What to look forward to on this Championship Week Saturday

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I often look most forward to the Saturday of Championship Week. Over Selection Sunday, over the traditional day one of the NCAA Tournament, over the release of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s  holiday performance schedule. So, in theory, I would naturally be elated to light a few candles, curl up with a nice blanket, and cook a pot of tea while an abundance of really important games play themselves out.

I’m kidding about all that soft stuff, but Saturday truly is the reason why Championship Week is the new March Madness. But with the continued parity playing out even in the bracket format, what I’m most looking forward to isn’t as entirely match-up focused as I initially planned. There’s still plenty of storylines teeming to play out this afternoon and evening, so here’s your high-level primer to make sure you know what to look for.

  • Dayton – This might be the first time “looking forward to” and Dayton have been penned together in the same sentence, but the Flyers – traditionally one of the most underachieving programs of the past 10 years – might actually be dancing this season following an upset of rival Xavier yesterday. With talented players like the brothers Chris (Wright and Johnson), it’s about time this crop of players position themselves to join the field of 68.
  • Illinois Fans – Just how can this team falter down the stretch for a second consecutive season? Back in October, on paper these guys looked like an Elite Eight team but here they are with a second consecutive dreadful close to the season, highlighted by yesterday’s blown opportunity against Michigan. Can’t wait to see how Champaign reacts to this mess. Oh wait, they’re already questioning Bruce Weber’s commitment.
  • A Pac 10 game worth watching – Is there a more less exciting BCS conference tournament than this one? After watching roughly 30 seconds of an early round game, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said the Staples Center  matched the energy level of an insurance convention. That’s not very nice, but so very true. With the finals finally set in place, Arizona-Washington should play out nicely, based on what we’ve already seen from them this season.
  • BYU-SDSU Round III – It’s always been deemed very difficult for a team of similar skill level three times in a season. Heck we saw BYU down nemesis New Mexico, proving just that theory. So now, the Cougars will try to tackle this challenge against the Aztecs,  and its especially important with a fourth No. 1 seed still begging to be taken.
  • Kentucky – You can’t mask the fact that the Georgia Dome physically has zilch in common with Rupp Arena, and the Wildcats were pretty nervous when playing away from Lexington this season. They’re in the semis, and have a real opportunity to distinguish themselves from a fairly mediocre SEC field.
  • That game in the Garden – But you already knew that. And, besides, Dauster is blanketing the coverage.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.