COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Show me a message board and, most of the time, I'll disagree with whatever's on it. The people who congregate there don't want the truth. They want to vent, they want to spew and they want to do it in a place where everyone agrees with them.
|Illinois coach Bruce Weber looks clueless as the Illini blow a 13-point lead. (AP)|
But not you people at Illinois. Not today. Not after what I saw Friday night at Nationwide Arena, where 12th-seeded Illinois folded in a 54-52 loss to fifth-seeded Virginia Tech.
Illinois fans have one of the busiest message boards in college basketball. It's also one of the most unreasonable, illogical message boards. Maybe that's redundant. Anyway ...
Not today. Today, let the Illinois message board sing. Let it shriek. Let it make all the ugly noise it can, because Illinois basketball is a worthy target. And by "Illinois basketball" I mean everyone associated with it. The players who choked on the court. The assistants who recruited this mid-major amalgamation of talent. The head coach who was trying to play checkers while Seth Greenberg was dabbling in chess. And the athletics director who sets a miserable tone for the whole thing.
About that athletics director ...
His name is Ron Guenther. He sat two chairs from me on press row. If there's etiquette about what behavior is on or off the record on press row, I don't know about it. Here's what I do know: The Illinois AD is smart enough to ascend to the job he holds, but dumb enough to behave so ridiculously courtside, surrounded by media in general and sitting 30 inches from me in particular.
Guenther is a table-pounder, in good times and bad. Since there were very few good times Friday -- even when the Illini had a 10-point lead with less than 4 1/2 minutes to play, they looked awful -- Guenther did most of his pounding in anguish.
If only he left it at pounding. Alas, he did not. Guenther would on occasion rise and stare down an official, or rise and give coach Bruce Weber advice, generally something along the lines of, "Get Randle out of there!" And after one miserable play by Warren Carter -- which isn't nearly specific enough considering his vast array of miserable plays -- Guenther pounded the table, rose from his chair and screamed, "Warren -- you idiot!"
Screamed it, people.
So Guenther doesn't do much for me. Neither does his coach or his players. At the moment, come to think of it, neither does anything about his Illini basketball program.
Bruce Weber can't recruit at the elite level, which I first pointed out during Illinois' magical 2005 season. That's old news. Important news, program-killing news -- but old news.
What's new? This season, his players continued to find too much trouble. If you don't have great talent, you better have great citizens. There are surely class kids on the Illinois roster, but not enough of them. Two players, Rich McBride and Jamar Smith, have faced charges of DUI in the last six months. A third player on this team, Shaun Pruitt, has been disciplined for getting in a fight outside a bar.