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Inside The Bloggers Unwashed, Unshaven, Studio: Illinois Hoops Edition

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ITBUUS returns in time for tonight's clash with Illinois. Here to give us his thoughts on Illinois' season thus far and just how elated he is that Talor Battle is no longer around to torment his beloved team is Joe Kutsunis, author of the popular Illini blog Hail To The Orange.

So, the Illini are sitting in the driver's seat in Big Ten play. Did any rational Illini fan see this coming? Is this dare I say it - the most talented squad since 2005?

Did I see this coming? Absolutely not. This was supposed to be a middle of the pack learning experience year, not a contention year, but here we are. Yes in terms of talent there is probably more talent on this team than any since Dee Brown left. But certainly not the most polished. The majority of the roster is in its freshman class, and three starting players either didn't get more than 8 minutes a game last year, or weren't on the team at all. Basically the fact the team has come together so well is a marvel.

This will be the first PSU-Illinois contest in the post-Talor Battle era. Surely though, there's gotta be something else about this PSU team that worries you, right?

Everything always worries me about Penn State, and until we fully exorcise Battle, it will. Trust me, I remember 2006. I remember two buzzer beating daggers. I remember 38-33. Everything bad that can happen to the Illini over the years has mostly happened against PSU. That said, basketball logic tells me this is a winnable game.

As glad as you are that he's gone, you've professed on your blog that you have a closet man crush on Talor Battle. Tell our audience here at BSD your most favorite Talor Battle moment.

Favorite? Well the thing is, I was always disappointed that Illinois seemed to get the brunt of Talor Battle's basketball rage, including last year's 26 point game which included the shots from the logo. So, my favorite moment of Battle's career had to be last year's Big Ten tournament, when the Talor Battle artillery barrage was finally really pointed at someone else. I was court side for when he went off for 25 against the Spartans in Indianapolis. Also, even though it ended in the second round, I was glad to see Battle make the tournament as a Senior, lord knows that kid earned at least one ticket to the Dance.

Tell us how you see tonight's contest playing out. Feel free to make it as horribly cliched as possible, too.

Illinois does not blow people out, and I don't see that being any different in the Bryce Jordan Center. Despite being very sound defensively, and with many weapons, this team still has its offensive dry spells, and has struggled all year to get offensive boards, despite often times having the tallest man on the floor.That said, the Illini have shown they can close out games, and some combination of Brandon Paul or Joe Bertrand going to the hoop will get the fouls and free throws to add up, and down the stretch be the difference in the game. If Illinois wins it by more than five I'll be elated, that said, they should still win.