Here's Where The Story Ends

Mar 22, 2021

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I set myself up for this one. Wrote the SOC on Thursday night, talking about how a trip to watch the games was just what I needed. I referenced hearing the song Here's Where The Story Ends while at dinner with my wife. And didn't even realize how the song title was predicting what would happen on Sunday. Honestly wrote "Here's where the story ends by The Sundays" and didn't even think about our story possibly ending Sunday. If I had, I would have immediately deleted it.

I could barely sleep last week as every bracket had Illinois in the Final Four, many with us going to the title game, some having us winning it all. An entire week of that "is this really happening? what if it actually happens?". I was in Indy 7 of the last 11 days, and I drove by that giant bracket all the time, and every time I thought "what if?". I opened myself up to the possibility.

And then the harshest door was slammed in my face. This is really how it ends? In the Round of 32? This team? For real?

Being the "food will heal the pain" sort, when I got back to Champaign, my wife and I ordered Black Dog. As I drove to get it, I put the song on repeat and leaned into the melancholy. Can't go around it - have to go through it. Join me, will you?

People I know
Places I go
Make me feel tongue tied

Here's why I really struggle with my Twitter timeline every March. I only follow 2-3 Illinois media people, but I follow a ton of national college media. Every March they'll go on and on about March and madness and the greatness of {insert storyline}. And I mostly hate it.

I can't really say that out loud. But the lack of investment bothers me. Is March great? Absolutely. Did I have a ton of fun at Texas/Abilene Christian? 100%. Do I enjoy someone with zero investment in any team - people just there to observe the car wrecks - screaming "greatest month ever!"? Absolutely not.

I've never respected a March fetish unless it comes from someone who knows what this feels like. If you're not going to tell me who you're invested in, then I can't help but think that you simply enjoy observing the joy and pain of others. "Oh my God he made both free throws and ACU beat Texas" is for us, not you. Why? Because we're the ones risking watching our #1 seed losing to the little Catholic school in Chicago. We're the ones facing weeks of depression. This Tournament is great because of the stakes, but if you're just observing from the sidelines, you really don't understand the stakes.

This HURTS, man. This is intense pain. I'm willing to risk it because I love my team, and when we finally climb the mountain some day it will be the greatest feeling in the world, but at times like this, I cannot handle a single "March is so great!" from anyone who won't tell me the name of their team.

The older couple from Abilene Christian who walked past Carmen and I as we were waiting for our Uber and struck up a conversation with us because they wanted to talk to anyone and everyone about the win they just saw? March is for those two. The Texas fan standing outside the restroom waiting for his son, staring at his phone (I'd imagine, trying to see if it was actually a foul) - March is for him as well. Some media member who simply cheers for The Winning Team and spins platitudes about The Losing Team? You have no idea what this is like.

It's that little souvenir
Of a terrible year
Which makes me wonder why

I referenced this lyric on Thursday night. I'm not sure anyone hears it today and doesn't think "2020". Go through the comments on the YouTube video above and I'm sure you'll see dozens of "2020!" comments.

My reference on Thursday night was very light and happy. My personal "little souvenir of a terrible year"? Covering this team during Covid. Piscataway, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, Madison, Lincoln, the Big Ten Tournament - we'll never forget this year, and I'll never forget this journey. Quitting my job, starting a new career, waiting seven months for sports to return, and then I get to cover this team.

So when this team has that ending, I don't know what to say. I'm still in shock. From the moment Michigan State took out their frustrations on Ayo's face, we imposed our will on every team we faced. Rolled to 16-4 in the Big Ten and steamrolled through the Big Ten Tournament.

To see that team get absolutely punished - when it was 9-2, this game was over - I have no words. I cannot believe it happened. I could maybe accept an upset, and I wrote about it last night, and for a month I've feared that Ayo would be needed for one more shot, down one, with 10 seconds on the clock, and he'd miss. But never in a million years did I imagine "never really threaten the entire 40 minutes".

It was the opposite of the Duke game in December. A better way to put that: The Duke fans that said "I thought we might lose to Illinois, but never did I imagine a home loss where we wouldn't even get within single digits in the second half"? Now that's us. Viewing comprehension issues. Did I just watch THAT happen?

During the timeout with exactly 8:00 to go, I tweeted this:

It's still so hard to believe. The rest of the TV timeouts the Illini crowd was quite loud but during that one, the Illini crowd was mostly silent. Why? Because after "come on guys, let's do this" at the under-16, under-12, under-8, under-4, halftime, under-16, and under-12, it seemed to be a futile exercise. Every I-L-L chant seemed to make Loyola stronger.

