5 Minutes Of Something

Nov 19, 2019

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Nicholls State was a near-disaster. Grand Canyon was a decent road win. Arizona was 30 minutes of good and 10 minutes of awful. And Hawaii was really, really frustrating for most of the game and then five minutes of what we expect to see.

Hawaii cut the lead to five (52-47) with 7:18 remaining. We were sluggish, we were hesitant, and worst of all, we were in danger of losing to Hawaii in Champaign. Just like we almost lost to Nicholls State in Champaign. That is not how a "finally gonna get back to the dance" team should start the season.

And then, finally, everything clicked. For five minutes, everything looked like we were expecting it to look this season. Ayo and Trent in control. Giorgi being Giorgi. Kofi dominating in the paint. 52-47 turned into 66-49 in a blink. Doing some quick math that would be a... 14-2 run over those five minutes.

It wasn't just that it was a run. It was everything we need to see this season. Let's just go through the plays:

  • Kipper spinning layup in the lane.
  • Steal by Trent, he gets fouled, hits both free throws.
  • (Hawaii gets a layup.)
  • Giorgi fakes a three and feeds Kofi for a lay-in.
  • After forcing a Hawaii turnover, Giorgi rebounds a Kofi miss and lays it in.
  • Giorgi grabs a rebound and is fouled (missed the one-and-one).
  • We feed Kofi again, he's fouled, and he hits one of two free throws.
  • They sag off of Giorgi expecting a dump down to Kofi and Giorgi hits a three.
  • Feliz grabs a defensive rebound, pushes the ball, and feeds Kofi for a short jumper.

Five point lead becomes a 17 point lead, ballgame.

I'm skipping over a lot. Ayo made a nice push just before all of this (drive the lane for a layup, then hit Griffin for a three). Trent had some nice second half moments. But I was fully focused on those five minutes from 7:18 to around 2:15. The team we're expecting to see this season, led by Ayo, Trent, Feliz, Giorgi, and Kofi, showed up.

The bad thing? We've now seen that team in the State Farm Center for five minutes. We've played 80 minutes in the State Farm Center. Wait - 85 minutes. Nicholls State took us to overtime.

Basically, it's this. I expect this team to win 21+. The team we've seen through four games so far will not win 21+. The team we've seen through four games would lose to Michigan, Maryland, Missouri, and possibly Miami in December. 0 for M.

The team we saw during that five minute stretch can beat some of those teams. Maybe all but the road game at Maryland. My expectations are to enter the Michigan State game in early January sitting at 10-3, and if we can get it to click like those five minutes clicked, we can get there.

If we can't... I don't even want to think about what it means if we can't.

+ I think the biggest thing for me so far this season is that Kofi is way better than advertised. He's playing like a five-star recruit at this point. 14.3 ppg and 11.5 rpg.

I tweeted something this summer about Trent, Ayo, and Giorgi leading us back to glory this winter, and a lot of people responded with "don't forget Kofi", and I responded with things like "true freshman, will need to adapt to the college game, he'll average 7 and 5 and that will be great but don't expect freshman superstar". So far, he's been a freshman superstar.

Which makes me think that we should have four knowns at this point:

  1. Ayo Dosunmu, first team All Big Ten performer.
  2. Trent Frazier, sharpshooter and instant offense.
  3. Giorgi Bezhanishvili, post moves for days, energy and effort guy.
  4. Kofi Cockburn, massive man in the middle.

We can take that out further. Feliz should be the fifth because at times he's our best player. But if this is going to be what I'm hoping it can be, those four things heed to happen. Right now, I'd say Kofi is the only one that's fully "happening".

So there's the test for Brad Underwood. The pieces are all there. Put it together.

+ Is Alan Griffin the wing guy we need? He keeps getting better each time I watch him play. Tonight's minutes were surprising: Griffin 15 minutes, Da'Monte Williams 7. (I should probably add "Kipper - 21 minutes" to that.)

