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#AskTCR: Optimism Running Rampant

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YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS. THOUGH NOT ALL ANSWERS MAY BE TO THE QUESTIONS YOU WERE ASKING.

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For the first time in my history of writing #AskTCR, I have the opportunity to actually pen it from the wonderful state of Illinois (that I will be leaving again on Friday morning). Until things start heating up with Illini sports, we may be switching to a biweekly mailbag. It all just depends on you guys and how many questions I get per week.

There are two ways to ask The Champaign Room your questions. You can tweet them at us on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTCR -- it just makes it easier to keep track -- or you can email them to us at mprimia2@gmail.com. And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. We'll change your name to Tom Crean when we publish it on the site. And remember, you can ask us ANYTHING. It doesn't have to be about Illinois or even sports.

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I grouped these three together for obvious reasons. Paul getting suspended for his recent arrest and multiple failed drug tests definitely puts a damper on the 2014-15 basketball season. The transfer likely would have been starting, as the roster is painfully light on forwards with experience.

It's nice that he doesn't lose the year of eligibility, but he also isn't allowed to practice with the team which all but erases this past year of practice. I have no doubt he'll stay in playing shape, but that's a great deal different than actually practicing with the team. Good luck finding people at ARC that are good enough to get a meaningful practice in with.

As for how it affects the lineup, expect to see a lot more of Leron Black than we expected to, especially early on. I hoped Black would spend at least the first half of the season coming off the bench and maybe becoming a starter by the end. That's not really an option if we want to make the tournament this year. Welcome to the fire, Mr. Black. Make us proud.

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I really hope so. I can't say it's a better chance than landing Lunt though. Lunt basically had two options, Illinois or Louisville. Louisville is the better team, but who wants to play in that conference? With Isaac, we're realistically competing against three other Big Ten teams: Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

I'm hoping he looks at what happened with Kyle Prater when he transferred from USC to NW, which is to say nothing. The former top receiver recruit has had zero impact on the program. Can't be much fun to leave Los Angeles for Evanston and wind up doing nothing. The only real advantages we have over Wisconsin and Michigan are that we're closer to Shorewood (and his sick mom) and that we can sell him on being the man in Champaign.

Yeah, Wisconsin cranks out running backs with ease and Michigan is still Michigan even in down years (which they may be sliding back into). But if he comes to Illinois, he can relive the high school glory days he had at JCA in the backfield with his former teammate Josh Ferguson. Putting the two of them together with Wes Lunt gets me far too excited for an offense that may never exist.

If he chooses Illinois, expect us Champaign Room writers to all have a mini freakout session.

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You're not crazy. It's May. This happens every year. The season is still months away and nothing has gone wrong yet. There's still a whole summer for players to get injured, upset, or arrested. That gives us months to dream up ways the Illini could sneak into a lower tier bowl game and announce that they might be back this time.

But in all honesty, this team should be better than last year's version. Yeah, we lose our ace wide receiver and starting QB on offense. But Nate Scheelhaase showed what a talented QB can do learning Bill Cubit's offense on the fly. Wes Lunt has a stronger arm and had an entire extra year to learn it. And while Steve Hull was an absolute beast last season, he only did so over nine games. If Geronimo Allison or Tyrin Stone-Davis can step up like that, we'll be just fine.

The offensive line comes back basically intact. We still have Jon Davis and Matt LaCosse, both of whom create absolute matchup nightmares in the red zone. Ferguson and Donovonn Young are both back to continue pounding the ball.

And the defense can't really get any worse. Yeah, we lost Jonathan Brown and Houston Bates and that hurts. But the incredibly young secondary is a year older and more experienced. Earnest Thomas III is going to have another 100+ tackle season. And the main weakness, the defensive line, has completely been addressed and overhauled. JUCOs Jihad Ward and Joe Fotu were brought in. DE Paul James III gained academic eligibility and actually chose to honor his Illini commitment. Austin Tietsma is a senior. And special teams are finally average at worst!

You're not insane to be optimistic right now. You're just an Illini fan in May.

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An email from Scott-

With Assembly Hall/State Farm Center going through a massive renovation project, what about Memorial Stadium?  Do you have any suggestions for possible renovations for the football stadium and/or a naming rights deal?  I will accept both serious and ridiculous suggestions.

