RESULTS| STATS| HISTORY | MESSAGE BOARD | ILLINOIS INSIDER
RECORD: - REGION: West SEED: 4|
COACH: Bill Self CONFERENCE: Big Ten
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
Brian Cook has the talent to carry the Illini a few rounds. He became a true leader this season when pressed, but he doesn't have to do everything. Bill Self has one of the quickest guards in the country in Dee Brown. His backcourt mates of Deron Williams and Sean Harrington give him a slashing scorer and a pure shooter to get the ball to in transition. The additional scoring pop from Roger Powell has helped tremendously of late. And Self is a big-time game coach. He simply knows how to win in the NCAAs.
|Player to Watch|
This senior's development -- both mentally and physically -- is a testament to staying four years in college. So is winning Big Ten POY.
How They Got Here
Sure Illinois was going to be solid this season, but few people would've expected this strong of a showing: Sharing the Big Ten regular season title and winning the tournament crown exceeded any expectations.
After all, the Illini lost five regular contributors from last season's team including point guard Frank Williams. Illinois coach Bill Self wasn't going to start a freshman guard, he was actually going to start two of them in Dee Brown and Deron Williams.
So what did the Illini do? They won 10 of their first 11 games in the non-conference part of the season. And they didn't all come against hyphenated and directional schools either. There was a victory over North Carolina (back when the Tar Heels were good), there was a win at Arkansas and a victory over arch-rival Missouri in the annual
Braggin' Rights game.
The good play didn't stop there. The Illini opened Big Ten play at Minnesota. And while Self started three freshmen, Illinois left Williams Arena -- maybe the toughest venue in the conference -- with a victory.
The only real hiccup of the regular season came when Illinois lost back-to-back road games, falling to Iowa and Indiana. Illinois didn't lose at home this season and by late February the Illini were giving opponents a beat down. Self's team crushed Michigan State by 30 points, trounced Indiana by 26 points and beat Minnesota by 24 in the
regular season finale.
What We Like
Forward Brian Cook has developed into the player many people thought he would be when he arrived at Champaign. Cook, the Big Ten player of the year, has always had talent, but sometimes would vanish on the floor. This season, Cook averaged over 20 points per game
while playing both with his back to the basket and on the perimeter.
What We Don't Like
While the Illini put together a very good regular season, how are the freshmen going to respond to their first NCAA Tournament? Yes Brown, Williams and big man James Augustine are
talented, but can they play well when a loss ends the season? Can they play under control? If they can, the Illini should be fine.