Nothing Left

Dec 23, 2018

Um, this Braggin' Rights streak was kind of all we had left. Football has gone 9-27 the last three seasons. Basketball might only win nine games this season. Everything is awful, but at least we have this five game winning streak over Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game.

We no longer have a five game winning streak over Missouri in the Braggin' Rights game. It will be impossible for me to explain to you what that means for an Illini fan living in St. Louis, but it is not a good thing. It is the worst of things. The only way I can describe it is if you're a Bears fan, living in Green Bay, and the Packers beat the Bears, and you won't play again for another year, and everyone you work with and socialize with is a Packers fan who will let you hear about it constantly for the next 365 days. If you've never met a Missouri fan, they're like Packers fans, only worse. And yes, I realize that Packers fans are awful.

So that should be fun.

This was the first Braggin' Rights loss I've attended since 1998, so that's good I guess. One note: I didn't attend any Braggin' Rights games (nor did I watch them on TV) from 1999 through 2014 (the game meant too much, I had to quit). I guess I did have a nice little streak going, attending the last four wins. But that's over now. And it's the Braggin' Rights game, so Missouri is a lock to win next year. When you win one in this series, you win four for some reason. Missouri will now win four in a row, and then Illinois will win nine straight. It's just how this series has gone since 1982.

And, honestly, it kind of does feel like Missouri will win four straight here, right? What about that game suggests we would win next year? Mizzou's juco energy guy (now a senior) Jordan Geist will graduate I guess? Tilmon will still dominate in the paint, and I think that will be the story of the next two games as well.

Which is just so hard to stomach. I mean, look at the last five years for each program:

2014/15: 9-23 (Anderson)
2015/16: 10-21 (Anderson)
2016/17: 8-23 (Anderson)
2017/18: 20-12, NCAA Tournament (Martin)
2018/19: 8-3 (Martin)

2014/15: 19-14 (Groce)
2015/16: 15-19 (Groce)
2016/17: 20-15 (Groce)
2017/18: 14-18 (Underwood)
2018/19: 4-8 (Underwood)

I mean, throw everything out and that's just an alarming trend, right? Cuonzo's 2018 was seen as "he added the top high school player in the country" (Michael Porter Jr.), but that high school player only played in four games - Cuonzo got to the tournament without him. Think about that. He takes an 8-23 team, adds Porter's younger brother Jontay, steals Tilmon from us, and goes from 8 wins to 20 wins.

On the orange side of the river? A 20-win team in 2017 (counting two NIT wins, mind you) turns into a 14-win team turns into a... 9-win team this year? I get the roster turnover thing (and understand the "why" behind it). I didn't even expect a winning season this year. But just look at those two trends above. That's alarming.

Then add to that the optics. Oh, you know, things like...

  • The coach playing his walkon son in front of scholarship players, and then one of those scholarship players' parents calling out the coach on Twitter.
  • The coach parting ways with Javon Pickett when he was hired. It happens a lot - point guard Jalen James had signed his Illinois LOI, just like Pickett had, and when John Groce was hired, James and Groce went their separate ways - but we went into last season with two open scholarships, which meant that Brad Underwood preferred an open scholarship to Javon Pickett. And then Javon Pickett put up 16 points last night.
  • In what most everyone described as "the most important recruiting class for Illinois basketball in years", the November signing period came and went without a single Illinois Letter Of Intent. The one verbal commit (Antwan January), for whatever reason, chose not to sign and will not be able to sign until April.
  • Even the rankings are appalling. Iowa is ranked. Nebraska is ranked. Not only do we have to deal with a likely single-digit-wins season, it is happening while others surge well beyond us. Which likely points to recruiting getting worse. Which just continues the downward spiral.

I've stopped searching for rock bottom. I mean, this feels lower than anything I can remember - the very last thing I had to hang on to (this Braggin' Rights streak) is gone, so there's nothing left - but I've learned that it can still get worse. Like, I'm now expecting a 9-24 (4-16) season and saying "but it might still be worse than that".

Dark times, man.

+ At this point, I'm not sure why there isn't a 2016 football flip happening. About halfway through that football season, after beginning the season with 14 seniors in the starting lineup, Lovie made the flip to playing all of the freshmen as many minutes as he could. At defensive tackle, for example, Tymir Oliver and Kenyon Jackson started getting more snaps than seniors Chunky Clements and Robbie Bain. The idea was that the season was already over, so the best thing for the program would be to get experience for the freshmen. Giving Stanley Green the starting spot at free safety would do more for the rebuild than continuing to start Taylor Barton.

So I'm not sure I understand Adonis De La Rosa over Samba Kane last night. I get the "seniors stabilize things" part of it, but the season is over. Shouldn't the focus right now be 100% next year and beyond? Shouldn't the goal for this January be "as many minutes possible for Griffin, Kane, and Jones"? I just don't understand anything right now.