And then it got worse. We'd score, half our section would scream "get a stop!", and then Loyola scored on (I think) 7 of 8 possessions. Seven of eight is not "get a stop".

You could probably hear it in my From The Stands - I was just totally and completely dumbfounded. Couldn't put words together. How do you put "wire-to-wire domination from Loyola-Chicago in the Round Of 32 while we're second in 'win the championship' odds in Vegas" into context? Besides debating whether it's the single-most devastating loss of your entire life.

My emotion tomorrow morning won't be pain. It will still be disbelief. Which means the pain the next few weeks is going to be something else.

Oh, here's where the story ends
Ooh, here's where the story ends

That's where the disbelief centers. THIS is how the story ends. All of that, and this is how it ends.

That's not an insult. That's not "you can't build this up to #2 in the country and then not perform". It's the NCAA Tournament, and as you can see from {motions hands} all of this, it happens a lot. The team that wins it all truly runs a gauntlet.

What I mean: I can't believe that the final page reads like this. I mean, look at what was in the rest of the book.

  • John Groce is fired, our second consecutive firing, and a third coach is hired to get Illinois basketball back.
  • The new coach lands The One - Ayo Dosunmu - six months onto the job.
  • But the new coach really struggles as he rebuilds the roster. 14 wins the first season, 12 wins the next. We're now at seven years without an NCAA Tournament.
  • Then, in January of 2020, the corner is turned. Illinois enters the rankings for the first time in half a decade and finishes the season ranked 21st.
  • But then Covid hits. And our two stars declare. We're finally going to climb all the way back to here and then both Ayo and Kofi will be gone before we play a single Tournament game?
  • At the depth of our despair, both Ayo and Kofi announce that they're coming back. Suddenly, we have our most hopeful season in 15 years. I write "do we have two of the ten-best players in college basketball?" approximately 15 times during the fall.
  • We do! Ayo is a first-team All American and Kofi is a second-team All American. We go 23-6 (16-4), win the Big Ten Tournament, and roll into the NCAA Tournament as the #3 overall seed and #2 in both polls. We're not the odds-on favorite in Vegas, but we're #2.

And now it's over. Not even a Sweet 16. All of that build-up and that's how it ends for Ayo, Trent, and Da'Monte (and, in my opinion, likely Kofi as well).

I cannot believe it. It will probably take me a week. THAT'S how the story ends? It's like... I can't think of anything that it's like.

OK here's the first thing that came to mind. It's like a Hallmark Christmas movie that starts with a meet cute where he's the tow truck driver and she gets a flat tire just outside of Kringleville. They can't replace her tire for a week because of the big snowstorm so she has to stay at his mom's B&B for the week. She needs something to do so she gets involved in setting up the Christmas celebration for Kringleville. They grow closer and closer and she remembers what she forgot when she moved to the big city. BUT WAIT, her boyfriend who only cares about his career shows up and says "we were worried sick" and the tow truck driver walks up with his Christmas present for her and sees them hugging so he leaves. She breaks up with the boyfriend (but the tow truck driver doesn't know) and everyone in town wants those two kids to get together but he still thinks she got back with Career Man. Then, at the Christmas celebration, he finds out that she didn't leave with the boyfriend - she sent him home because she learned what she really wants in life. The sassy coffee shop woman points out that they're standing under the mistletoe. He leans over to kiss her while the children's choir is singing Silent Night and...

...she tells him she can't do this, she wants to be with Career Man, she goes back to New York to chase money and power with him. The end.

That's how this feels. All of that for THIS? You're telling me that all of these incredible stories - Ayo in a mask, the Giorgi and Kofi press conference, the players not seeing anyone outside a bubble of 30 people for the last eight months - all of that ends like THIS?

All of that ends like this.

It's that little souvenir
Of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside

While leaning into the melancholy on my way back with the food, I noticed that the final stanza was "of a colorful year", not "of a terrible year". So now I have to look up the song. There's no "Harriet Wheeler said that when they wrote the song the meaning was this" out there, at least not that I could find online, but it seems fairly obvious.

Like most all songs, it's about a relationship. There are regrets - specifically "I never should have said the books that you read were all I loved you for" - but she keeps speaking of this souvenir. And the souvenir has something to do with what, ahem, happened in the shed that made her turn red.

I did some digging and most believe that the song speaks of a child. It was a bad relationship, and it needed to end, and it was a terrible year, but she has a "souvenir" from that relationship which makes her smile. Maybe that's not the souvenir, and maybe that's not what happened in the shed, but it gives me a thought.

