Superstitious. That's what you're bound to become when you're undefeated this late in the game, right? "I'm not superstitious," Illini coach Bruce Weber recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "but I do believe in routines." And therefore, the dilemma Weber finds himself in on Thursday's Senior Night in Champaign -- whether to mess with a starting lineup that has won 28 straight and replace James Augustine, a junior forward, with senior Jack Ingram -- will probably be solved by sticking with the status quo. Seniority, in this still-perfect hour, will be trumped by routine. Just don't refer to it as superstition. Because a superstitious person, one thinks, would be wasting time sweating that SI cover this week ... Next two: vs. Purdue 3/3, at Ohio State 3/6.
Raymond Felton has been cured; Rashad McCants has not. Felton's ailment was mental: By taking charge and dropping in the game-winning basket in an 85-83 win over Maryland on Sunday, he exorcised the demons that had haunted him from his "fail-to-drive" error in the final seconds against Duke. "I knew he was thinking about the Duke game," Jackie Manuel said in the Durham Herald-Sun of Felton's final bucket against the Terps. "I knew once we gave him the ball, he was going to drive." McCants' illness, meanwhile, is physical: He has missed two games -- and likely a third tonight against Florida State -- with an intestinal disorder. McCants' mother, Brenda Muckelvene, believes that her son's illness might be caused by stress over her battle with breast cancer, and she plans to head to Chapel Hill to provide him with some TLC. That may be the answer to getting McCants back for Sunday's rematch with the Blue Devils. Next two: vs. Florida State 3/3, vs. Duke 3/6.
The Deacs' three senior regulars -- Vytas Danelius, Taron Downey and Jamaal Levy -- had their home send-off Wednesday at Lawrence-Joel Coliseum, beating Georgia Tech to go a perfect 16-0 this season in Winston-Salem. None of the players entered the game averaging double-figures in points, but Danelius scored 16, Downey added 15 and Levy chipped in 10. As a special (albeit weird) tribute to Downey, a tie-dye-clad fan in the student section was holding up a Paul Bunyan-sized bottle of Downy fabric softener. Was there a reason that this product-spoofing effort wasn't extended to the other seniors? Where was the Vytas Ornamental balustrade? And where was Ignatius with the Levy Pants? Next two: at N.C. State 3/6, ACC tournament.
If the Wildcats beat Florida on Sunday in Gainesville, they'll be the first Division I team to reach the 1,900-win mark. I think Chuck Hayes and Josh Carrier have a justifiable beef, though, with the man who was working the scorer's table for the Kentucky-vs.-Kentucky Wesleyan matchup on Feb. 19, 1918. The spaced-out dude (or gentleman, in the vernacular of that era) realized after the game was over -- and the teams had left -- that he botched the score, and it was ruled a 21-21 tie, which was never replayed. Had UK won that contest, Hayes and Carrier could have notched victory No. 1,900 on their sacred Senior Night, which took place Wednesday in Lexington. A tragedy, indeed. Next two: at Florida 3/6, SEC tournament.
Bill Self didn't share Weber's dilemma on the Jayhawks' senior night: KU's lineup has fluctuated so many times due to injury that seven different starting fives took the court in its first 25 games. Senior guard Michael Lee earned the nod against Kansas State on Wednesday in place of sophomore J.R. Giddens, producing nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from long range in a 72-65 win. My thought is, why not just stick with the Senior Night lineup from here on out? Giddens contributed little in Sunday's win over Oklahoma State, shooting 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-2 from 3-point land. Lee played more minutes (22) in that game than did Giddens (18) anyway, and provided important defense during crunch time -- so why not just make Lee a starter and see if Giddens provides sparks off the bench? Giddens, a talented shooter, is just 7-of-31 from beyond the arc in KU's past five games, and could probably benefit from new perspective. Next two: at Missouri 3/6, Big 12 tournament.
Since the Devils opted to take an eight-day hiatus from conference play (which ends with tonight's Senior Night against Miami), I bring you a different Duke anecdote: I recently viewed the 1978 BBC documentary Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood, an awkward, feature-length flick that follows Raoul Duke's real-life persona, Hunter S. Thompson, along with Gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman on a car trip from Thompson's ranch in Woody Creek, Colo., to Hollywood via Las Vegas. Eerie, eerie stuff in the wake of Thompson's suicide -- the documentary's final scenes are spent talking about plans for his funeral, 27 years in advance. He and Steadman are in an L.A. mortuary, having told the mortician there that Thompson has just sixth months to live (a ruse), and are showing the man elaborate plans for a monument -- a 150-foot-tall pedestal topped with a giant, red, double-thumbed fist -- that would sit atop a cliff on the Good Doctor's ranch. "After the cremation, we put the ashes in a canister, and shoot it out the top of the fist, over the valley, and 500 feet up, it explodes," Thompson says. "And the ashes drift down all over [the valley]. And that's it, that's my funeral." His ashes, reportedly, will be shot out of a cannon at the ranch this week. Next two: vs. Miami 3/3, at UNC 3/6.
My first trip to Allen Fieldhouse, on Sunday, was more than worthwhile, as I saw perhaps the season's best game -- the 81-79, Kansas-Oklahoma State thrill-fest. The Jayhawks won, and while Wayne Simien earned plenty of attention for his heroics, the Cowboys' John Lucas III deserves credit for his near-perfect effort. Lucas' final shot, a step-back 3 with Michael Lee in his face, was short, but the OSU guard hit his first nine shots (finishing 9-for-11 with 22 points) and played all 40 minutes at the point while committing zero turnovers. Lucas, ever the competitor, was the lone Cowboy who egged on the booing KU crowd as he made his way out for pregame warmups, and after the buzzer sounded in the tightly-fought loss, he grabbed the ball and re-attempted his missed 3 while the Jayhawks were moshing at midcourt. The result: a swish.
Next two: vs. Texas 3/5, Big 12 tournament.
I doubt the Huskies will ascend to these heights in next Monday's AP poll, but I have no qualms about putting them in the Power Rankings' top 10. This is the best team in the Big East -- BC has lost three of its past six games, while UConn has won five straight and nine of its past 10. Add freshman forward Rudy Gay to the list of players peaking at the right time (joining floor general Marcus Williams and forward Charlie Villanueva): Gay poured in a season-high 20 points against Georgetown on Wednesday, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and playing a big role in earning coach Jim Calhoun his 700th win. Next two: vs. Syracuse 3/5, Big East tournament.