There's some good discussion going on in the comments of the previous post. I responded a few times there, and as I started to do so again, I figured I'd just make it into another post. So maybe this will be more of a Q&A post than anything. I love Q&A posts.
We'll start with this comment:
I think you're really devaluing the role of player development and having a system in college basketball. You sort of alluded to it in your "basketball whisperer" post about Underwood when he was hired.
As much as we love numbers and odds, we have to confront that there's more outliers than just Michigan and Wisconsin. I think the better comparisons for the type of program we're trying to become are Virginia under Bennett, West Virginia as Press Virginia, Syracuse's 2-3 Zone, or Nolan Richardson's 40 Minutes of Hell. That's really what we're attempting to be, in our own way.
When you have a defined system, I think it requires a more sophisticated look at recruiting. You see it other sports too with how they draft and develop talent; look at the St. Louis Cardinals and how they always have young talent (from a Cubs fan) or Belichek's Patriots always finding productive role players that are Day 3 picks or undrafted. It can be done.
Underwood wants to have a system where we force turnovers defensively and get more shots up than the opponent, which becomes especially potent when you have a highly efficient offense.
All good points. I do think Underwood has a very specific system (compared to, say, Groce, who had a very typical college basketball system). You mentioned Richardson's "40 minutes of hell", and we just recently watched Mike Anderson implement that at Missouri and now Arkansas.
Living in Missouri, I got to watch Missouri implement that system under Anderson. When Anderson took over, he was inheriting the mess left behind by Quin Snyder (the Ricky Clemons fiasco, an NCAA investigation). Quin had recruited some talent, but it wasn't the right kind of talent. The first two seasons (18-12, 16-16) were about rebuilding the whole roster with players who could run his system. In fact, the biggest overhaul was his third season when he added four freshmen, a juco, and two transfers (none ranked in the top-100). Combined with transfer (who I want to say was his nephew?) Damare Carroll, he suddenly found the right mix and went to the Elite Eight. He made the NCAA Tournament the next two years as well before taking the Arkansas job.
So that's probably a good comp. When Missouri recruited Laurence Bowers out of Tennessee (who chose Missouri over Pepperdine, Marquette, and UTEP), their fanbase didn't expect an integral part of their future teams. Remember Justin Safford from Bloomington? Went to prep school, wasn't ranked by anyone (the backfilled composite rankings show him as the #310 player in the 2007 class), but he was the kind of 6'-9" athlete that Anderson was looking for in that defense. Ended up being an 8 & 4 guy off the bench for them.
So there are many examples of scheme-specific coaches going out and finding "who?" recruits and having success. Almost all of those teams had stars (which we hopefully have in Ayo and Trent), so hopefully our system guys work out like their system guys.
I'd still feel a whole lot better if we had Colin Castleton and Landers Nolley, though.
I'm not sure what the point is here. Yes, this isn't Dee, Deron and James Augustine, though I recall Deron wasn't even the highest rated recruit on his high school team. It's a class of individuals that fit the system and seem to have that Lucas Johnson quality about them. In terms of quality we're really punching above the weight class of a 14-18 team. Underwood's second year will be better than his first and the team will improve in years to come with these recruits.
I'm not sure about that? With Leron Black, yes, I'd expect next season to be an improvement. Without him, and with Finke transferring, meaning our starting frontcourt is... Kipper Nichols and Greg Eboigbodin (?), I'm just not sure we'll get to 14-18 again. We played 32 games, and with five starters each game we had 160 "starts". We lost 125 of those 160 starts (78%). So we're basically starting over a second time. Like Lovie, Underwood's second team will be significantly less experienced that his first.
Now, maybe some things break our way. Maybe we go to overtime three times again but we win all three instead of losing all three, and with a similar team, that means we go 17-15 instead of 14-18. But I'm pretty sure we'll be picked to finish in the bottom three of the Big Ten next winter.
My point: this class might work out long term, and these project recruits might be great for our system, but this isn't the instant turnaround class we were hoping for when we landed Ayo. It's more of a long-term project class. And, when you combine that with only two John Groce players remaining (Aaron Jordan and Kipper Nichols), this points to a longer rebuild than we were originally imagining.
