With the Illini: Weber says he won't play in-state teams in their gym
Illinois coach Bruce Weber doesn't mind scheduling games against in-state opponents, but there's one thing he won't budge on.
He won't take the Illini on the road to Carbondale, Peoria, DeKalb, Normal or any other campus inside the state lines during the non-conference season. When No. 23 Illinois hosts Northern Illinois Tuesday (7 p.m., no TV), it's the first meeting between the schools in basketball.
"We'll play the state schools, if they want to come to us,'' Weber said. "It's difficult for us to return games. There has been a lot of chatter from SIU fans. We're going to try to work that out and play them some place.
"It's good for the state schools. It's good for us. There are good coaches and teams in our state. It gets them extra exposure. It's a positive game for us. If it's at our place, it's much better.''
For Illinois, there's nothing to gain and plenty to lose by taking games on the road, and Illinois needs home games to raise revenues. With regular games in St. Louis and Chicago, plus returning the Chicago game and playing on the road in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Illinois already plays away from home enough, Weber said.
In Weber's six years as Illinois coach, the Illini played home games with Western Illinois and Illinois State. The Illini played Illinois-Chicago in Chicago and Bradley in an exempt tournament championship game in Hoffman Estates. The Illini could meet Bradley again in Las Vegas later this month.
Illinois hasn't played Southern Illinois since 2001, when Weber coached the Salukis and lost to the Illini and former coach Bill Self in Las Vegas. While everyone wants a shot a big brother, the best matchup still appears to be an Illinois-Southern Illinois game, considering the backstory (Weber's years at Southern) and the Salukis' success in the decade.
But unless Southern Illinois wants to play in Assembly Hall, there's little chance it would happen.
"They can come here,'' Weber said. "We talked a little bit about Chicago. They'd like to play in St. Louis. I don't know if that would work out. We have the Missouri game there. We're not changing the Missouri game. Would it hurt our crowd for that game?''
Weber held a Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser with Salukis coach Chris Lowery in Marion last week, "it was the first question,'' Weber said. "I said since I left there we'd try to play sometime. We'll try to work it out if we can.''
Meanwhile, Northern Illinois coach Ricardo Patton gets the benefits of playing against Illinois while trying to improve the Huskies.
"Good players want to play against other good players,'' Patton said. "It helps in recruiting to show athletes that you have an attractive non-conference schedule. It also identifies your weaknesses early rather than later.''
Meanwhile, tickets are available in B section for Illinois home games against Presbyterian Saturday and Wofford on Nov. 24. Those games, the first two contests in the Las Vegas Invitational, aren't part of the student ticket package.
FOOTBALL: Illinois (3-7 overall, 2-6 in the Big Ten) is idle this week. The Illini will practice Sunday through Wednesday. Illinois plays at No. 5 Cincinnati on Nov. 27. Kickoff is 11 a.m. with broadcast by ABC.
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: When Illinois rolled past Siena 85-53 in the home opener Sunday, star recruit Destiny Williams didn't attend the game because of a "coach’s decision,'' coach Jolette Law said. Effectively, Williams is suspended.
The No. 8 rated recruit nationally in the class of 2009 by ESPN, Williams had one point in 7 minutes during the overtime loss at Temple Friday, when the Illini blew a 16-point lead in the final 6 minutes. Williams is the program's first McDonald's All-American who played in the under-19 world championships last summer.
"We're dealing with some things with Destiny,'' Law said. "It has nothing to do with basketball.''
Williams' status for the game Wednesday against Central Michigan remained unknown. Illinois freshman center Amber Moore will miss the rest of the season after tearing her ACL against Temple. She would be eligible for a redshirt.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.