I too was somewhat underwhelmed by the renaissance, but it makes sense (other than shuttling the students off to the endzone to grab more money from alumni, but that makes sense too). There isn't too much you can actually do to the stadium without drastically changing it. We don't want to end up with Soldier Field Champaign, do we? There isn't really any room to add a great deal more seating without knocking down an entire side, and that would make me quite sad.

We're not Kansas State. We can't just blow up half the stadium and then rebuild it. There's actual history here. I wasn't mad when the school sold naming rates to Assembly Hall. The sale helped fund a large part of the renovation and let's be honest, Assembly Hall wasn't that great of a name. Short of being able to shorten it to Ass Hall, it doesn't have much going for it and it doesn't really honor anyone. Memorial Stadium? I'd have a much bigger problem with that name change.

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After the Paul suspension, I'd say there's a very high chance of this happening. We'll say 80% because numbers are fun.

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It definitely seems so. In his last season at Seton Hall, Aaron Cosby attempted 105 free throws in 967 minutes played. If we put that into perspective with last season's numbers, he'd be third on the team behind only Rayvonte Rice (171) and Tracy Abrams (149). That's pretty good news. No one else on the team came close to 100, though Hill will likely get there with enough minutes. Cosby can drive and draw contact as well as put up threes, two things the offense desperately needs.

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I don't think it will be Brazil. Heck, I don't even think Brazil is the best team from South America in the tournament. Granted, the joy of tournaments is that the "best" team doesn't always wind up winning it all. I'll break down who I think advances from what pods and what two teams I think have the best chance of winning it all.

Pod A: Brazil and Croatia. Yeah, it's chalk, but are you going to bet against Brazil managing to make it past Mexico and Cameroon? I'm not. Mexico is in shambles right now and Cameroon isn't one of the two good CAF teams in the Cup this year. Croatia is a strong team and should advance as well.

Pod B: Spain and the Netherlands. My favorite to win it all is Spain. They're still an amazing team and have a damn good chance at repeating this summer. I always struggle to pick against the Netherlands, partially because of the orange jerseys and partially because they play very well together. It's not the Clockwork Orange days with interchangeable parts, but it's still a damn good squad.

Pod C: Colombia and Ivory Coast. Colombia will win the pod, but not without a challenge. I legitimately feel bad for the Japanese team. This is not a forgiving pod. The Ivory Coast and Greece both have very good teams, so it's going to be a shocker if the Samurai Blue manage to sneak a win. As a former back, I should love Greece's defensive style more than I do. But I don't. So please lose to Drogba. ALL GLORY TO DROGBA!

Pod D: Uruguay and Italy. Everything I said about Japan applies to Costa Rica here. It has to suck qualifying for the World Cup only to learn you're in a pod with Uruguay, Italy, and England. That being said, few things make me happier every four summers than watching England go home early. This year gives a prime opportunity for that. Fornelli may be gone, but forza lives on.

Pod E: Switzerland and Ecuador. Other than the Swiss, this pod is a bit of a tossup. I'm giving it to Ecuador since they're closest to home. That second name could just as easily read France or Honduras though.

Pod F: Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thank for coming, Iran. Here's your check. Argentina is the other team I think has the best chance of winning it all. It's unfair that Messi is still so far under 30. Just unfair in every way.

Pod G: Germany and the United States. Germany is going to make a very deep run and would be my third choice to win it all. I'd feel far more confident about our boys' chances if Ghana wasn't in our pod. The Black Stars are our boogeymen and the team needs to beat them if they dream of advancing. I'm counting the game against Germany as a loss already, so if they draw that one, they should be golden. Fuck Portugal.

Pod H: Belgium and Russia. Or as I like to call it "The Pod of No One Caring".

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They're definitely up there and I'm taking at least one myself. Just need to hope the rivers in Kansas are high enough.

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Right now, my gut says Nunn. We'll see though.

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Probably equal chance for each happening, though I'd lean more towards Isaac than Bragg. Isaac has more reasons to pick Illinois. Bragg's mom wants him to be an Illini, but having a parent in the corner doesn't always mean what we want it to. Just look at Quentin Snyder.

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If the team plays well, the answer should be yes. We're in the final runnings for quite a few of them. It's going to happen sooner or later with Groce. If the team is playing strong come signing day, I think this is the year he makes that breakthrough with the Illini.

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