Dec 01, 2017

When you've been so busy with life and work that you were barely able to watch the Wake Forest game Tuesday night but now it's 11:53 pm on Thursday and you finally have some free time and you feel like cranking out a post, just start writing.

Two Year Season

I've written about this since, oh, 2014 or so but it's crazy how football and basketball parallel each other each year. This year is no different - on both sides of Kirby, we see our youngest team in a long time. 8 scholarship seniors for football and only 76 scholarship players, 1 senior for basketball and only 11 scholarship players, which means both teams pretty much have everyone returning the following year.

It's funny - volleyball is the same way. I was reading up on the volleyball team the other night and saw that they only have one senior on the entire team. So yeah, same thing there. Try to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament... and then bring pretty much everyone back for an even better year next season.

Basketball has one senior as well (Mark Alstork), so here we go again. Another two year season. We go through the entire 2017/18 basketball season, we replace Alstork with Ayo, and we do it all again next year, hopefully taking a step forward. When we finish with this season we're only halfway through.

I told a friend the other day that if all goes to plan, each of the next three football seasons will be a step forward. We'll get better in 2018, even better in 2019, and then even better in 2020. Basketball will certainly be better next year, but the following season is up in the air with Finke and Black graduating. Kipper can maybe start at the four that year, but I'm not sure Eboigbodin or Vesel is future starting material. Which means we need to find a spring big (or a 2019 instant impact big man) as soon as possible.

Anyway, that's a different topic. For now. we can watch this team this year... and then we can watch this exact same team again next year.


When I wrote the "Roster Turnover" post on Tuesday, it really wasn't a post about the transfers from the football team. I was just talking about how Lovie was immediately turning to his recruits, making the "roster turnover" that much faster. But as I was writing that post, the transfers started, and now "roster turnover" takes on a different meaning. Not only are we playing the freshmen, the upperclassmen continue to leave.

Do the departures of Megginson, Watson, Odenigbo, and Nelson "mean" anything? I think they just reinforce that there's a divide between the Beckman players on the roster and the Lovie players. The 2016 class, even though they were recruited by Cubit, have only ever played for Lovie and seem to have bought in to the Lovie system. The 2015 and 2014 recruiting classes - Odenigbo and Watson were in the 2014 class, Megginson and Nelson were in the 2015 class - seem to see this as "he's playing his guys - I'll go look for playing time elsewhere".

The 2015 class has now lost five of its ten highest ranked recruits - Gabe Megginson, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Jimmy Fitzgerald, Patrick Nelson, and Desmond Cain. All were Beckman recruits who departed not under Bill Cubit, but after Lovie took over. That - and the depth chart this season - reinforces a divide between the classes, I think. Lovie is coming in and more or less starting over from scratch.

I doubt we've seen the last of the departures.

I Don't Mind

I found myself less frustrated with the Wake Forest loss than any loss in a long time. I mean, I should be frustrated - Wake had just lost to Georgia Southern, Liberty, Drake, and Houston. This was one of the easiest B1G/ACC Challenge opponents we've ever had and we lost.

But it's the way we lost that has me feeling not that bad. We won nearly every statistical category, out-rebounded them by 14, put up 15 more shots - did every "little thing" we needed to do to win. It's just that the refs called twice the fouls on Illinois, Wake shot 31 free throws to our 14, and that was the difference. The six point possession for Wake? The "inadvertent whistle"? The 50/50 rebound balls that all seemed to be a foul on Illinois? It just feels like that was the difference in the game (well, statistically, it was).

I'm not one to generally blame the officials. But with two huge head-scratching calls (the goal-tending and the phantom elbow) and stats like I listed above (calls going for the home team 2:1), it's one of those games where you walk away feeling like there wasn't any way to win.

If this was next year, I'd be really upset. Next year should be a really solid team (this young team gets a full year to learn the system - see above), and a loss to 2-4 Wake Forest would keep me up that night. This year? I don't mind.

I mean, it did suck. I jumped off my couch at one of the big Aaron Jordan threes and then stood right at my TV the rest of the game. DaMonte's putback (and three) have me so incredibly excited about the future (put me down for Team DaMonte), but I wasn't all that devastated. Even the coach answered a question about the officiating with "I don't want to get suspended for our Big Ten games coming up". Everyone seemed to know that it was a complete homering.

