Coming down with case of the pre-Big Ten Blues

By Jeremy Werner

After a week and a half of playing BCS conference foes, I really could not get myself excited for Weber State’s trip to Assembly Hall. I mean, no disrespect to the Wildcats, but I was a little more excited playing Duke in Maui – especially because Dick “I need Ritalin” Vitale was not part of the broadcast. I’m going through what I like to call the pre-Big Ten Blues.

Some of the symptoms of this dreary ailment include lack of motivation and decreased enthusiasm for college basketball.

Some of the causes for the pre-Big Ten Blues are easily identifiable.

The most obvious cause is the quality of opponents. After a stop at the United Center to play the always-solid Arizona Wildcats next Saturday, four of the five Illini opponents – Western Carolina, Miami (Ohio), Loyola (Maryland) and Tennessee State – should offer little competition to the Orange and Blue. Missouri looks to be the only team that should give the Illini trouble.

Chester Frazier summed up playing the Weber States of the world the best at the postgame press conference by quoting Bears fans’ favorite line from Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were!”

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And I try not to bring up the Chief anymore, but has anyone else noticed that as the quality of opponents decreases so does halftime entertainment? Seriously, I usually love watching women dance, but I can do that at Kam’s any day of the week. Can I get some dogs doing some tricks or at least the Jesse White Tumblers? I mean everyone loves their crazy secretary of state on a gym mat.

Anyway, the scheduling does have its upsides. It should give Illinois some easy W’s to impress the selection committee come March. Also, it gives fans the opportunity to see the Illini offense look legit. Forty-seven points in the first half? Illini fans usually are hoping for that output through 30 minutes.

Another cause of the pre-Big Ten Blues is the coming of winter. Below-freezing temperatures and ice kept many Illini fans from filling the Assembly Hall on Saturday afternoon.

With dreams of Pasadena weather, Illini fans cannot help but bemoan the Illinois winter.

That’s right; the biggest cause of the pre-Big Ten Blues? College football.

Illinois basketball has enjoyed having a monopoly over the interest of Illini nation in the past, well, decades. But with the Zookers receiving a Rose Bowl berth, Illini fans have turned their attention to gridiron, and the football team has not even competed for two weeks.

As I sat and watched Trent Meacham nearly outscore Weber State in the first half, I could not help but keep my eyes glued to the college football scoreboard hoping for a few more key losses to put the Illini just in the right spot to all but force BCS bowls to send J Leman and company an invitation.

Even though watching the Illini basketball team clobber the Wildcats was enjoyable and sometimes laughable, I found myself thinking more about what my plans would be for the Missouri-Oklahoma game and how Champaign-Urbana would transform into devout Sooner fans, if only for a night. Even Bruce Weber gave a “Go Sooners!” to conclude his postgame press conference.

I have to give it to the Illini; they put on their most dominating performance of the young season in Saturday’s matinee performance. Brian Randle and Shaun Pruitt can thank Trent Meacham and his 26 points for the day off. But the problem is that it’s Weber State, a school named after a non-existent state.

Until Ohio State and super freshman Kosta Koufos come to town Jan. 3 to kick off the Big Ten season, it will be hard to get excited about Illinois basketball. By then, the football team will be done. Illini fans will have closure on the season and be ready to turn their attention from the gridiron to the hardwood.

In the meantime, I will devote my time to fulfilling my journalistic duty to the public interest by lobbying for the Jesse White and his tumblers at halftime. If not, they could at least play the J Leman Illini Infomercial, quite possibly the greatest 48 seconds on the Web. Seriously, YouTube it.

Jeremy Werner is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]