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Bittersweet Weekend for Illini

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 14, 2005 8:04PM

As any sports fan knows, the biggest story of the weekend was college basketball. The conference tournaments wrapped up Sunday afternoon, leading to the NCAA tournament seedings announcement.

As expected, Illinois received a #1 seed on account of their 32-1 record and their winning the Big Ten tourney. But the mood was perhaps more subdued that for most teams in their situation.

Friday evening, following Illinois' 68-51 victory over Northwestern, 2005_03_sports_weber_mos.jpgcoach Bruce Weber's mother passed away following surgery for a ruptured aorta. She had been at the United Center picking up her tickets for the game when she was rushed to the hospital because of chest pains.

In spite of his great loss, Weber chose to continue coaching his team throughout the tournament, leading them to wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin on their way to the title.

In spite of their tournament win in the face of tragedy, the local media chose to knock the team's performance anyway. Chicagoist thinks that the local media -- the words of Mike & Mike -- need to JUST SHUT UP! Come on, cut the team some slack. You think maybe that Weber wasn't 100% there mentally even if present physically? Think that maybe his mood affected the players, too? Let's wait until the Big Dance to criticize their play.

The Illini open play on Thursday against Fairleigh Dickinson in Indianapolis. The Illini landed an incredibly favorable schedule for the NCAA's. After opening in nearby Indy, the Illini would play the following weekend at the AllState Arena before the Final Four in St. Louis. They'll be playing among seas of orange all tournament long!

Think the Illini will win it all? Think somebody can top them? Prove your knowledge of in Chicagoist's Tournament Challenge! The top finisher wins a prize as well as the admiration of all Chicagoist readers.