Dec 21, 2019

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I forgot my freaking ear buds. So now I have to sit here typing this while listening to Missouri fans celebrate in the background. And that's just a precursor to the next 365 days where I'll have to deal with coworkers and the guy at the bank and everyone else noticing my Illini gear and commenting on this game.

See, nobody really understands how this works. The litmus test to determine whether you live here or not is this: people who don't live here and experience this always say things like "we own Missouri in St. Louis". Like the overall record means anything. It really doesn't. It's a weapon that we possess, but this series was named "Braggin' Rights" and that's exactly how it works. For 365 days, Missouri fans - MISSOURI FANS - will have braggin' rights. The gold and black fans who didn't show up today because they just lost to Charleston Southern at home which left the Missouri end more empty than the Illinois end - those fans get to brag about how they're better than us. Because they are. Missouri is better than us at basketball. Missouri. Under Cuonzo. With our castoffs. Better.

And now I have to sit here and listen to their happy conversations. Right now I'm listening to three Missouri bloggers at the other side of the TV table talking about parts of the game all giddy and happy. SEE HERE'S THE THING I DON'T EVEN THINK THE BALL WAS TIPPED and whatever else they're talking about. Because I forgot my noise cancellation apparatus, I have to listen to them while trying to type. Now they're talking about what they're going to lead with in their stories. Kill me now.

It's just so insane, right? Just step back from it all and think about the facts. If some random college coach is here and he has to pick a lineup from these two teams, and, I don't know, it's some kind of auction where both point guards walk out to center court and then that coach picks one of the two players, he picks four of five Illini players, right?

Ayo and Pinson walk out - he takes Ayo.

Trent and Mark Smith - we've seen first hand which one is better.

Da'Monte and Dru Smith - yes, he's taking the Evansville transfer.

Giorgi and Mitchell Smith - absolutely Giorgi.

Kofi and Tillmon - I think the choice is Kofi.

So how do we lose a game - for the most part, get completely destroyed - by a less-talented team? "Coaching" is the only answer at this point, right? This wasn't bad luck or bad officiating or anything else - Cuonzo Martin out-coached Brad Underwood. This one seems 100% cut and dried.

I tweeted at one point about how physical Missouri was on defense. It was somewhat similar to our defense the last few years where we were top-10 in the NCAA in fouls (different scheme, but that type of "dare the officials to call 25 fouls this half" thing). The officials were calling said fouls, and Missouri had 16 fouls in the second half alone at that point to six called on Illinois, and it didn't matter. They were hounding and hounding and hounding and we fell apart. When I tweeted that, I believe we were 4-19 from the field in the second half. So what if we went to the line here and there? They completely put us in a sleeper hold and we eventually went limp.

I just don't understand how that can happen. How Cuonzo, guy who infuriates every Missouri fan I know with his gameplanning, can completely destroy us like that.

OH GOD. Now some Missouri bros with floor seats are taking "flex" photos at mid-court. 18 year-old kid, 134 lbs dripping wet, in full flex, hoodie over his head, flexing those 7 inch biceps AND HE GETS TO GO HOME TO HIS MOM'S APARTMENT IN CREVE COEUR AND BE HAPPY WHILE I WON'T SLEEP TONIGHT. I absolutely, positively hate everything.

I'm taking photos of all of this but I don't really want to be that guy who posts pictures of random strangers just enjoying their team's win so I don't think I'll publish them. But I swear there's someone with a remote control somewhere in this arena and these bloggers and those kids and the giddy Missouri fans over there are all being controlled just to make me miserable. As someone tweeted me during the game, THIS IS THE BAD PLACE.

+ I think a lot of this is very simple right now. There were four big games in December, all against "M" teams. Miami, Maryland, Michigan, and Missouri. We had to go 2-2, really should have gone 3-1, and could be the team we all thought we could be if we went 4-0. Instead, we went 1-3.

Why did we go 1-3? We can't place the basketball in the round cylinder. Let's just look at our three point shooting:

Miami: 6-17
Maryland: 3-14
Michigan: 1-11
Missouri: 2-14

Four important games, 12-56 from three. 21.4%

Game set match. That's it. Why even keep typing. We can't shoot, so the season is probably lost. We're going to go a seventh consecutive season without an NCAA Tournament bid.