Which makes me think that once January gets here, we're basically an eight-man rotation. Ayo, Trent, Feliz, Giorgi, and Kofi start. Griffin, Kipper, and Da'Monte are the regulars off the bench. BBV and Hamlin don't really play. And Tevian Jones is the wildcard, depending on when he returns from suspension.

And THAT makes me think that Griffin is the key to so much this season. Offensive rebounds and threes. Go get it, kid.

+ Hawaii turnovers: 9. Illinois turnovers: 16. RIP defense whose sole purpose is to create turnovers?

+ Rebounds 44-26 Illinois? Hello team whose sole purpose is to out-rebound you by 20?

+ Bottom line, the next three games (Citadel, KenPom 315, Hampton, KenPom 240, and Lindenwood, Division VII opponent) need to be just like those five minutes described above. I'm going to need 100 points in one of those game. I need Ayo with 33 in another one. I need Trent and Giorgi to go off in the third game. I need to feel much better than I do right now.

Because I expect 21+ wins.


danny on November 19, 2019 @ 07:08 AM

To make the Dance, this team needs to go 9-2 in the non-conference and 12-8 in the conference. That’s 21-10 which should be good enough.

PapaDels4me on November 19, 2019 @ 12:05 PM

"The team we've seen through four games so far will not win 21+. "

Have to agree with this. Its nice to win, but I'm definitely expecting more. I'm expecting to see some steals (we've had almost none), a few more basket cuts and Ayo should take over from time to time.

But Kofi, man! Many of us underestimated him. And when he gets some touch, the sky's the limit.

HiggsBoson on November 19, 2019 @ 07:16 PM

One of the issues with the offense seems to me to be integrating Kofi without disrupting everyone else. A lot of the turnovers have come from forcing the ball inside to Kofi whether he's open or not. That five minutes was really the first time that Giorgi seemed like Giorgi while Kofi is also on the floor. I don't think you can count on Kipper for more than his traditional 2-4 good games per season. Griffin seems to be growing into a solid contributor. I don't see much coming from Tevian who seems not to be able to keep his stuff in one sock. Wouldn't surprise me to see him transfer.

IBFan on November 19, 2019 @ 10:01 PM

Tevian could be done at Illinois

Groundhogday on November 19, 2019 @ 11:30 PM

I'll be pleasantly surprised if Tevian doesn't transfer.

Topper on November 19, 2019 @ 08:39 PM

Illini got the victory and you didn't get your toes run over..... we'll call the night a win. :)

Groundhogday on November 19, 2019 @ 11:30 PM

And THAT makes me think that Griffin is the key to so much this season.

I've been beating this drum for a while. We really miss Jordan, the only real loss from last season. Griffin can potentially be an improved version of Jordan. We need more Griffin! We need Griffin for 25-30 mpg even if he comes off the bench. Just need some upgrades on defense, but to be honest even with his limitations on that front Griffin is far ahead of Nichols.

Groundhogday on November 19, 2019 @ 11:37 PM

Ayo, Trent, Feliz, Giorgi, and Kofi start. Griffin, Kipper, and Da'Monte are the regulars off the bench. BBV and Hamlin don't really play. And Tevian Jones is the wildcard, depending on when he returns from suspension.

I'm going to quibble on one point. BBV has to play. It will take a while to get him up to speed, but we'll need minutes from BBV by January as we really don't have any other legit 4s.

Giovantischixstripz on November 20, 2019 @ 01:55 PM

These next 3 games are the time to get BBV up to speed, and BU recently said as much. We need to be able to race out to 20 point halftime leads and be able to give BBV some long run still with some starters. If he can get comfortable against these weak times, then we can ease him in a bit against the teams like Miami and Missouri

IlliNYC on November 20, 2019 @ 08:26 AM

I'm on the start Griffin train too. The starting five isn't clicking and adding a + shooter would improve spacing and flow. Bring Feliz off the bench as a 6th man that plays starters minutes, stagger Kofi and Georgi more, & get BBV more time at the 4.

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