Stream Of Consciousness - Senior Day Edition
Haven't SOC'd in a while. And it's a Friday night. And I'm headed up to Champaign tomorrow. And I'm pretty excited about it. Which means I couldn't fall asleep right now if I tried. Which means it's time to SOC.
If you're new to ALE, a SOC post has one rule - no editing. I don't even use the backspace key (unless it's an obvious spelling error, but even then I let some of 'em go). I simply write and write and then hit publish. Which is nearly the exact opposite of my normal writing process, which includes a worn-out backspace key and at least 4 deleted paragraphs per post.
Senior Day. The final home game for DJ, Brandon, and Tyler (and Sam). Kind of crazy looking back. Fall of 2006 IDKWTI flips to Indiana. If you're not familiar with "IDKWTI", it refers to a certain shooting guard from Indiana who was verballed to Illinois for 10 months before flipping to Indiana. When asked about EG flipping from Illinois to Indiana, Deron Williams, who was in the NBA by then, responded with the very dead-to-me "Eric Gordon? I Don't Know Who That Is." As such, IDKWTI refers to Gordon.
So IDKWTI flips, and then the 2008 class is a disaster with Iman Shumpert going to Georgia Tech and Dunigan/Humphrey going to Oregon and Scott Suggs picking Washington and Darius Miller going to Kentucky and on and on. We hire Jerrance, we begin to focus on the 2009 class, and all in the same 48 hours in October of 2007 we get verbals from DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul, and Joseph Bertrand. We're on our way back.
But we never really got there. 2009/10 was a nice season, and we were right there until the end, but a late-season loss at home to Minnesota killed our tourney chances (and then, in the moment that will forever define the last six years of the Bruce Weber era, we had to go on the road to Stony Brook in the first round of the NIT because the circus was in town).
2010/11 was much better. A hot start, a cold streak, but enough left in the tank to qualify for the tournament and then take Lon to the woodshed in the first round. We gave Kansas a battle in the second round, but they woke up and made sure we didn't see the second weekend. That's OK - this thing is starting to feel like it might be rebuilt. 2011/12 should be pretty solid.
It wasn't. Bruce Weber said it himself after the Purdue game: "instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose". I felt like last year was so unfair on these players. Their coach got more and more panicked, knowing his job was at stake, so he shortened his bench and used all of his timeouts and spent 85% of the time in practice working on defense - he just wanted to find a way to coax his team to 52-51 wins. And that's no way to coach a basketball team.
At the end of the season, I was pretty sure that the (soon to be) seniors were done. Tyler Griffey's confidence was shattered. DJ - the player who Bruce Weber once wandered onto the court and one-hand shoved in the back to get him to set up on the opposite sideline - had to be so sick of hearing "no" when he rose to shoot (no, seriously - his coach would sometimes yell "no" mid-shot if he didn't like the shot selection - have I mentioned that before?). Brandon couldn't recapture his Ohio State mojo. I just didn't think they could recover after three years of all of that.
So I think when we look back on this season, that's what we'll remember. Brandon in Maui and at Gonzaga. DJ with an eight point burst to tie the Indiana game, and then Tyler with the lay-in. A five-game winning streak just when we all were giving up. And soon, a better-than-we-expected trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Starting with a win tomorrow on Senior Day. I'm taking my son and his friend. OK, "taking" is a used loosely here. It's actually a win-win situation. I'm sitting in press row, and I got two tickets (thanks, Patrick) for him and his friend. He can be all cool without boring old dad sitting there, and I can watch the action and blog from the sideline. He gets to feel like he's all growns up; I get to feel like I'm all growns up. Win-win. And then we eat Bamba on the way home.
I feel like this game will be close enough to make me nervous. There's always these crazy games late in the Big Ten season (hello, Penn State beating Michigan), so I think Nebraska keeps it close. I hope the fat guy has a good game - fat guy touchdowns, fat guy layups, fat guy rebounds - love it all.
Since this is an SOC, I need a prediction here. I'll go with this, which is 9% prediction and 91% wishcasting: Brandon breaks out of his funk on Senior Day. He's aggressive with the ball and gets to the rim with ease. And the fat guy fouls out sending him to the line so much. 23 for Brandon in a game that's a little too close at halftime, but then we win going away.
Illinois 77, Nebraska 65