I think everyone needs to really internalize that all your percentages are completely made up with no real basis to them at all. You make it seem like you actually tracked all the players ranked where these guys were and what percent of them played on a B1G contender. And you didn't. You claim to see everything through odds - but the ones you base your entire opinion of the recruiting class on are totally made up.
Your ability to judge the impact of basketball players on a college team is suspect in general, and you've demonstrated this on this very blog. You were very public about the importance of DJ Williams (who couldn't get a better offer than George Washington) and two years ago you suggested Tim Finke would be as good as Sam Dekker (going so far as to create a hashtag describing him as #OurDekker)
Look - I'm not sure if these guys will contribute to a title contender or not. If you want some real odds in this thread - as Underwood says - 40% of a teams roster turns over every 2 years. So likely several of these kids will finish their college career somewhere besides Illinois. Historically kids who transfer out of a power 5 school do not go to a better program than the one they're on.
They are all at Illinois now and if they are going to play for a B1G title contender - it's going to be here. So really - Ayo's odds of contributing to a conf title team are pretty much the same as Griffin's or Kane's because of the sunk cost of their commitment decision.
I agree with some of the other posters here - you seem depressed, or at least pretty focused in seeing the worst here.
You never know what you'll get with kids before they play (as Mark Smith painfully reminded us), but the range of rankings of this class of kids isn't that far away from those of the teams who've contended for B1G titles the last 5 years with few exceptions like MSU this year who started a group of top 50 kids
Almost every team that contends has a highly ranked kid or 2, a few more top 75 - 100ish guys, some lesser ranked role players and a few diamonds in the rough that over perform their ranking. We're not that far off of the general make up of a B1G title contender. The X factors are coaching and experience - and we just have to wait to see how that turns out.
Lots to unpack here.
As for Tim Finke, I think I've owned that here. But if not, I'll go through it again. Two years ago, when he was ranked as a high four-star (#33 on one list), I dreamed of #ourDekker. That silky wing we can't ever seem to find, right across town, son and brother of Illini. Too good to be true.
And I guess it was. July 1 of last year, Finke released a top-5 of Ohio State, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Illinois (and was still rated #83 in the composite rankings). Then, something changed through the July recruiting cycle, and next thing we know, he's committing to Grand Canyon (and it didn't appear any of those five teams were recruiting him). My dreams of #OurDekker were dead.
Was that a mis-read on my part when watching him on film? I think I wrote "Finke >>>> THT" here after watching spring film on both last May, and that will likely appear laughable after four years of college basketball for both. So yes, I won't duck it - my take on Finke (and DJ Williams) should absolutely drag down your opinion of my basketball evaluations.
But that's not really what I'm pointing to here. No, I haven't specifically charted every player. I'm certainly "making up" my odds. But that's the best way I can (generally) quantify things here. Had I done that last fall (charted every team based on "this player has an 8-in-10 chance and this player has a 3-in-10 chance") then I can almost guarantee the top three in the conference would have been Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue. And, honestly, since Nebraska got a transfer who was a 5-star in high school and another transfer who was a 4-star in high school, they might have been up there as well. Michigan wouldn't have, though, and they went all the way to the title game.
The reason I make those odds is to refute the "recruiting rankings mean nothing - Brandon Lloyd was a two-star" argument. Yes, Brandon Lloyd hit on long odds. That doesn't change the fact that the next 15 two-star recruits probably won't make the rotation. We might have spotted four unknown studs here, Bezhanishvili and Kane might be our best finds in several decades, and everyone will come to this thread to rub my face in it (I really hope this happens). But it wouldn't stop me from writing this again in three years if the class sets up the same. Odds are odds. And historically, when players rank this low with this few offers, I'd say the players have about a 1.5 in 10 chance of being a program-changer.
Conversely, we got nothing out of the 2010 class, and that class had two top-30 players plus Crandall Head who was a composite top-100 guy. We failed to hit on two 8-in-10 guys and a 6-in-10 guy. But if we land that class next year (say, Whitney, Liddell, and Okoro), you can bet I write the "this class is almost guaranteed to bring us back to the top" post.
Because, historically, statistically, in my view, it would.