+ I feel for Trent, man. The game starts out, and it's chippy (the early techs for Ayo and Jordan Geist were needed - it was going to get out of hand fast), and Trent is right there, draining threes and screaming and keeping his team in the game (both on the physical scoreboard and the mental scoreboard). And he gets zero help. There's carrying your team, and then there's whatever Trent did last night.

It felt like there are only three offensive levers right now.

  1. Trent, please just go score however you can. No need to pass.
  2. Giorgi, as long as the refs don't call your elbow hook, go use those nifty post moves to score in the paint.
  3. AJ, if you're open, hit some threes.

That's it, right? Kipper has been better but not good enough. Feliz can score in the lane but gets his shot blocked a lot. Ayo is in a freshman funk. De La Rosa probably isn't going to provide any offense. Griffin and Jones aren't playing. Tyler Underwood hasn't provided anything. Da'Monte just can't get shots to fall.

So yeah, Trent, please score at least 30 per game. We have nothing else right now.

+ It's so strange to be out of the Tournament by Braggin' Rights. Season is over. There's zero hope for some dramatic Big Ten run. This is the earliest I've ever realized that a season is 100%, completely over. OVER over. I can usually cling to something through January and February but this year?

Nothing left.


IlliniOllie on December 23 @ 01:31 PM CST

I was hopeful that Underwood could’ve been “our Beilein” when he was hired. I’m now getting worried that he could be “our Lickliter”, complete with the walk-on son playing ahead of the scholarship guys. And it took three years for Lickliter to get to 10-22, while Underwood will probably get there, or worse, in Year 2.

(h/t to Chuck Woodaby for the article link)

Lickliter left Iowa’s basketball program in shambles

illini82 on December 23 @ 04:00 PM CST

Underwood is dead man walking. It’s over for him. Where do you even start? It’s all bad and ZERO signed letters of intent.

I’m thinking let’s get whatever evidence mark smith/mizzou was able to use to be able to play this year and use it and whatever else may be lurking to fire Blunderwood for cause to avoid paying his buyout. It’s that bad. I’m done with him and every Illini fan I know feels the same way.

thumpasaurus on December 23 @ 04:34 PM CST

Your relative silence on Underwood himself speak volumes. I think a lot of people are right there with you, not daring to address the elephant that may be entering the room (there might be an elephant entering the room but I don’t want to look in the direction that elephant will enter from because I don’t want to know)

grantskoch on December 23 @ 11:02 PM CST

Well said. I want to believe in this rebuild so much, but most of the decision making since taking over in March 2017 has been subpar at best.

IBFan on December 23 @ 05:36 PM CST

Last night the focus was on winning. The season focus has been on winning. Can the team make the NIT? I don't think so but I'm not going to tell a coach to mail it in for the rest of the season so younger guys can get more tick. You going to tell AJ to go sit so Alan Griffin can show up late to shoot around and then start? Take Kippers minutes so two time doper, bar hopping while Snoop Dogging it in front of everyone TJ can play as much as his lungs and stamina will allow? You guys are pathetic. Wtf do you know about what's going on in practice, in the locker room? Who practiced this week and who used exams as an excuse to dodge everything possible. If a few guys make free throws, Giorgi makes a couple outside shots, just a few more breaks it's a win and "great effort, way to fight". Instead you all piss and moan like a bunch of spoiled beeches. Like Underwoods son had anything to do with the loss. At least he knows the freaking defensive rotations.
As far as AGs mom making a tweet? Maybe her son should work his way on the floor instead of her "threatening" "enough is enough". Ok Mark Smith2, watch that door on your butt. Robert and others giving her credence, overreacting, tearing down the coach/program, and acting like this is the end because we lost a neutral site game to a more experienced and talented team during a rebuild is mindnumbing.
I fought this all thru football season with bloggers and what not. They started the season about what a horrible job OL coach was doing, DL coach idiot, etc etc. Lovie should be gone, can't recruit, blah blah blah. Same thing, things don't go your way or happen as fast as you want, OFF WITH THEIR HEAD! Since you don't know why Antwan didn't sign maybe you should try to find out why instead of using a possible negative to feed your pessimistic diatribe. It's as moronic as people continually yelling for Tevian.

mrmill on December 23 @ 06:23 PM CST

There are so many stupid things about this post, I don’t even know where to begin. The amazing thing about this country is that if you are of age, you actually get to vote.

IBFan on December 24 @ 11:15 AM CST

Please expand on any point you wish.

Are you really equating a response to a blog post with the quality of this country and the rights of its people?

Are you saying people you deem less intelligent than yourself or that has a point of view that differs from yours, shouldn't be able to vote?

Not sure if you are an elitist, right wing nut, liberal anarchist, just can't peg your position based on your vast knowledge of sports and government.

IlliniOllie on December 23 @ 09:42 PM CST

“two time doper, bar hopping while Snoop Dogging it in front of everyone TJ can play as much as his lungs and stamina will allow?”

Is this a parody account? Or Brad Underwood’s wife? I hope it is.