Here's where the story ends. Everything we enjoyed the last four months - all of the incredible moments in empty arenas with no fans - has come to an abrupt end. The next few weeks/months will be so painful. But perhaps something was born? Perhaps the little souvenir of this colorful year was the birth of a new era of Illini basketball?

I think I can eventually get my brain around that. This story? As painful as it is, this is how it ends: a 71-58 loss to the 8-seed in the Round of 32. If Michigan or Iowa makes a deep tournament run these next few weeks, the pain will only get worse and worse. The abrupt ending to this season will sting for a very long time.

But maybe this terrible year - no fans, quarantined team, Ayo's nose, R32 loss - will be remembered for one souvenir: the next era of Illini basketball. Maybe, with time, this changes from a "terrible year" to a "colorful year" - one that left us with the birth of the next generation.

For now, though... I honestly can't believe that this is how the story ends.


illinizeeman on March 22, 2021 @ 05:28 AM

My take: this team finally hit a wall. If you look at the human element of this team, the outcome was not surprising in the slightest.

Illiniboat on March 22, 2021 @ 06:16 AM

I've been trying to think of this like European soccer. Every season, there's multiple trophies to play for (B1G Regular Season, BTT, National Championship) and there's also other goals like making the tournament, having a winning record in B1G, winning rivalry games, etc. This team didn't get the ultimate goal for Illinois basketball, but they won a trophy and they made the tournament, two things an Illinois team hasn't done in ages.

IlliniJoe81 on March 22, 2021 @ 07:21 AM

Honestly, that loss made no sense. The only thing I can figure is that Ayo really wasn’t the same after his injury.

The only other variable was tournament experience. Loyola had been there. Illinois hadn’t. We tried to play to our strengths because you have to do that when you have two All-Americans. They blitzed both guys and the rest of the team had no answers.

The only other thought is that Loyola is a very good team. They have a path to the Final Four. Maybe they win it all. Maybe the story isn’t about us. We were the villain, the obstacle, in someone else’s story.

I’ve got nothing. Just baffled. Spring is here and I’ll always be grateful to this team for getting me through the winter of COVID.

Altgeld88 on March 22, 2021 @ 08:17 AM

Amen to that final sentence. Am grateful for what this team provided us this season and last. Onward and upward.

thumpasaurus on March 22, 2021 @ 02:43 PM

I've been saying this for a while now. I don't think Ayo was the same after his injury. It could be that he was never that comfortable with the mask or that there are still lingering after effects from the concussion that have affected his vision, balance and mood not enough to get him held out but just enough to make him less effective.

I really hope he gets some rest and gets fully healthy.

That being said, Illinois with not-100%-Ayo was good enough to make the Elite Eight. We ran into an Elite 8 caliber opponent in the second round, they imposed their gameplan on us and we could do nothing to stop it.

Illinir1 on March 22, 2021 @ 08:03 AM

I'll be stuck on "Of course this is how it ends. We're Illinois. We can't have anything nice." for quite awhile.

At the same time, I realize that we HAVE had something very nice for this basketball season. I appreciate everything that the players and staff have done and sacrificed for Illinois basketball. I know they are hurting way more than any of us fans. Thanks for all that you gave us Illinois basketball.

ATOillini on March 22, 2021 @ 08:27 AM

I have to get this out of the way. It is difficult to write, but it must acknowledged. Hats off to Loyola for an outstanding game plan which was executed to near perfection. There. I said it.

I admit to being somewhat shocked when I read the comments to you SOC post. There was quite a bit of casual dismissal of our opponent. I felt your concerns were valid (evidenced by my thoughts in that thread). We no doubt had a fantastic season. But fans often think that performances such as at Minnesota and at Michigan are who we really are and will be in the tourney. Watch highlights of those two games and you might conclude we were unstoppable. Somehow people forget something like our struggles against Northwestern which had lost 11 in a row (I think) prior to scaring us.

You have used the word "devastated" several times in the last 18 hours or so. That's not the right word for me. I watched Rutgers throw away a game they had won last night against a #2 seed. Rutgers basically did everything wrong the last 3 minutes. To quote the great Dennis Green...."We let them off the hook" has to be running through their minds.

Meanwhile, as stated by you and many others, Loyola was in control the entire game. When we had the ball I felt panic as the shot clock went below 15 seconds. Possession after possession it seemed we had no idea what to do. Contrast that with Loyola. When their shot clock dipped below 5 seconds, it seemed they knew exactly what to do (including getting us to foul).

I do have a couple questions that maybe Tyler could address. The double team of Ayo out high gave us fits the entire game. I didn't see any adjustment. Could we have done something different to negate the trouble it caused us? Similarly, on the other side of the ball, that wrap around screen that Loyola employs at the side of the free throw line was lethal in its efficiency. We never stopped it. It always felt like we were playing catch up. Could we have zoned or something else?

