Up next for Illinois: Olympic-sized test

In case you didn’t know, the Winter Olympics start tonight.

If you didn’t, you’re excused — for whatever reason, the snolympiad doesn’t quite resonate with the American masses to the degree to which its summer brethren does.

However, there’s still plenty to be anxious for. Anytime the best athletes in their respective “sports” — I put sports in quotes because come on, curling isn’t a “sport” — come together, it’s worthwhile television.

I don’t particularly like hockey, but I’m pretty excited for the worlds to collide on the rink (especially if host Canada doesn’t win the gold — there will be riots). I don’t particularly enjoy watching people ski, but the “tricks” they do are undeniably entertaining. I don’t particularly like snowboarder Shaun White’s fire-red locks, but I like watching him wipe the halfpipe with the rest of the world. I don’t particularly like to have my sexual orientation questioned, but I appreciate a gold-medal figure skating routine as much as anyone.

So in that vein came the following idea.

My fellow basketball writer, Stu Lieberman, loves the Olympics about as much as I imagine he’ll love his first child. He even spent the summer in Colorado Springs, Colo., working for the United States Olympic Committee.

Naturally, I dropped this idea on him. Now, while I’d like to take full credit for this, Stu had a significant hand in these nominations.

Without further ado, I present to you the Illini men’s basketball team (and the Winter Olympic sports they’d be best at):

Jeff Jordan (Ski jumping) — To my knowledge, as a freshman, Jordan set the Illinois school record with his 46-inch vertical leap. So, anything with the word “jumping” would likely fall under his expertise. Jordan has a little bit of money, so I’d guess he’s been skiing before. Whether he has or not, strap a set of skiis on this guy and watch him fly.

Brandon Paul (Snowboarding) — The freshman has proven one thing thus far this season: He’s as freakishly athletic as he is reckless. Hence, snowboarding would be right up his alley.

Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale (Pairs figure skating) — For their respective positions, these juniors are opposites. McCamey is a technically sound (much more so than his first two seasons) point guard who, despite this, is at his best when things break down. In fact, it’s my belief that McCamey is shooting around 80 percent with the shot clock less than five seconds and on an island alone 20-25 feet from the basket. In other words, the guy can improvise.

His figure skating partner, Mike Tisdale, is one of the more graceful and technically sound 20-year-old big men you’ll ever see — like George Mikan reincarnated. Those attributes would serve him well on the rink. Bonus: He would also be the tallest figure skater you’ll ever see. High entertainment value.

McCamey and Tisdale, in their pick-and-roll sets, have proven they can work very successfully as a unit. I expect nothing short of a gold medal from these two.

D.J. Richardson (Luge) — Can’t help but reference Jerry Seinfeld’s luge bit: “It’s the only sport I’ve ever seen where you could have people competing in it against their will and it would be exactly the same.” D.J. just seems like he’d be a natural at luge. He’s quick, he’s slender, he’s compact. Luge would be a piece of cake for him.

Mike Davis (Speedskating) — Consistently inconsistent, yet smoother on the court than a baby’s bottom. Have you ever seen a speedskater? They quickly glide and float on the ice, something Davis knows all about. Stu compared him to gold medal-winning and tallest American speed skater Shani Davis. I’ll take it.

Dominique Keller (Hockey) ­— He’s passionate, a classic “energy guy” and strong like a bull. I for one, wouldn’t wanna get in a fight with this guy. I could early see him tearing off my helmet after a bit of a dust-up and making my face a human speed bag. Hockey would be a solid gig for him.

Billy Cole (Alpine skiing) — Stu weighing in: “The dude just looks like a skiier to me, nothing more needed.” Well, then. We’ll go with that.

Tyler Griffey (Bobsled) — The freshman is strong (able to effectively push the sled initially) yet graceful and athletic enough to jump into the sled post-push at maximum speed. What happens after this encounter, I’m not too sure. I mean, it’s bobsledding. But I think Griffey could do it.

Bruce Weber (Curling) — Quoting Stu here: “There’s no doubt about this one. The guy is patient, calm, not much of an ego, doesn’t care much what others think — he’s made for this sport.” How can you go against that? No offense at all to Bruce, but it can’t be much of a surprise that a man in his 50s, surrounded by athletic youth, would be chosen as the curler of the bunch. But a good curler he would be, especially if he’s used a broom before. I think that’s the only prerequisite.

Eye on the Illini

What in the world has gotten into our boys? The Illini are on a five-game winning streak, including Tuesday’s defeat of Wisconsin, making them the only unranked team to beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center in Bo Ryan’s nine-year tenure.

On Sunday, they return home to face No. 13 Ohio State, a squad that has won eight of its last nine. I wouldn’t go as far as calling them “Evan and the Turners,” because I’ve been very impressed with the maturation of sophomore William Buford, but Stevie Wonder could tell that Turner is the straw that stirs the Buckeye drink.

As Dan Patrick used to say in the glory days of “SportsCenter”: “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” That’s what the Illini need to do Sunday. My opinion? Stick Billy Cole on Turner for 30-35 minutes, with his objectives being two-fold: 1) Do everything he can to slow Turner down and 2) stay out of foul trouble. Cole shut down Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and played Wisconsin’s Jason Bohannon as well as anybody has in the first half of Tuesday’s contest, but Turner is a different animal. I expect the Assembly Hall crowd to be at a fever pitch, even on the Sabbath, so that boost will help. As far as keys go, this is as big as it gets.

Rich Mayor is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]