2 and my guys religiously read Page 2. We think that the dorm life is the perfect way to go. You can have my couch; I'll even clean off the beer bottles."

If I wanted to sleep on a couch, I'd move in with the chicks. I'm sure my wife would have me sleeping on the couch until at least the Great Alaska Shootout ...

"We live on the second floor, which has six three-bedroom apartments which we rented out as a group so all 18 people (coed) living on the floor are in on the constant party. We have a big-screen TV right next to a second TV, so we can either watch two different games, or play PS2 and watch TV at the same time. My roommate hasn't slept in his room all semester, so you can use his room (he probably wouldn't even notice). And if you do something stupid (like root against Illinois), we have a pentagon of shame in the hallway for you to stand in.

I wonder. Would wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt get me a life sentence in the pentagon of shame?

"Dude, you gotta come stay at our house. We are loved by all the sorority girls and have by far the best house on campus. Plus we won't haze you."

So does that mean I won't need the goat after all?

"Dear Jim: I live in the Sigma Phi Epsilon house at the University of Illinois. I am not gonna lie – if you are coming to campus, there is no reason not to stay with us. First, location; we are right on a busy street providing plenty of opportunities to direct traffic after Illini wins wearing a full-body Tigger suit. Second, we have a 58-inch plasma HDTV, 'nuff said. Finally, our house is full of true fans. While other frats were busy getting freshman girls drunk and talking about Dave Matthews, guys from my house and I have taken road trips to watch the Illini destroy Purdue, Iowa and Wisconsin; and, most recently, we painted my '94 Buick Roadmaster orange and blue and drove seven hours to Ann Arbor to watch us beat Michigan. We are a bunch of fun-loving guys who love sports, beer and the Illini and we would love for you to stay with us."

Well, now we're talking. Rabid fans, a huge plasma-screen TV, lots of beer – wait a second. "Plenty of opportunities to direct traffic wearing a full-body Tigger suit?" The place with the raccoon is looking better and better.

"Dear Mr. Caple: You are sincerely invited to join the Europa House fun during March Madness week. We are very hot, I promise. And we have a swimming pool ... even though it's too cold to swim outside. And you can come hang out at the Sigma Kappa sorority house, where I wish they had a tanning bed, but there definitely is a nachos machine. I know this sounds super-appealing, but don't seem too eager. We would even clean the bathroom for you, and you can leave the seat up if you want."

Very hot foreign exchange students AND a nachos machine? I think they're the No. 1 seed.

"I'd like to invite Jim to a public lynching ... tell that hack he's not wanted in NY."

Mom, I told you not to write anymore.

Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is being published by Plume. It can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.




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WELCOMED TO ILLINOIS