+ Maybe we should talk about that. Losing both Miami and Missouri are absolute tournament deathblows. I think both teams will finish under .500, so they're going to be such bad losses come Tournament time. That means that 11-9 is probably on the wrong side of the bubble. So we have to go 12-8 to get in.

Those pre-BTT records:

10-10 means 19-14 going into the BTT - that's out unless there's a run to the semifinals. Lindenwood doesn't actually count in the committee's eyes so it's really 18-14.
11-9 means 20-13, and then you have to hope that Miami and Missouri go on a run. Win a BTT game or two and maybe you get in.
12-8 is probably the "in before the BTT" record. You'd be 21-12 and even with a first round loss 21-13 still gets in as long as some of the wins are on the road against NCAA Tournament teams.

Here I am again, post-Missouri, talking about what it takes to get in and thinking that it's probably unlikely.

I can't do this anymore. I'm going to stop writing and go home.

This is so, so, so, so, SO depressing.


Joe Edge on December 21, 2019 @ 03:57 PM

Robert: You don't actually think THIS team has a chance to go to the tournament ? Do you ?.... I wish they would, and I hope they do... But seriously.... I can't imagine they can possibly make it.

Groundhogday on December 22, 2019 @ 11:31 AM

I thought this was a tournament team. But I thought Griffin would have a bigger impact, Jones would be contributing and we would have better play from the wings overall.

Joe Edge on December 22, 2019 @ 01:35 PM

I thought so early on also... I even traveled 3 days just to get to Phoenix and Tucson to see the team.... And although I enjoyed the trip overall, what I saw raised deep concerns in my mind.

HiggsBoson on December 23, 2019 @ 08:47 PM

This team has already played their way out of the Dance unless they win the BBT. Which is highly unlikely.

Giovantischixstripz on December 21, 2019 @ 04:07 PM

You can't point out our awful 3 point shooting and then also put the blame completely on coaching. At some point offensively, we need someone to be able to make a shot. Many of those 3s were open. Damonte missed 2 easy lay ups. Brad Underwood needs to be held responsible if this team continues to underperform over the course of the season, but players need to make plays. Against Maryland Cowan made a ridiculous 3 and Andres turned the ball over. That is as much the difference as Underwood's game mismanagement.

Missouri aggressively focused on taking Kofi out of the game by triple teaming immediately in the post, someone else needs to step up. Ayo had a good game, but between Trent, Andres, Alan, Damonte, and Giorgi someone needs to play well and none of them did.

What has happened to Trent Frazier this year is mind boggling to me. He needs to hunt his shot. Some of that goes on Underwood for not drawing plays up to get him coming off double screens or something early to get him going, but part of that is on him just being deferential. Trent from the past 2 years isn't passing up that transition 3 to give it to a trailing Cockburn at the free throw line (yes we still got 2 points on the foul, but it is just an obvious example of his mentality).

Illiniiniowa on December 21, 2019 @ 06:16 PM

If we're not making shots, it is still Underwoods fault. Either get better players, play different players, or out those players in positions where they can succeed. Only one guy is getting close to $4 million per year to be responsible and we're heading towards another losing season. Forget the NCAAs. If we play like that going forward, we'll be 7-13 in B1G play and miss the NIT

Giovantischixstripz on December 21, 2019 @ 06:22 PM

I agree in the end it all comes down to him. He needs to be making the NCAA tournament.

But in this game, Trent, Giorgi, Kofi, Andres, and even Damonte are better players than they played today. I am not obsolving Underwood from blame for that, but 18-22 year old kids are just inconsistent, and sometimes they all suck at the same time like today and the first half vs Miami.

Illiniiniowa on December 21, 2019 @ 08:43 PM

How about getting more shots for Ayo? Playing Griffin more? He led the team in rebounds and had 8 points in 18 minutes. Try Jones more than 3 minutes? Or just lament after the game that the other team was tougher. That's what got Weber fired.

Giovantischixstripz on December 22, 2019 @ 09:41 AM

I mean, those sound like easy solutions. But really, Ayo shot 15 times, 6 more than anyone else on the team, Underwood wasn't failing to get him shots. I'd argue the guy he failed to get shots was Frazier, Cuonzo commented how much easier he was to guard this year in his off ball roll. That should not be true at all, they need to run him off screens and make him hell to guard, like a Kyle Korver or JJ Redick.

