Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Look Ahead

One day--that's right, ONE--until Cubs pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Exercising, stretching and ... well, that's actually about it for now. But still, there will be Cubs players on a baseball field, and that's what counts.

As points out, Illinois has won every home game and lost every road game since early January. With road games against 4-6 Northwestern and 1-10 Indiana this week, the Illini hope to change their road fortunes. Despite their struggles away from Assembly Hall, the Illini are favored by 2.5 points tonight (8:00, ESPN2), in part because they've won 11 of their last 12 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Illinois knows it's time to crank things up (only seven of 18 conference games remain), and given the fact that Illinois won't have the opportunity to beat down NW in Champaign this season, plus the fact that they only have to travel a few hours for this "road" game, I think Illinois will finally figure things out tonight. Northwestern is in the top 25 in points allowed, and scoring has been the problem on the road for the Illini, so while I expect a close game, Illinois has more talent and athleticism, and should pull it out.

It's also #1 vs. #2 tonight. No, not in college basketball. Rather, #1 overall pick Derrick Rose and the Bulls will try to stay hot as they battle #2 overall pick Michael Beasley, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat (6:00, TNT). Wade has struggled at the United Center in the past, and lately, he's been their whole team. Therefore, the call here is that the Bulls take their last game prior to the All-Star break.

Did you know: Notre Dame is French for "Not that much better than DePaul." DePaul, who wishes they had never joined the Big East in 2005, is 0-12 in conference play. Notre Dame, a program with a storied history and a preseason ranking of nine, is just 3-7, having lost their last seven. Now I know why their football team doesn't join a conference! Their seven consecutive losses have been by an average of 13.8 points. Wow. Is there anything the Pope can do?

The answer is no (I think--I'm not entirely familiar with all the teachings of the Catholic church). And tonight, there won't be much Luke Harangody or Kyle McAlarney can do to stop the bleeding against Louisville (6:00, ESPN). There doesn't seem to be much fight in this year's version of the Fighting Irish. ND goes down again tonight.

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