Up To Speed - 11-17-21

Nov 17, 2021

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I promise that not every image at the top of every article will be a shot from my trip to Idaho, but my brain feels alive again and these are the kind of moments that make that happen. I'm back now, so I probably need to get up to speed on the things that happened while I was gone.

First off, a big thanks to Tyler for covering both the Friday night and Monday night basketball games. Not that this is anything new. Over the last three years, it's generally been Tyler covering 1/3rd of all basketball games and me covering 2/3rds. And there's always a heavier burden on Tyler when football season is going on. But still - had he not been able to cover both games, I would have probably stayed home to cover them. This is my job now, and it's really hard to take a trip during the one month where both sports are happening at the same time.

BUT, when Illinois has a bye week in November, and it falls on your middle son's birthday, and he lives in Idaho now with his wife and two dogs, and you can book some flights from Midway to Boise using your Southwest points, and you can hike in the snow and take pictures of some kind of blue and pink mountain sunset they hadn't invented until Sunday, you do it.

Now I'm back. Brain alive. Let's get caught up.

Basketball Signing Day

The most fascinating thing (to me) about basketball signing day last Wednesday: where these players fit in the RSCI.

If you've ever ready anything on IlliniBoard, you know that I'm an RSCI junkie. To the point where I'm pen pals with Jeff, the guy who puts together the RSCI. That stands for "Recruiting Services Consensus Index." Jeff started doing it with the 1998 class (the Frank Williams class) and continues today. He takes all of the national rankings, combines them, and comes up with a consensus top-100.

Shannon Terry with 247 Sports kinda stole the idea about 15 years after Jeff started doing it. I mean, it's not "stolen" - anyone can make a consensus ranking of anything that's ranked - but 247 started doing the "Composite" rankings which included Rivals, ESPN, and their own rankings. They weighted it, though - 247's rankings are weighted more heavily than the other two. (By weighting it, they weren't really "stealing" it.)

If you don't know who Shannon Terry is, he's the guy who started Rivals and 247. He sold Rivals to Yahoo in 2007, then started 247 Sports, and then he sold that to CBS in 2015. Now he has started On3, which he states is his "third and final" site. You'll likely see me using their rankings for football a lot because they've developed a system where their Composite rankings A) include four rankings instead of three and B) are not weighted like 247 where the 247 ranking counts more. (This means they're back to 100% "stealing" the RSCI concept, but whatever.)

They're also doing something interesting with recruiting class rankings, developing a system that doesn't rely on class size. Their ratings won't have some scenario where Minnesota has 15 verbals in April and a bunch of Minnesota writers write all these "Gophers have #7 recruiting class nationally!" and then once everyone else has 15 players in their class that Gopher's class ranks 29th and once the classes are full by the following February the class ranks 43rd.

I mean, that will still happen with the Rivals and 247 systems, but I'm guessing they eventually move their systems over to something like what On3 is proposing. And I'll likely start quoting the On3 rankings simply because of that. Their system is more or less an "average player ranking" list. It's more complicated than just a player ranking average - they set an "average number of commits" and then base the rankings on that (right now it's at 15 but it will go up) - but you get the picture. The "Minnesota has 7th-ranked recruiting class" articles will still be written. They'll just look silly.

But for basketball, I'll likely rock with RSCI for a long time. It works for me. AND, I've kept a list of all consensus top-100 Illini recruits since 1998. We're finally to my point in this section which was supposed to be about basketball signing day.

All three recruits in the 2021 class made it into the final RSCI. As did these two 2022 recruits (at least the "summer" RSCI). None of these individual players were ranked above 70th nationally, but all five (three last year, two this year) fall in that same range.

Here's all the Illini players ranked between 70 and 100 in the RSCI since 1998. Recruits from the 2021 and 2022 classes are in bold:

70 Malcolm Hill
71 Demitri McCamey
76 Crandall Head
77 Shaun Pruitt
77 Nick Smith
78 James Augustine
78 Nnanna Egwu
78 DJ Williams
79 Brandin Podziemski
81 Ramses Melendez
82 Jayden Epps

86 Aaron Spears
90 Mark Smith
95 Sencire Harris
98 Luke Goode

The RSCI uses five rankings (including the new On3 rankings), so here's how the two players signed by Illinois last week land in each of those rankings. And remember - the RSCI holds the ranking number at 100. If you're ranked 103 on one of the lists, that gets you no points. The only was to earn points for the list is by making someone's top-100.

Jayden Epps
247 Sports - 60
Van Coleman - 79
On3 - 80
ESPN - 95
Rivals - unranked

Sencire Harris
Rivals - 62
On3 - 87
247 Sports - 98
Van Coleman - unranked
ESPN - unranked

If Rivals drops Harris at all (these services always seem to adjust their rankings if they're the outlier on a kid), then Harris might drop out by the time the final RSCI is released. But for now, that's where these two players land - Epps at 82 and Harris at 95. Five recruits in two classes all ranked between 79 and 98. Kinda crazy. (If we land Ty Rodgers, he's #54 on the summer RSCI, so he'd break up this streak. In a good way.)

