Krush: Don’t let Hall turn into ‘House of Shame’

By Ryan Dixon

There’s nothing like back-to-back Sunday afternoon exhibition games to get you pumped for Illini basketball. But based off the vast waves of gray seats in Assembly Hall, not many of you are too interested.

I’m greatly starting to fear the House of ‘Paign’s transformation into the House of Shame. I’m not going to lie, one big reason I wanted to come to the University of Illinois was because of its prestigious basketball program. Here’s another secret – I didn’t apply to any other schools, so if I didn’t get in I was screwed.

Sure, I was depressed and embarrassed after Saturday’s loss to Western Michigan. And yes, I had the Rex Grossman blues after the Bears fell at Soldier Field to the Titans. But those mini-tragedies didn’t hinder my excitement for basketball. Those days of despair can wait another month or so.

After last year’s 16-19 performance, it’s safe to say there is only one solution to crowd growth: winning.

I hope these preseason games aren’t indicative of Orange Krush’s enthusiasm for the entire season. There was a lone Lewis Flyers fan in B-section who made himself heard every time an Illini attempted a free throw. That’s commitment.

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“We’re down a little bit especially with students, and I’ve talked about it since last year,” head coach Bruce Weber said in a Nov. 6 teleconference. “It’s important to us.”

Sunday night’s paid attendance was 13,814. I’m going to go out on a limb and say roughly two-thirds of those people showed up.

So, I’m officially challenging Krush to build and maintain a high intensity level this season. I do understand there is a certain level of frustration within the student section, though. Last year sucked, so let’s forget about it. But winning increases the crowds, and larger crowds promote home-court advantage. Therefore, I’m equally challenging the basketball team to kick butt early in the season to stir up some winning juices among the fans. It’s easy – just do as Jerry Maguire said, “Help me … help you.”

Heck, the Illini went undefeated in their two exhibition games against Florida Southern and Lewis. Isn’t that worth something?

“Winning obviously cures a lot of stuff,” Weber said.” But at the same time I think it’s how we play, our identity, if we’re a team that overachieves and plays hard and somebody they can identify with. That is important.”

Weber brings up a very important point. The fans used to go nuts at Assembly Hall because they identified with Deron Williams, Dee Brown and the rest of the ’05 team. Even last year, “SP, What?!” echoed throughout the Hall. But please don’t tell me the best we can do is “Stan’s the man,” this season.

Assembly Hall should be a place where Big Ten opponents fear the Orange. Losing is no fun, just ask Cubs fans. But at least the North Siders pack Wrigley every single game.

Ryan Dixon is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected].