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ALL WORK AND NO PLAY

Tuesday morning’s workout was the last full practice before the lads fly off to sunny South Padre Island. There, they will work like dogs (dogs that work, not lapdogs). When they’re not learning to shift around Kent State’s shifting 1–3–1 zone, when not trying to figure out how to shut down Al Fisher, they’ll be hitting the books. Chester Frazier, for example, has a big Psychology test next week.


It’s the second leg of the South Padre Invitational. Bruce Weber said Tuesday that he prefers these kinds of tournaments — the ones that start at home, where there’s revenue to be made. The TAMU-CC and Jackson State game were already part of the SPI, you see. (Shhh, that’s on the downlow.)

If they beat Kent State, the Illini will have to play Tulsa or Texas A&M. If they lose to Kent State, they’ll have to play either Tulsa or Texas A&M. So obviously, they’re looking to beat Kent State. That’s not going to be easy. Since the Neil Young song, Kent has evolved. They hired an old girlfriend of mine (not the bad one) and developed quite a basketball tradition. Last year, the Golden Flashes won 28 games. So watch out.

Speaking of watch, if you happen to have DirecTV, channel 617 is your destination. Otherwise, you might try the Esquire. If it’s a blow-out, maybe Rich will give you a game of chess.

The mood is certainly livelier ‘round the ole Ubben lately. Illini PR guy Derrick Burson waxed enthusiastic about spreading the good news in Texas — in the form of Illini Media Guides. He asked trainer/dad/all-things-Illini Rod Cardinal how many guides he’d be allowed on the plane. Cardinal pointed out that Jerrance Howard would be flying separately, due to a recruiting trip. They figured they’d have an extra 240 lbs. to work with. No one can resist a jab at Snacks’ potbelly.

Frankly, the word about the lively team has already leaked, Media Guide or no Media Guide. Illinois received two points in this week’s AP poll. Maybe that’s bad. Praise creates expectations. People will be watching now. If they lose one or both of this weekend’s games, they will fall further back in the opinion of the cognoscenti than they would have been given a 2–2 start.

FIGHTING ILLINI BASKETBALL
Game #5: Illinois (4–0) vs. Kent State (3–0)
South Padre Island Invitational
Nov. 28, 2008 // 5 p.m. CT // Fox College Sports Atlantic
South Padre Island, Texas // SPI Convention Center (2,000)

On the Air
Television
FCS Atlantic: Kevin Eschenfelder, play-by-play; Reid Gettys, expert analyst.

Radio
Illini Sports Network — 44 stations: Brian Barnhart, play-by-play; Jerry
Hester, expert analyst; Loren Tate pre-game/halftime/post-game interviews.

MYLES BRAND RULES

Indiana was forgiven all its faults, patted on the back for being so charming and invited to dinner by the NCAA Tuesday afternoon. “Kelvin Sampson?” the Infractions Committee pondered aloud. “What previous malfeasance?”

Former Indiana/Current NCAA President Myles Brand commented, “C’mon, it was just a few phone calls. What’s the big deal?”

Brand then announced an investigation into the University of Illinois’s complicity in Jack Abramoff’s Indian Gaming Scandal. Brand further announced an indictment of the Indian Head Nickel, and a catalog of charges against the Chippewa and Seminole Nations, for abetting college sports teams. When informed of a massive play-for-pay ring at the University of Memphis, Brand promised immediate investigation of the University of Tennessee at Martin, which is also in western Tennessee, has a basketball program and is close to Memphis both geographically and alphabetically (they begin with the letter M).