One last thing: I need to add context here. Since the RSCI started in 1998, there have been 103 players who have committed to Illinois basketball. Only 39 of those 103 players were consensus top-100 players - 64 were not. So Epps and Harris need to be viewed like that. Recruiting ranking-wise, Epps is 35th out of 103 the last 25 years and Harris is 38th out of 103. That's significant.

Bielema's Positive Test

I will now do that thing where I show Covid ignorance. That's ignorance, not misinformation. There will be no stances taken here. I'm not going to "does Covid even exist?" and I'm not going to "masks and face shields for at least 15 more years". I don't have any opinions, only confusion.

(Stop worrying - I'm not going anywhere uncomfortable. At least I don't think I am.)

Here's where I'm a bit confused. The football program is 100% vaccinated. I understand that there's breakthrough cases - I worry about a breakthrough case myself so I wear a mask while driving alone in my car (no I don't, I told you to stop thinking I'm headed down one of those roads) - and I understand that almost all breakthrough cases are mild. That's kind the point of this vaccine flowing through my veins, right? If I did catch it, my body would attack it and I'd only have a mild case. Kind of the point of why I got the shots in my arm at the first available opportunity.

Where I get lost is with a fully vaccinated football program and a coach who can't go to his office. In a closed-off, 100% vaccinated small circle like that (all players, coaches, and support staff are fully vaccinated), what's the reason for home isolation? I'm not really trying to do the Josh Baskin thing here. I'm asking.

I get not going to the grocery store or whatever if you're symptomatic. Might spread it to someone unvaccinated (or, I guess, spread it to someone vaccinated who gets a breakthrough case and then they spread it to someone unvaccinated or whatever). But if a 100% vaccinated environment calls for home basement quarantine and zero interactions with said 100% vaccinated environment, then there's no end to this, right? Meaning, if a building that requires vaccination to enter (the Smith Center) has a rule that breakthrough cases quarantine for 10 days (at least I think it's 10 days - Bielema said he tested positive Monday and if all goes well he can return just before the Northwestern game), then we're all going to quarantine for 10 days for the rest of our lives.

Maybe I have all of this wrong. Maybe this is a temporary thing until all kids age 2-12 have had the opportunity to get their shots and then breakthrough cases are just breakthrough cases. But I can't sort through how any of this ends if fully vaccinated people have to stay away from 100% vaccinated buildings for 10 days after a breakthrough case.

Like, I'll see some news story about a band requiring vaccination cards at concerts (while everyone is #taking it with their #takes in the comments). I don't really have a stance on any of that, but when I look at those scenarios and the Illinois football scenario, I guess I don't understand the point of a concert seeking out a building full of 100% vaccinated people if the Smith Center - a building full of 100% vaccinated people - is still testing and quarantining. Like, if it's still dangerous enough for 100% vaccinated people to get/spread Covid, why are we having 100% vaccinated concerts at all? Isn't the point of 100% vaccination to be done?

I'm sure it's much more complicated than I'm making it. And I totally understand why Bret Bielema, if he's symptomatic, should not get on a plane (and cough) and then get to Kinnick Stadium (and cough). With symptoms, don't travel. I've stayed home with bronchitis before, and that's not a deadly disease (well, I guess it is for some - that's a dumb example but I think you get what I'm saying).

I still don't understand a long basement quarantine for someone who works in a 100% vaccinated building, though. This isn't a football #take. I'm not trying to say "this team needs Bielema back on the sidelines ASAP because bowl qualification is still possible." I'm simply in "where are we headed with all of this?" question land. I got my second shot on March 12th, and I celebrated with a fist pump on March 26th when I was two weeks past my second shot, and now it's eight months later and it didn't change anything (besides less 2 am "I'd probably have a severe case - what if I catch it?" fears). Still have to be fully masked at every Illini football and basketball game, home and away. And there's still testing and quarantining.

I've been, like, the greatest rule-follower in the history of life for the last 20 months. When traveling to road games last year, I'd look up each state's guidelines for out-of-state travel. For the Rutgers football game, I stayed in Pennsylvania because New Jersey had an "if traveling here for business you cannot be in the state for more than 24 hours" rule. During basketball season, I found a place where I could quarantine for the three days between the Rutgers game and the Penn State game. I dutifully would get tested every week at the Market Place Mall testing facility so that I could produce a negative test wherever I needed it. Even sat in line for 90 minutes at times to get that test.

For whatever reason, after 20 months of following every rule, this Bielema scenario (vaccinated man must quarantine for 10 days from 100% vaccinated building) has me wondering if I even understand anything about this at all. I always thought vaccinated meant "safe now", but I guess it just means "safer". And I guess we'll just never reach "safe"?

I know that a lot of this is probably dumb. Maybe I have the 10 days thing wrong and it's really just "until he tests negative which could be as early as tomorrow" or something. I really am hoping that some of you correct me with some statistics that make this make sense. I'm just stuck on the fully vaccinated not being able to be around the fully vaccinated, even in a reduced, "coach practice from the Smith Center balcony" scenario. If that's the case, this never ends, right?