I apologize for the length of my comments here. Put it in the "getting it off my chest" category. So thanks.

The two songs you've referenced in these last two posts are certainly appropriate. At 10:30 last night I was compelled to listen to Farther to Fall from your SOC post. When I pulled it up on Spotify, I almost fell off the sofa when I looked at the album cover. Care to guess the title of the album?

"Home Again".....

kkflex on March 22, 2021 @ 11:15 AM

I have the same feelings reading this....especially the questions for Tyler. They made us look so pedestrian. I can understand the "sticking to what got you here" coaching mentality but at some point you have to throw in the towel and admit its not working and at least try something else, right? Just me? It was a methodical, slow, painful death by 1000 cuts and we just kept doing the same thing over and over and over.....

NC_OrangeKrush on March 22, 2021 @ 11:59 AM

I too expected some changes and with 10 minutes left still hopeful the engine would start. Tyler or others discussed higher screening for instance...

There might have been changes.. We also missed a lot of close layups that may have made a difference.. So if those go in, were there adjustments?

Intensity was missing... We were looking to see and adjust to their punch.. VS taking it to them like at Michigan...

kkflex on March 22, 2021 @ 12:13 PM

Don't get me wrong, I like Underwood and absolutely love that he has us back to relevance. That being said, I do believe that if we somehow would have won (layups go in, etc) that game, then most of us would have the opinion that we did so in spite of not making the necessary adjustments. Defensively as well as offensively. I could be wrong, but I'm thinking we'd be reading alot of "Whew, close call there. Lets get that fixed before we hit the elite 8" type comments. I can almost picture the 5000 word back and forth article on this very site!

Love this team and it was a bright spot in an otherwise shitty 12 months. I'm looking forward to more years like this going forward and hoping that in future years the intensity will match the talent.

Walkon on March 22, 2021 @ 12:14 PM

I’m not sure I have the stomach for a Rewind post from this game - maybe in a month! ?? That said, I was as mystified by the lack of adjustments as well - especially out of halftime. They were killing us on the pinch post and with aggressive trapping of high ball screens- things we used to run!!

I thought we should have brought a wing to the high middle to give Ayo an outlet pass. Trapping with Krutwig often left a guard on Kofi but Ayo was too strung out to get him the ball. A quick pass to the middle would have then allowed for a quick post feed or a pass to the weak corner which was also open.

On defense I think Kofi should have played tighter up on Krutwig. I know drop coverage is our thing and doing that would pull him away from the rim, but he controlled the game from the pinch and I thought we should have done more to disrupt that.

ATOillini on March 22, 2021 @ 04:59 PM

Thanks much for your thoughts Tyler. Greatly appreciated.

FatButcher45 on March 23, 2021 @ 07:29 PM

My thought was they kept running the guard off a double screen on the wing to curl around Krutwig, and we trailed it every time. Could we have shut that down by switching so are no longer trailing before they get to Krutwig? Failing that, go under and live with the 3 a bit as opposed to the layup drill they were running.

neale stoner on March 22, 2021 @ 08:35 AM

Kringleville was beautiful. First chuckle since the game ended.

Altgeld88 on March 22, 2021 @ 08:36 AM

Beautifully said. The debut album of The Sundays defines Fall 1990 for me, when I finally left Champaign after six years. I'd finished grad school in August and, after six weeks out west I returned home for three months before going to work. I visited campus three times that fall to see football games (it was a good season) and a dear friend put me onto that album in early October. I listened to it incessantly, and still dial it up occasionally 30 years later.

As you note, Here's Where the Story Ends seems to be about moving on and gratitude for what we've experienced. It reminds me of that fall. Of sitting in the west balcony as Doug Higgins hit his fifth FG of the day to beat MSU as the golden sunlight bathed Memorial Stadium. Of brilliant maple trees on the Quad. Of finally being at leisure to truly enjoy campus in autumn without the stress of classes on my back. Of a crystal clear Sunday at Allerton, driving through the cornfields ready for harvest. Of the stubble in those fields come November. Of hitting the entrance ramp onto I-74 off Springfield one final time and heading east to begin real life.

Lots of metaphors for the Illini and our fans here in that song. I'm grateful beyond words for what this team provided us during this truly terrible year. Remember, however, that Here's Where the Story Ends is the opening track on the album. Lots of other stories follow, of sorrow and triumph.

The final track is the ethereal, soaring Joy. After the sorrow subsides, lets focus on that. The foundation is there. I choose to believe that this is the beginning of many future triumphs.

