Spring Roster Updates

The spring football roster was posted online today. Which is good because I was getting tired of checking thrice daily. As discussed in the “Taking Inventory” series, I knew several roster adjustments were coming. So here’s what we’ve learned with this new update. [Read more...]


Finishing the very last task of anything is a strange feeling for me.  We’ve been working on a home renovation project – Teenage Boys No Longer Live Upstairs At Our Home So Let’s Make It Look Like Inhabitable Space Again – since around October 1. I finished the final task at 12:23 this morning. Four months of work and then this feeling of “wait, that’s it?” [Read more...]

Back & Forth – Purdue

Short turnaround time this week.  Home game late Wednesday night, then road game mid-day Saturday.  So there’s just two emails back-and-forth between Tyler and I.  But don’t take that to mean there’s not much info here.  Tyler wanted to talk about Leron Black.  Naturally, I wanted to talk about 2017 Leron Black. [Read more...]

Ball-You-Man – Purdue

Robert’s postmortem on the Indiana game and all of our other close losses was a rough read. It really highlights the weight of every possession in college basketball. That’s my new go-to argument for why college hoops is more fun than the pros. In college we get about 30 games in the regular season; the NBA gets 82. In college we get about 65 possessions per game, and the NBA gets about 95. Every possession in college ball is several times more important than in the Association. I hope we can make our remaining ones count. [Read more...]

Ball-You-Man – Indiana

Indiana at THE Assembly Hall might be the biggest game of the year for me after the Braggin’ Rights game. This game has had so many ups and downs over the past decade. We go from the highest of highs, beating #1 Indiana on a buzzer beater broken play, to the lowest of lows, losing to Eric Gordon while his grandmother gave everyone the finger and Shaun Pruitt bricked away precious free throws. This game doesn’t carry the weight of those two, but a win on Sunday still might be the sweetest of the season. [Read more...]


I’m exhausted. 70% chance I fall asleep before finishing this post. The house goes on the market in a week, so this weekend was a Mr. Fix-It weekend. I’ve built planter boxes, patched a basement crack, hung new doors upstairs, and patched a plaster ceiling. And my little reward for getting it all done: an Illini game Sunday night. Yeah, um, not a reward. [Read more...]

Ball-You-Man – Maryland

(Ed. Note: Trevor wrote this before Rice’s injury. The preview of Maryland is still solid… just don’t hold his prediction against him.) Saturday in Columbus felt like a punch in the gut. Hopefully, that’s the bitter medicine Groce needed to get this team into shape. Our defense has been shaky, and we’re going to need to dig deep on that end to deal with the Terps.

By the numbers

The Maryland Terrapins come to Champaign 12-1, with their only loss coming to a Virginia team that may well be the best squad in the country. Kenpom estimates Mark Turgeon’s team is the nation’s 17th best. They’ve certainly looked the part of Big Ten contender and second best team behind Wisconsin as they’ve piled up wins over Iowa State, Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Interestingly, Kenpom sees this one as a toss up, giving us a 44% chance of adding our first conference win of the season.

Maryland has put together their impressive record with solid play on both ends. They shoot it well from 2 and 3, 53% and 36% respectively, but more importantly, they get to the line regularly. The Terps average 19 made free throws per game, 5th nationally. They also do an excellent job of limiting their opponents’ points from the stripe, giving up 10 made free throws to opponents per game, 10th nationally. That’s a tough deficit for any team to make up by shooting from the field, and if we want to we’ll have to knock down three’s (in both halves) to do it.

The Terps’ defense limited opponents to 28% from 3 (18th nationally) and 43% from 2 (46th nationally). Add those figures to the limited free throws and you’ve got a stout bunch. They benefit from an ability to go big when 6’7 freshman Jared Nickens or 6’9 Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz get on the floor with 6’9 Jake Layman and a center.

Who are they on offense?

The Terps spread the floor with shooters and go isolation or pick and roll for their two go to guards, Dez Wells and Melo Trimble.

Dez Wells is a bulldozer, who will remind many of Ray Rice. He gets plenty of iso both up top and on wing. Check him out here catching on the left with shooters dotting the perimeter to prevent help down or over. Costello’s man, 7’1 freshman Michal Cekovsky, heads strong side, and Costello blitzes the ball. Wells sees him coming and dumps off for an easy dunk.

[Read more...]

Ball-You-Man – (the) Ohio State University

Let’s all take a collective deep breath. Tuesday wasn’t very fun, but it was 1 game out of 18. We’ve got another big road test coming up against Ohio State. Let’s get to it. [Read more...]