IBFan on December 24 @ 11:29 AM CST

Actually apologize for that wording. Yes Tevian got suspended for his 2nd failed drug test resulting in the schools automatic 1/4 season benching. Underwood never stated the length and left it open ended in press briefings. Why? Probably because Brad is a bad guy. Yes Tevian has been spotted at bars in Champaign reeking of some sort of smoke on more than one occasion. Tevian has been busting his ass at practice and going in early. Came off an argument with one of the schools major donors that always seems to blame coaches instead of holding student-athletes accountable as well. Should have worded better. When Alan Griffin sits til end of game even though he's a better option than Damonte, Tyler, and everyone else that's not named Trent,Ayo, or Aaron there's a reason. The coach chooses to sidestep it and came up with the reasoning needed for press. Until Alan changes he will continue to be behind Dw, etc.

orangeandblue on December 23 @ 08:33 PM CST

I’m just not sure what anyone expected. This was a “lost” season before it started. Our recruiting class that came in this year was ok for where we are. The only thing that kept it from being great was an impact big and it looks like Georgi will be good enough to play in the B1G in a year or two. Other than Ayo, we didn’t recruit a freshman that should have been expected to start and make a big impact. These are guys you hope have a sophomore breakout and then are great B1G players their jr/sr years. Most of our Centers don’t play much the first couple years and Georgi is starting because the cupboard is so bare. Kane would be a redshirt for sure and is getting minutes. We’re just a bad program at this point in history. And when we are so clearly reminded of that, we need a blog to hop and scream and say ridiculous things because man losing sucks.

ATOillini on December 23 @ 08:50 PM CST

Tough loss. Absolutely 100% agree with the portion of the article regarding "three offensive levers". Extremely limited. Not sure how it can change rest of the year. Last night it was painful watching multiple players struggle. Really struggle (that kind of thing where you find yourself yelling "oh please no" at the tv).

I do wish to ask one question however. If you've been in that vocal "FIRE LOVIE!" camp, is it ok to cheer about the Jeff Thomas transfer? Or are you just supposed to keep your mouth shut?

1970 John on December 23 @ 08:58 PM CST

Two weeks ago, the Illini Nation was screaming for Lovie's head on a platter, regardless of the cost. Now, he's a genius.

Last year, Trent Frazier was a nonentity. Until he suddenly wasn't. Will any of these guys bust out like Trent did? Dunno. But who would have predicted it for Trent before Braggin' Rights next year? Not the orange hemlock drinkers we're hearing from today, I'll betcha.

What if Samba goes all Trent on us? Georgi lives up to his initial impressions? Yeah, it's easy to come up with more "what ifs." But look, what good does it do to slash your wrists? You're just going to make a mess. Ride with it. Let's see what happens. Don't go all morose. Don't let Mizzou get in your head.

illiniranger on December 24 @ 08:23 AM CST

If anyone thinks Lovie is a genius they arent paying attention. He’s done the bare minimum to keep his job.

cuinsocal on December 24 @ 03:51 PM CST

I just keep thinking we'd be in a better place with Coleman-Lands, DJ Williams and Finke playing this year. I don't see where running them off has helped anything at all.

track on December 24 @ 10:41 PM CST

JC-L, FG% .333, 3-pt % .250, avg 9.6 ppg

M Finke FG% .492, 3-pt% .333, ppg 9.0, rebounds/gm 4.8, 9 asts, 8 TO, 0 blocks

DJ Williams FG% .436, 3-pt% .304, rebounds/gm 5.5, ppg 13.7, 10 assists, 23 turnovers, 6 blocks

I don;t see where we would be significantly better. DJ Williams might have contributed, maybe better than what De La Rosa has contributed so far, but the season still has a few more months to go, hopefully ADLR gets healthy.

neale stoner on December 24 @ 10:37 PM CST

This is the darkest things have been since I picked up my dry cleaning

orangejulius on December 24 @ 11:30 PM CST

Aside from the Braggin' rights debacle, Underwood's doing a really outstanding job. In fact, it's time for a goddamn extension. He's turned off half the Chicago Public League, players don't like him, players' families don't like him, our 5-star recruit is doing poorly in his system, he hasn't recruited a single top-100 player other than said 5-star recruit who he sold out to the Irvins to get, he's playing his son who couldn't start for IWU, and we're on pace for possibly the worst season in Illinois history, after having one of the worst seasons in Illinois history. Since he's doing so well, we'll just forget that we just got blown out our most important game of the season, with John Groce's Illinois recruits, by Cuonzo Martin, who, like Groce, "can't coach."

Eagle on December 25 @ 11:03 AM CST

Well, we've got that football recruiting thing going for us now.

Illinimac68 on December 26 @ 07:55 AM CST

This situation is starting to seem a little Bruce Webberish by which I mean are the schemes are way too complicated for most college players and can the coach find players who will understand and execute the system and also have individual basketball talent? Even most of the offense generated by our number one scorer seems to come after we've piddled around with half-court offense that doesn't work so he executes some sort of one-on-one move.

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