Miller + Curbelo
You have currently viewed 1 story this month.
IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.
Three weeks today since we launched the subscription structure. It's been awesome and exhausting and overwhelming and so much fun.
This week, with launch stuff slowing down, I'm powering through the football preview plus all of these 90 Illini posts. "They won't play football until the spring - I'll just put The 90 Illini on hold for a while" was a really bad idea. Tonight, I find myself with some basketball thoughts bouncing around in my head yet nowhere to put them since my brain is in football preview/90i mode. So here's a quick basketball brain dump before I get back to that.
I'm basically here: I go back and forth on what we'll get from Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo this winter. One minute I'm at "even Ayo had a lot to learn as a freshman, so both of these guards will go through the same", the next minute I'm "wait, what if both of them START?"
It began here: Yesterday I was flipping through the Top 25 Big Ten Players In 2020 list put together by the Inside The Hall (Indiana) and UMHoops (Michigan) blogs. Their top-five players in the Big Ten:
5. Franz Wagner, Michigan
4. Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
3. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
2. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
1. Luka Garza, Iowa
That's not the part that stuck out to me, though. I was more curious about Adam Miller's ranking. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy a Michigan blog and Indiana blog getting together to rank the conference and begrudgingly putting two Illinois players in the top four. And if you read the comments, there's one guy obsessed with "Illinois might have great players but they're not compatible so they won't be good". Want to know why you should get really excited about this season? There's IU fans spending hours (not kidding - I think that one guy wrote 2,500 words across several comments under that post alone) trying to make "sure, they have two of the top four players in the conference among their five returning starters and they add two top-50 freshmen but if you look closer, they might actually NOT be good" work.
(OK, now I'm stuck on this tangent.)
Look, there's no guarantees in life. We might find out that Feliz and Griffin were the keys to the whole thing and this coming season is one big disappointment. You can never be absolutely certain until you see the product on the court. But if you want a really great sign that you really do have something brewing, look for a fan of your rival who realizes deep down that Illinois might be Elite Eight good and will do anything and say anything to not live in that world. All of my rants over the last 10 years about "it's simply not possible for Wisconsin football to maintain this - Chryst will be a failure and they'll finally fall"? Yeah, it was that. I just didn't want to live in that world. (And this guy doesn't want to live in a world where #5 Illinois plays #3 Baylor on national TV.)
Where was I? Yes, Adam Miller. The Inside The Hall article (the actual article, not the comments) has Adam Miller as the #24 player in the Big Ten this season. I'm very intrigued by that. I'm such a "freshmen need a year" guy that I just can't ever predict greatness until their sophomore leap. Yes, even after Kofi won Big Ten Freshman of the Year. I probably need to think back to the days when Deron and Dee (or Brian Cook, or Cory Bradford) when we'd consistently have freshmen burst onto the scene.
So having a non-Illini site rank Miller as the 24th-best player in the conference really makes me think. For example - there's no Maryland players on the top-25 list. So, like, Adam Miller would be the best player at Maryland? As a freshman?
I tallied up all of the players on all of the teams that appear on the list and realized that it's basically saying that Miller would be the second best player at Minnesota and Penn State and the single best player (as a freshman) at Nebraska and Northwestern. I don't know why I needed that in order to view it that way, but realizing that Miller would be the second-best or best player for nearly half the teams in the Big Ten really helped me understand that I need to recalibrate.
And we have another freshman not too far from the top-25, I'd think. There's two freshmen on the list - Indiana's Khristian Lander at #23 and Adam Miller at #24. So if we were to stretch that out further, the third-best freshman in the Big Ten is probably either Mady Sissoko at MSU, Hunter Dickinson at Michigan, or Andre Curbelo. Which means Curbelo would have probably been fairly close to being a top-25 player in the conference.
Again, this is just some blog's ranking of the best players in the conference. It doesn't mean anything. But for whatever reason, it's helping me understand that Miller and Curbelo are another step back towards the way I used to view Illini freshmen. Back when we won a lot of Big Ten Freshman of the Year awards.
I know you're probably already there and I'm late to the party. But that's the shift I experienced in my brain yesterday. BREAKING: Adam Miller and Andre Curbelo might be pretty good.
Perhaps this is the best way to put it. We might see something this after the season:
All Big Ten Team
Big Ten All Freshman Team
Hey guys. We might be good at basketball this year.