Griffin should have played more in the first half, but once Underwood noticed he was bringing a lot of energy he stuck with him, he played 15 minutes in the 2nd half. His energy was a nice boost, but he was just as ineffective offensively as the rest of the team, he was 2 for 7 from the floor and 0-4 from 3. A couple of those 3s were open looks we really need him to make.

Tev needs to get like a 20 minute shift vs NCAT to see where he is at. It'd be great to be able to trust him for more than 3 minutes, but it takes time to get back to speed after a suspension, and he didn't provide anything in those 3 minutes that showed he would help us if Brad gave him more minutes.

Giovantischixstripz on December 22, 2019 @ 09:41 AM

I mean, those sound like easy solutions. But really, Ayo shot 15 times, 6 more than anyone else on the team, Underwood wasn't failing to get him shots. I'd argue the guy he failed to get shots was Frazier, Cuonzo commented how much easier he was to guard this year in his off ball roll. That should not be true at all, they need to run him off screens and make him hell to guard, like a Kyle Korver or JJ Redick.

Griffin should have played more in the first half, but once Underwood noticed he was bringing a lot of energy he stuck with him, he played 15 minutes in the 2nd half. His energy was a nice boost, but he was just as ineffective offensively as the rest of the team, he was 2 for 7 from the floor and 0-4 from 3. A couple of those 3s were open looks we really need him to make.

Tev needs to get like a 20 minute shift vs NCAT to see where he is at. It'd be great to be able to trust him for more than 3 minutes, but it takes time to get back to speed after a suspension, and he didn't provide anything in those 3 minutes that showed he would help us if Brad gave him more minutes.

orangejulius on December 22, 2019 @ 10:30 AM

It's Underwood's fault he didn't get a shooter who could help the team this season, or really anyone to help besides Kofi. This is his #1 failure. It's also Underwood's fault that Williams is, strangely, getting starter minutes. I realize there aren't many other options, but that's a Bruce Weber move. Tevian played productive minutes last season, and he's at least a threat to make a 3 and a layup. He played well in Europe. Should be an easy call. Play Tevian.

Giovantischixstripz on December 22, 2019 @ 11:24 AM

I am not absolving Underwood at all. But blame for not being ready for Braggin rights falls on the entire team. The players are better than this too.

Also, Tev will get played, he did something stupid to get himself in the doghouse and now needs to work his way back in. I do not blame Underwood for him not getting many minutes yet.

Groundhogday on December 22, 2019 @ 11:45 AM

Maybe Tevian is ready, maybe not. But Griffin clearly IS ready and only got his usual 18 minutes.

Illiniiniowa on December 21, 2019 @ 04:44 PM

Screw Underwood and their just guys in other uniforms yesterday and now Mizzou won because it was personal. When the hell are we going to take losing personal? I'm sick of his crap.

HiggsBoson on December 23, 2019 @ 08:51 PM

BU's post game comments were also loserish. He clearly does not have any idea how to get a team ready for a rivalry game. Neither does Lovie Smith, but at least we get to see if he can prepae a team for a bowl game. I despair that we'll never get a chance to see if Brad Underwood can prepae a team for a tourney game.

ATOillini on December 21, 2019 @ 04:46 PM

Bah humbug indeed.....

Mizzou absolutely stunk up the gym in the first 10-12 minutes. We should have had them in a 12-15 point head lock at that point, but due to unbelievably careless, feeble turnovers and poor shooting we didn't.

Also, be careful with that 5 starter comparison (which I'm not so sure I agree with anyway). Bench performance really does matter....a lot. Pickett has now had 2 very good games in a row against us. He scored 17 points today. Our entire bench scored 10!!! That is a real problem when one of your starters is no threat at all to score. Playing 29 minutes and taking only 2 shots (both missed) says a lot. It allows opposing coaches to take advantage of a glaring weakness.

It will be interesting to see if our shooting gets any better. I don't want to give up just yet, but It's beginning to become rather worrisome.

Finally, I will repeat what I said on here a few games ago.....I hate our weave.

Southernillini on December 21, 2019 @ 10:38 PM

I agree our offense is way too predictable. And it shouldn't be. One of the main tenants of the 3 guard set with the weave is the threat of a back-cut. It keeps defenders from hedging. The Illini don't do that.

