Up To Speed - 11-17-21
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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.
247 Sports - 60
Van Coleman - 79
On3 - 80
ESPN - 95
Rivals - unranked
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?