I better publish this before I talk myself out of it. I know the comment section will probably spin off in crazy directions, and I always want to avoid that. But today was probably my biggest "I don't get it" moment so far, and maybe possibly one of you can help me understand.

If breakthrough cases will forever be a thing, then does that mean we'll forever be in masks and sent to quarantine?


sirrah1912 on November 17, 2021 @ 01:21 PM

edit Insert Ty Rodgers!!

Tolkien73 on November 17, 2021 @ 02:28 PM


If you test positive (assuming the test was correct) you can still pass it along to others. Because the virus is still in you (although hopefully your immune system is making quick work of the nasty little b*astards) Yes, the entire FB team and staff are vaccinated. But there is still a chance that (for example) if BB goes to a staff meeting with a breakthrough case, he could then pass it along to someone else on staff as another breakthrough case.

Eventually we are going to (hopefully) reach a point of herd immunity, once enough people have received their vaccinations and the case load drops. So then the restrictions will be lowered. We saw this earlier this year when vaccinated people could go to the grocery store or wherever and not wear masks. But then cases increased again and we had to go back to masking.

Are BB and the football team being super-cautious? Perhaps even unnecessarily so? Yes. But flip this on its head and see the sort of blowback the team would receive if a covid-positive coach was on the sidelines for Saturday's game. Masked or not, we wold get lit up like a Christmas tree. So I think we are making a smart, savvy move, both from a safety and a PR standpoint.

orangejulius on November 17, 2021 @ 03:11 PM

This is the correct answer.

Robert on November 17, 2021 @ 04:37 PM

Thanks Tolkien. Here's where I get stuck. And perhaps this is as simple as "Robert doesn't understand breakthrough infections" but here goes.

From everything I've heard and read, you're not a big transmission risk with a breakthrough infection. I just googled to find something recent, and here's an article from NPR on the topic last month (LINK). That seems to indicate there's a very small chance someone with a breakthrough infection could give the virus to someone else.

I can maybe understand some caution in accepting that as 100% fact until there are months of studies done, but here we're talking about a vaccinated person (BB) who is likely not contagious banned from a building full of 100% vaccinated people because there's a tiny chance that he could give one of them a breakthrough case followed by the even tinier chance that they too would be contagious and they might give someone else the virus. Aren't we reaching "less than a 0.1% chance" or something close to that?

ToddW11 on November 17, 2021 @ 07:20 PM

I’m in the Robert camp on this. The poster said “hopefully we get to herd immunity” so restrictions are eased. Isn’t 100 vaccinated the epitome of herd immunity? And as they stated later, is this all for PR purposes or actual following of the science? If the former I don’t understand how this ever ends.

IlliniJoe81 on November 17, 2021 @ 02:29 PM

I don't get it either, Robert. There's no real logic to it. Next season it will probably be over just because we'll be one year further removed from this year and people will just decide it's over.

Duce20 on November 18, 2021 @ 09:43 AM

This is the correct answer

orangejulius on November 17, 2021 @ 03:23 PM

That's an interesting list of players. What you see at the 70-100 level we have been recently recruiting at are no superstars, but mostly hits, and some misses. There are certain factors outside of the RSCI which would indicate a better likelihood of success. You look at the way Jayden Epps has been performing at top tournaments, and I feel pretty confident that he's going to be a major contributor. On the opposite end, we all remember DJ Williams and how he was performing his senior season. You'd look at the box score and wonder if he even played.

With this level of recruiting, we're going to be super competitive in the Big Ten, but if we want to continue to be a factor nationally, probably gotta get the Ayos and Kofis. Adding Ty today is huge step; likewise with Morez. Those two are going to be very high ceiling players.

GilThorpe on November 17, 2021 @ 04:16 PM

Covid is NEVER going away , ever, and the sooner we accept that it is just like the flu, the better.

Vaccines do very little, if anything, to stop you from getting it and spreading it. What they do , is keep most people from having to go to the hospital & dying.

We need to get more comfortable with the concept of it always being here. Time to ditch the mask. They only make some people feel better. Its like confusing activity with accomplishment

Eagle on November 17, 2021 @ 10:57 PM


As was noted, the vaccine doesn't prevent one from getting the virus, it only keeps the symptoms from being severe. The wrong impression has been given by the federal government and MSM (Main Stream Media) until the facts forced them to admit the error just recently. Everyone who has received the vaccine could theoretically get it AND pass it on. As proof of that, just today (11/17) it was reported that Gibralter, a country that has a 100% vaccination rate, is having a horrendous Covid outbreak. Being vaccinated did nothing to stop that.

If you want to know the full truth and understand this better, you'll have to research non MSM and government (like PBS) sources. There are doctors and researchers forming new associations every month to publicize that their real life experiences in treating patients and doing research (true science) does not agree with the narrative being fed to us.

With that said, I think BB did the right thing given the policies of the university. We can't risk that he might pass it onto other staff or players. Personally, I've lived life normally the last year and a half, got Covid, took my Ivermectin, missed half a day of work and got back on with life. My eyes were opened when we traveled with AAU ball last year (summer 2020) to other states and found that outside of Illinois, people were living very normal lives. (Hopefully that didn't go too far off the rails).

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