They are just incredibly predictable. No matter how good you are, if you're easily scouted and have no ability to improvise or take advantage of defensive overplayz then you're beat.

Also... Trent...shoot the damn ball!!!

Groundhogday on December 22, 2019 @ 12:31 PM

Weave can work, but we aren't making it work. Overall, we aren't really working to get Frazier open jumpers, get Ayo downhill to the basket, Frazier drive opportunities. Maybe this is because our lack of shooting means teams can focus on the few available options and clog the lane?

thumpasaurus on December 22, 2019 @ 12:46 AM

I started dating my wife a couple weeks before our last NCAAT game, but we didn't get serious until a month later.

She has no concept of what Illinois Basketball once was. It just sounds like the ravings of a madman. She's seen hopeless-ass Illinois Football break a 20-game Big Ten win streak, rebuild to a bowl, fire the coach, Not Ideal themselves, then rebuild all the way to another bowl, all since the last time Illinois even had any selection sunday drama.

Illiniiniowa on December 22, 2019 @ 08:16 AM

Meanwhile, that motherf@#$er Bruce Pearl is coming off a final four season and is threatening Kentucky in the SEC. I hate my life.

IlliniOllie on December 22, 2019 @ 09:12 AM

I work with a guy who went to DePaul in the late 1970s, and when I started there, we’d talk basketball and he had all sorts of stories about those teams, and their Final Four trip, and so on. All the stories of past greatness that will never return.

My stories of being an Illini fan in the early 2000s are basically that now. The sellout streak, Paint the Hall Orange, competing for Big Ten titles, making the NCAAs every year... all that same dusty old history. People who haven’t known me since I was in college have no idea or understanding why I follow this program the way that I do.

LosAngellini on December 22, 2019 @ 04:19 AM

Horrendous. Just always seeing guys in our system getting bulkier, but slower and less athletic. Georgi and Kipper are prime examples. Body by fletch ain’t working. For a decade we’ve been at an athletic disadvantage.

Illiniiniowa on December 22, 2019 @ 08:25 AM

We did beat Mizzoo at wrestling so...that's a thing that happened

Groundhogday on December 22, 2019 @ 11:43 AM

Season is not at all over. This team could still gel. But right now, I see mismatched parts. In particular, we need some shooting/scoring from the wings.

Joe Edge on December 22, 2019 @ 01:32 PM

Correct... The season is NOT over... So theoretically you are correct - they could yet gel... However I believe something else is at play here and you hit around it when you say: 'In particular, we need some shooting/scoring from the wings.'

This is something I've been puzzled by for decades. WHY do ALL (or nearly all) of our supposed 'scorers' go on a 'cold streak' at the SAME TIME? HOW does this happen ? How can EVERY player lack confidence in their ability at the same time as ALL the others ? How can they ALL have doubts and/or make suspect judgement decisions at the same time ?

The other part of your statement: 'I see mismatched parts.', also hits at what I see as possibly a bad vibe that could be going on... Leaders (good leaders) don't allow their troops to get into factions or subsets that can cause friction within the unit as a whole. Good leaders know that 'mismatched parts' will cause doubt and uncertainty and KILL the units effectiveness... And THAT becomes a direct reflection upon that leaders ability to lead !

Now I can't say for certain what exactly is happening as I'm not close to the action or even the location, and I certainly don't know much about basketball strategy or the 'x's and o's stuff'. I'm just an average Joe-blow fan who watches on TV from very far away.... But I do know human nature, and I'm telling you something is WRONG in Mudville ....

Groundhogday on December 22, 2019 @ 04:03 PM

No evidence to support this theory, but... I do wonder about Ayo. He hasn't played well, is supposed to be the team/leader/star, and is known to have his mind set on having the kind of season that will propel him into the NBA. I wonder how that might impact team chemistry.

The other challenge just comes from not having the right kinds of players you need to run your systems. Underwood has adapted, but most coaches thrive when they have a team geared to play the style of basketball they prefer. We don't have the shooting, athleticism, or ball handing to play Underwood's style.

As for the shooting streaks, that is just the nature of probability. Even a good shooter might hit 40% from the arc, so just by chance there will be long cold streaks. Our problem as a team is when you only have 1-2 good outside shooters, then it is easy for 1-2 guys on a down streak to mean the whole team can't hit a shot.

