Thursday, February 22, 2007

Last Dance

Chief Illiniwek has pranced across the Assembly Hall floor for the last time. It was apparently an emotional moment for some, and the Chief broke tradition by running back on to the floor after the performance to salute the building and the fans one last time. I've already posted on this, and my position is pretty clear. Anyway, if you want to see the final performance for yourself, have at it.

The Illini beat Michigan last night at the Assembly Hall, pushing them to 8-6 on the season, and bringing them within one win of a guaranteed winning record in the Big Ten, to go along with 20+ wins. A lot of people are hoping a win at Iowa or Penn State will be enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament. I'm not so sure. Win both and they're in. Win one, and they probably need at least one conference tournament victory. Lose both and they're probably done, barring some sort of crazy Corey Bradford-like run to the conference championship game.

This one wasn't available for people who don't have ESPNU, which is pretty much everyone who doesn't have DirecTV. As such, I missed it. The teams combined to shoot only 36%, so maybe the TV people were just saving us from ourselves. Sounded like they came out really determined in the second half, and after taking a lead into the break, they broke it open early in the half, and never really let Michigan back into it.

Warren Carter was the big star, with 18 and 9, going 3-4 from beyond the arc. Rich McBride, was the only other Illini in double figures with 11, and to round out the senior night trio, Marcus Arnold had four points in 16 minutes.

As the speculation over the future of Jamar Smith continues, it's worth noting that he was at the game last night, seated with the team and next to teammate Brian Carlwell, who continues to recover from a severe concussion. Much of the message board discussion has centered around Smith's unfortunate and strange decision to not call for help while Carlwell sat unconscious in the car. It would appear that, at least in Carlwell's opinion, there are no hard feelings.

I'm not sure how Coach Weber will end up dealing with the situation. There are reports that no fewer than six players were at the apartment after Smith drove the car home from the accident site. I don't feel comfortable speculating about the reasons that none of them called 911, and maybe there's some sort of explanation. I can't fathom what it might be, or how that many guys could screw up by letting Jamar and Brian get in the car to begin with.

As for Jamar's future, there's still a very real possibility of jail time that we can't simply ignore. Barring that, and assuming Jamar ends up with some combination of probation/community service/alchohol awareness training, I think if I were Coach Weber I would "suspend" Jamar for the 2007-2008 season. Make him redshirt. Set goals for things like grades, service, etc. Make him earn his spot back on the time by re-earning the trust of the team, the student body, and the community. Furthermore, I would lay this all out for Jamar and let him decide whether he wants to go through that. I have no doubts that he could leave the U of I, and head to a D-2 or lower school and play next year. And if he decides he can't live up to those terms, then you wish him luck wherever he ends up. But ultimately, Jamar is the one deciding whether Jamar returns to the Illini. I don't like the idea of a zero tolerance policy for the team. I don't like zero tolerance policies in general. But I wouldn't have a problem imposing one specifically on Jamar in this instance.

On to Penn State this weekend to see if the Illini can take one more step towards an NCAA tournament birth.

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