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The Hawaii team you’ll see tonight (if you get the Big Ten Network) is almost completely different from the one that came within one Calvin Brock heroism of toppling the Illini a year ago. Gone are four starters, including coach’s son Bobby Nash, who dropped 30 on Illinois. Only Bill Amis remains, and he’s improved significantly (averaging 12 and 9) since fouling out in 13 minutes against the Illini. Amis plays 35 minutes a game on a team which goes only about seven deep.


Two remnants of Soviet Communism came to Honolulu this year after stopping off at Pensacola Junior College. Guard Lasha Parghalava was born in the Republic of Georgia two years into (if you believe his mySpace page) the first Gorbachev Administration. Intriguingly, he’s divorced and makes over $250,000 a year. For that kind of money, you’d expect better than 21% from your team’s most frequent 3-point heave-specialist. But evidently, Parghalava takes a perverse satisfaction from missing 3-pointers. He’s even posted a video of himself missing a crucial trey.

The other Socialist Republican hails from Vilnius, Lithuania. Forward Petras Balocka has no mySpace page, so you can only guess his age. I’d say about 26. That puts him in Yuri Andropov territory. And perhaps, as a child, he was witness to Vytautas Landsbergis’s declaration of Lithuanian independence, one of the epochal heights in the death rattle of Stalinist hegemony. On the other hand, he played his high-school ball in the Georgia which is in the United States. And some of them know how to count. So maybe he’s really only 21.

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We can’t infer Balocka’s lifestyle choices, because he hasn’t posted any crappy songs, as Parghalava has. But we can enjoy imagining how he spends his free time by viewing his 690 friends on Facebook. Especially these two (right), whom Petras left in Pensacola. (Sigh.)

Also unlike Parghalava, Balocka makes most of his shots — 55% from the floor, 37% from three and 78% from free points. At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, you can expect him to get his point across with the lithe Illini frontline.

Hawaii’s leading scorer is newcomer Roderick Flemings. The 2008 NJCAA first-team All-American averages 17 and 7 while playing 36 minutes per contest at the small forward spot. He leads the team, by far, in field goal attempts, and he hits 47% of them.

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The Rainbow Warriors are getting better and better. They lost their first two games to Rex Walters’ San Francisco Dons and a 4–5 Cal State-Fullerton team. But since then, they have not lost. That includes tagging the only loss on Greg McDermott’s Iowa State Cyclones. The Illini will have one enormous advantage that ISU lacked: Central Standard Time. The Cyclones flew out to Honolulu for their match-up with Hawaii. And we all know what that flight does to a team’s legs (right).

By the end of the game, when Hawaii made a 13–1 run to win 60–59, it was about 1 a.m. farmer time. Because its frontcourt players, Flemings and Amis, get most of the playing time, and because Hawaii will have spent 10 hours at 33,000 feet, one might assume that Illinois’ main strategy will be simply to wear them down. Lack of depth could be a reason the ‘Bows give up 72 points per contest. Illinois’ opponents average 57. So you might guess that Hawaii isn’t going to waste a lot of energy guarding people.

If statistics play out, Tuesday morning will feature much overly ambitious chat regarding the possibility of an undefeated Big Ten run.

ABOUT THAT GEORGIA GAME

The most encouraging thing about the Georgia win: Mike Davis and Dominique Keller on the floor at the same time. If coach Bruce Weber can play them simultaneously against a team as big as Georgia, perhaps he’s beginning to feel better about Keller’s spacing, positioning and movement.

If you missed it, Illinois finished the game on a 22 point run, winning 76-42.

Georgia beat the Illini on the boards. Mike Tisdale pulled down only two. Maybe we would have seen more of Richard Semrau if Illinois had needed the rebounding. Semrau got only 8 minutes of playing time Saturday. But when you shoot 70% and the other team has 27 turnovers, you don’t need any rebounds. His tendency to not block off the middle should be regarded as a fault only if you expect Tisdale to play the role of a college center. In fact, he’s an extremely tall small forward. Chester Frazier plays a more traditional center than does Tisdale, which is why Frazier gets more rebounds, even at 6-foot-2.

ONE LAST LOOK AT CLEMSON

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Thanks to IllinoisLoyalty.com for this great capture. Illini fans will continue to disagree about what’s seen here. Yes, there was certainly a point when trent Meacham was wide open. But there were lots of points in lots of games when Trent Meacham was wide open. A more important question: Was Meacham ever open when he had a clear pass from Demetri McCamey? Answer: no. Had McCamey been able to pass around, or under his double-team, David Potter (15) would have been right in his face.

Use the “comments” section to call me crazy.