Joe Edge on December 22, 2019 @ 07:16 PM

Yeah, I agree BU may not have the exact roster he wants, and therefore is not in his total comfort zone, and you're right that he is adapting - although I question if the adaptations are working to their best outcomes....

I also worry about Ayo, but others as well. Giorgi is a dynamic fireball with a great personality, but sometimes his antics and his Euro-Ball moves hurt the team. Dre RARELY passes the ball to an open shooter once he gets the ball and is in his 'driving to the hoop' mode, and poor DaMonte's is under so much pressure to be 'Frank', and that causes his confidence is wane when he's not... Good defensive player or not, we can't play 4 on 5 on the offensive side of the court... We proved that with that guard under Groce... Alan was billed as an elite 'shooter', and Tev can't stay out of trouble with the coach... I know I make too many comparisons to the military and team-building in that environment versus this situation, but this sure sounds like a leadership and morale problem to me....

I'm coming to the conclusion that you're right about the fact that we only have 1-2 scorers, and that presents a problem if the other team can shut those two down... And perhaps that is where my true frustration lies... We just don't have enough talented players... OR they just aren't being molded into a cohesive TEAM yet... Where is Gene Hackman when you need him... lol...

Merry Christmas all... May the spirit of the holidays be in our hearts the whole year round.

HiggsBoson on December 23, 2019 @ 08:53 PM

Ayo's not a leader or really a team guy. He's too busy with his NBA fantasies.

Groundhogday on December 22, 2019 @ 11:43 AM

deleted - double post

mmyers74 on December 22, 2019 @ 01:54 PM

You want to have a higher 3pt %?

  1. Design an offense that gets guys open for 3. 1-a Learn to pick and fade (if you insist on on-ball screen offense) 1-b Learn to screen away, to get guys open.

  2. Teach players to throw to shooters AS they are coming open, not "once you see they are open". If you wait, they will not have the wide open shot.

  3. Once you've gotten them open, and hit them as they come open, hit them in the shooting pocket.

Why is that impotant?

Open shots, in rhythm... GO IN AT A MUCH MUCH HIGHER clip than the rushed "open" shots we have now.

You wonder why teams have historically had wonderful shooting nights vs us, surprising every announcer by being so far above their typical %? Because we have given a lot of wide open, comfortable, in rhythm 3's.

Part of that are players... part of that is coaching.

The weave is an offense built for 2's. Period.

Giovantischixstripz on December 22, 2019 @ 02:45 PM

I agree with all of your points until you say the weave is an offense built for 2's. This just isn't true. the Golden State Warriors, the greatest 3 point shooting team in history, used the weave to get open looks like poetry. It creates space for off the dribble or 3s right off the dribble hand off, but Trent is the only player on our team adept at 3s on the move or off the dribble. There are lots of variations off of it where instead of looping a shooter around to receive the next hand off in the wing, you have a big give him a screen to flare to the corner. Underwood has not utilized enough of these variations.

We have a bad 3 point % because we don't have enough good 3 point shooters. Period. Trent is a good 3 point shooter. Unfortunately, we are suffering from both him being gun shy and Brad Underwood not drawing things up to get him the ball. Besides him, Griffin is an average 3 point shooter. Tevian is hypothetically a decent 3 point shooter (too small sample size on him still to say definitively), and Giorgi is decent on wide open, in rhythm looks (he has a very slow release, needs lots of space). Everyone else on the team is a below average 3 point shooter. Spacing was always going to be an issue for us, and it has been exacerbated by the deeper 3 point line, Trent's lack of aggresiveness and Underwood's inability to get sharp execution or more variations on offense.

Groundhogday on December 24, 2019 @ 07:42 PM

FWIW, Trent Meacham doubled down on changes we've discussed previously (Jeremy Werner show on Monday)::

  • Identity of this team has to be D and rebounding
  • Leadership isn't there yet. Team folds when things aren't going well. Body language in the Mizzery game was terrible. No talking, no one taking the reigns.
  • Trent has to be much more aggressive with his shot. Needs the ball in his hands more to create off the dribble.
  • Need to play more with Griffin/Jones/Kipper at the 4 to spread the floor.
  • Need to make a better effort to get Giorgi going inside early in games. Let him get a rhythm going, doing what he does best, working in the paint.

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