Ten Names You’ll Learn In 2015

It’s a New Years Day IlliniBoard tradition! On alioneye.com I used to go through the top Illini moments and then maybe five names to watch for in the New Year. Last year I switched that up to Ten Names You’ll Learn. Let’s start by going through that list and then we’ll get to ten new names for the new year. [Read more...]

Ball-You-Man – Michigan

By the numbers

This team was supposed to pick up right where the Nik Stauskas squad left off. Caris Levert would step into the star wing role with Stauskas gone, and finally get a teary eyed apology from John Groce for never calling after he took the Illinois job. Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton would make the sophomore leap, leaving no gaps on a fairly stout roster. However, things didn’t go quite as planned in the off season. Mitch McGary got NCAA’d then declared for the draft. Jon Horford, poised to get a ton of minutes and opportunities on the front line, inexplicably transferred to Florida. Still this should have been a solid team with a good young point guard and shooting on the wings, ready to execute Beilein’s tactical long range missile strikes.

The wheels came off the wagon at the end of the non-conference schedule for John Beilein’s squad. The Wolverines dropped back to back home games to NJIT and Eastern Michigan who Kenpom rates as #265 and #112 respectively. After that they were blitzed by a very good Arizona team. They had a chance to get a much needed win at home against a solid SMU team but couldn’t get it done. They closed the non-conference schedule with a win over a Coppin State squad that would have a tough time winning the CPL in a down year.

What’s gone wrong? They can’t score, which is incredibly atypical of a Beilein squad. Last year Stauskas gunned Michigan to 1.16 points per possession, ranking them third behind only Duke and McBuckets’ Bluejays. Through the non-conference this year’s Michigan squad has only managed 1.00 points per possession (128th nationally).

Defense has been middle of the road, but that’s never where Beilein squad’s hang their hat. They’re managing to turn people over at a decent clip (49th nationally in turnover rate), but when they don’t manage that buckets are coming easily for opponents. Opponents have converted 49.4% of twos and 35.5% of threes this year. The Wolverines need rim protection in the worst way. They’re giving up over 78% on shots at the rim. If we can scheme our way to get Rice lanes to the rim he could do major damage against guys like Donnal, Bielfeldt, and Doyle who all jump like they’ve got pockets full of rocks.

Who are they on offense?

John Beilein runs a spread floor motion heavy offense with more cutting that we’ve seen from any team this season. Every time the ball changes hands at least one player makes a cut from the wing where he can either dive to the rim, circle to the same side corner, or v-cut back to the wing. What makes the Beilein offense so dangerous is that every cut has an original intent, but also multiple counter possibilities, punishing defenders for overplaying a lane they’ve been burned on already. The offense really hums when it has multiple plus shooters and bouncy athletes who understand how to cut to the rim. Beilein has those, but he doesn’t have enough. One more Caris Levert or Zak Irvin and a serviceable big would prevent the offense from stalling due to lack of spacing or movement.

Here’s pretty standard Beilein action:

It starts with Glenn Robinson III passing to the top of the key then getting a screen as he sprints down to the block. The ball moves from the top of the key to the opposite wing allowing an easy post pass to GRIII who gets the layup.

As I said earlier, what makes the Beilein offense dangerous is the multitude of counters off each initial action. Here’s the same play run against Nebraska, with a wrinkle. Nebraska follows the initial passer towards the block. They neglect the screener, who gets a wide open three at the top of the key.

Defending this type of offense requires solid scouting as well as good in game communication and adjustments. Players have to know when they do and don’t want to switch on a multitude of screen actions off the ball.

They also have to defend their own man who will always have several options without the ball in his hands.

Check out Terran Petteway jump to take away the dribble handoff from Caris Levert. Levert reads the overplay and dives toward the basket for an easy score.

This works firstly because Petteway gave his man the lane to the basket. But also notice in all of the plays we’ve looked at the Michigan big is in the high post, moving the opposing team’s biggest player away from the rim. Michigan doesn’t get much at the rim, with only 17% of their FGAs there this year, but when they do they finish at an elite rate (77%) by pulling natural rim protectors out of the paint.

It’s easy to say all we need to do here is stay assignment sound and deny three point shots, but John Beilein is a pretty smart dude. If we turn our entire focus to running shooters off the three point line, we’ll give plays like this that could wake up a sleepy Crisler Center:

[Read more...]