So that leaves me... OK with it. This probably isn't a Tournament team (I determined that after attending the EIU scrimmage), so this season is a bunch of experiments which get us ready for next season. I'll enjoy watching those experiments.

And next year. hopefully, I'll enjoy ALL of the seasons.


Bear8287 on December 01 @ 01:55 AM CST

This probably isn't a Tournament team (I determined that after attending the EIU scrimmage)

I'll still say that this team is more likely to make the tournament than not. Biggest hurdle to overcome may be the overall slide in quality in the B1G this season, but if the Illini can manage one upset win over MSU this year, that could really help.

Illini open the B1G season today playing their only scheduled game of the season against Northwestern and it doesn't even get a mention here... you probably should've just gotten some sleep Robert. If anything, I'd prefer fewer quality articles than just putting out dreck to make it look like there's something here.

blackdeath on December 01 @ 07:14 AM CST

Totally disagree with your second paragraph, Bear. This remains the best place on the internet for a hungry Illinois fan to get football and basketball perspective from a knowledgeable fellow fan or two or three. It doesn't need to be hard-hitting, comprehensive analysis and coverage all the time. At least most of us seem not to think so. Dreck? Come on.

Thanks for the comments, Robert.

chiefilliniwek09 on December 01 @ 09:41 AM CST

If anything, I'd prefer fewer quality articles than just putting out dreck to make it look like there's something here.

I also completely disagree. This is a Slapdash. IMHO, none of what Robert writes is "trash." Keep it up Robert. Still the best Illini blog out there.

Bear8287 on December 02 @ 01:31 AM CST

This is a Slapdash.

slap·dash ?slap?daSH/ adjective 1. done too hurriedly and carelessly. "he gave a slapdash performance" synonyms: careless, slipshod, hurried, haphazard, unsystematic, untidy, messy, hit-or-miss, negligent, neglectful, lax

Yeah, I agree.

none of what Robert writes is "trash."

You must've missed his "Unevaluateable" piece.

bkenny on December 01 @ 01:17 PM CST

This post is dreck.

AHSIllini32 on December 02 @ 09:23 AM CST

I’ve never seen someone so willing to pay for content they consistently trash. You seem like a really pleasant person to be around....

To the article, love these posts and completely agree about the wake game. It sucked to lose but I saw people on twitter losing their damn minds. Made no sense.

Bear8287 on December 02 @ 05:09 PM CST

I’ve never seen someone so willing to pay for content they consistently trash.

Not so much the content as the lack thereof. This site needs to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. It's no longer the first couple of years.

These early games are important to Illinois' chances of making the tournament and before everyone writes them off because of a loss to EIU in an exhibition game (dreck), it's worth remembering that that BU's Oklahoma State team started Big 12 play 0-6 and didn't win their first conference game until January 21st when they beat Texas Tech. That same team was also playing in The Tournament last March.

There's not really much willingness on my part to pay for lack of content. The Illini football coverage on this site is superb and goes above and beyond. If it weren't for Tyler's articles so far this season the basketball coverage would be nearly non-existent.

ktcesw on December 01 @ 05:44 AM CST

Great article Robert! Love that you pointed out how bad the refs were at Wake Forest. Sometimes there is no real way to adjust to them. I'm glad to see Lovie playing his better for his "system" ball players. He wants speed, hitting, and carrying out of assignments on his D and that is who he is playing. Everyone does not look good in a particular system, whether it is football or basketball. Great to see the mention of the volleyball team.

illiniranger on December 01 @ 07:14 AM CST

Pat Nelson started most games he was healthy for Lovie Smith. He spent 99% more time playing for Lovie than Cubit or Beckman (he played for Beckman for like 2 weeks before blowing out his knee).

Nelson’s txfer cannot have been over playing time or coaching adjustments that didn’t suit his style of play. He was a perfect fit for what they do and started every game he was healthy since early last year.

Sweetchuck13 on December 01 @ 08:32 AM CST

Yeah Nelson is a real head-scratcher for me. Even if he thinks Green had passed him up on the depth chart, knowing Lovie that's not necessarily a permanent move, and he still would get lots of PT anyway.

I would've loved to see Williams and Nelson as the starting safeties next year.

neale stoner on December 01 @ 01:01 PM CST

Probably overly optimistic but I’m hoping Nelson is testing the waters and can be re-recruited. Wonder if staff issues are behind some of this and when change will come there.

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