I’ve changed a lot as a sports fan over the years. Growing up in the St. Louis area, 9 year-old me kept a scrapbook of the ’82 Cardinals (I pretty much started the scrapbooking craze). In college, full-on Illini fandom. After college, back to pro sports because that’s what you do. The last 10 years, pretty much only Illini football and hoops. My next change: more Illini sports. [Read more…]
Here’s the third and final post in this three-part series – my interview with Athletic Director Mike Thomas. In this installment, we mostly talk about two things: admissions (and our Wisconsin-like standards for athletes that are higher than other Big Ten schools), and the dreaded athletic director “vote of confidence”. [Read more…]
Can I just say that I’m amazed an athletic director would agree to an hour-long sit-down with a blogger? Can you IMAGINE Ron Gunther doing this? In this second part of the interview, I ask Mike Thomas maybe six questions about money and he answered every one. And he was even very open about plans to expand the horseshoe and the east great hall. [Read more…]
On Friday I had the opportunity to sit down with Athletic Director Mike Thomas for almost an hour. This will be the first of four posts where I transcribe that interview. Might be three – not sure. Transcribing is hard. And it takes time. Brumby, can you put money in the budget so I can hire an intern? Consider this a job posting for “IlliniBoard Transcription Intern”. [Read more…]
I love it when a plan comes together. When Matt Domer wasn’t admitted to school in January (for the second time) and Devin Church transferred away, we looked at the roster of tailbacks in a few years and said “Dre Brown and then who?”. Then BOOM 4-star Ke’Shawn Vaughn. And now BOOM 4-star Kentrail Moran. Problem fixed. [Read more…]
I avoid Selection Sunday when we have no chance. I don’t watch the selection show and I avoid Twitter. I don’t even want to hear about it. I checked about about 7:40 to see who our NIT opponent would be, said something on Twitter about Roy Rogers, and went back to pretending this season didn’t happen. So here’s some football interviews.
There will be no postmortem post today. I’ll wait until after the NIT loss. The only words I’ll say about that awful Michigan game were the words in that lame “here’s our texts” post. I do not have the wherewithal to produce anything more than that. Instead, let’s just Slapdash. I have exactly 24 minutes. Go. [Read more…]
So this will be an unexpected Part II to the “Talent” post from a few days ago. I wasn’t planning on this being a series, but several of the comments under that post triggered some additional thoughts. We’ve talked about the talent – what was left behind, what the new coaches have brought in – so what about the coaching? [Read more…]
How many wins do we need to make the tournament? At least the first one. After that who knows? Since results come too rapid fire to keep up with regular previews for each tournament game I want to highlight the things we want to do against Michigan that I also think generalize well to our play against other teams.
By the numbers
If you think Illinois has had a rough go in terms of personnel shocks please take a look at what Michigan has endured. They lost Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary to the draft, Horford inexplicably transferred, and they have been without their two best returning players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, for over a month. Take those six players with a league average bench and they’re looking at going undefeated in the conference. Instead they found themselves 8-10, and they honestly should feel pretty damn good about it.
The numbers in conference play have been about what you’d expect given the roster. The Wolverines sit at 8th in the league in adjusted offensive efficiency (very solid for a group of role players and scrubs) and 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency. There’s nothing Beilein’s squad does particularly well except take threes, bombs comprise about 40% of their field goal attempts. They covert at 35.4%, which is a fairly good proposition given they lack any interior scoring.
The biggest weakness for the team on both ends has been rebounding. The Wolverines are 12th and 13th in the league in offensive rebounds generated and allowed respectively. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the team lacks both size and athleticism across the board. This issue is so pronounced that the last time we faced them 6’6 Aubrey Dawkins took the opening tip of overtime.
We’ve had an interesting year playing Michigan. At times in both matches each team has looked unstoppable. In just so happens that in the first game their big spurt came last and in the second fortunes were reversed.
Let’s break down some plays from our big run against them to close out our home win that I think highlight what productive offense and defense look like for us.
Who are they on offense? What does it look like when we defend well?
When we’re defending well we pressure the ball high and backside help flies around all over the court. Rice, Nunn, and Starks all harass ball handlers and get their hands on the ball on any ill advised forays into the lane. Nnanna stops pick and roll ball handlers up high, recovers to his man in the lane, and rotates over to shut down baseline drives.
The biggest key for us against Michigan will be our pick and roll defense. Much has been said about switching and not switching since our last game against them in Champaign. The fact is that we’re going to switch ball screens most of the time. It’s what we teach and what we do. The master stroke Groce had to stymie the Wolverines at the close of that game was not to stop switching but to stop hedging or blitzing ball handlers. When Egwu switches all the way out above the break ball handlers can back it out and allow teammates to clear the lane and isolate the big on small mismatch. When he drops low, Egwu’s close enough to the opposing big to switch back when that tactic is attempted.
Egwu moves his feet on the pick and roll as well as any big man in the game. He’s particularly effective when he can set his feet around the free throw line and spread those wings.