Oskeegirl on March 22, 2021 @ 08:43 AM

Just, thanks for always putting my thoughts and feelings into words. I knew it was coming. I just knew. And I’m so disappointed. But it’s been a great ride that helped me survive a pandemic winter. So I’m grateful.

IlliNYC on March 22, 2021 @ 09:04 AM

I was scared of this game/matchup, but truly believe if it came in the next round we win. All season, this team for one reason or another didn't play very well with success--I was, of course, hoping we'd come out of halftime with some adjustments and fire, but looked tired and, even, lifeless. It was just so out of character with the end of the season that it's hard to understand. I guess that's just what it looks like when a team is beating you and out-scheming you.

It has seemed that this team always performed best when nobody believed in them or they felt slighted. Maybe winning the BTT, passing Michigan, getting the one seed, being a hot championship pick, being ranked #2, and finally reaching the goal of making the tournament took some of the fire away? Maybe being in Indy for 2 weeks took a toll. It's been a long year--I thought I saw a tweet from Coleman-Hawkins' Dad that he hasn't seen his son in a year. Seeing all these upsets may mean it's just a crazy year and we just had some bad luck and a bad match-up.

This team provided a lot of joy for me this dark winter and I'll always be thankful to them for that. on March 22, 2021 @ 09:45 AM

I feel like Charlie Brown with the football being snatched away again and again. Of course I will keep believing that some day that ball is going to soar like... I can’t even imagine what that would be like.

BriCrozier on March 22, 2021 @ 12:25 PM

In this COVID year, we can only go by what we see on the broadcasts, but the two things that always will bother me is that Illinois looked tired and Illinois made no adjustments. I hate saying it so harshly, but I think we can pin both those things (And thus this loss) on Brad Underwood. Remember: He had almost all of the starters still in with TWO MINUTES LEFT in the first-round game when the Illini were up by almost 30. Underwood could easily have put in all of the reserves at the 5:00 mark, but elected not to. On the second point, I saw a stat somewhere saying that all of the losses for Illinois this season came against teams that entered that particular game 150th or slower nationally in pace of play. Of course, Loyola is a very slow-pace team. I'm not saying Illinois needed to come out and run a hard full-court press from the opening tip, but at the very least I would have started out with an extended man-to-man picking up at around three-quarter court and make Loyola use energy/effort in the back-court bringing up the ball. Get them out of their comfort zone at least a little bit from the start of the game. For a coaching staff supposedly building this program from the ground up analytically, not forcing a quicker pace against a team that loves to play slow was a glaring error in the original game-plan, and it is almost impossible to understand why there was no adjustment to a more aggressive press/trap defense as the game continued. Finally, near the end of the game, there was a "press" but even that was half-hearted with only one trap. Most coaches in that spot will try to trap twice as the goal is to try to make the offensive team throw at least three passes in the back-court. The more passes thrown, the higher a chance of a bad pass that either ends up out of bounds or in the defense's hands.

The Olaf Rules on March 22, 2021 @ 12:41 PM

Our head coach doesn’t have much more tournament experience than our players, and it showed. They’ll all get better. If next year’s roster is as good as it can be with the rumored transfers, I think Illini basketball is back and sustainable.

HNLINI on March 22, 2021 @ 03:07 PM

Thanks for great coverage of a great chapter in Illinois basketball. Though the chapter ended on a down note, the progress made over the past four years is both tangible and sustainable, and good things are ahead for the program.

If this season had come off of years of sustained success, than the finish would be much more devastating. The reality is, that we are a relatively "new" kid returning to the national stage, and the process has us trending in the right direction towards long term relevance and realistic annual chances at winning a national championship.

Nearly all of the teams winning in the tournament are heavily flawed (like ours) -- its a matter of getting hot at the right time, and of having ample time, energy and basketball IQ to switch to combat the unusual offensive and defensive schemes that they may be seeing for the first time in a given year in the tourney. That is why the Loyola's and Syracuse's of the world sometimes struggle within their conferences (who see their offenses/defenses all of the time), but tend to do better in the Big Dance. Its why Illinois playing on the ball up the line can pull the upset at MSU while losing dozens of games, but also why Illinois playing pack line defense can win most of its games (how many times did we used to hear opposing B1G coaches say that "Illinois scheme is so hard to prepare for" - nobody says that now - now they say "Illinois' talent is so hard to prepare for."). Loyola outplayed us, and deserved to win, but its clear that we weren't adequately prepared to execute defensively against their offense, and offensively against their defense.

It will be interesting to see how many of these high seeded teams struggle in the Sweet 16, as their opponents have more time to prepare, and if the "hot" teams like Oregon State and Oral Roberts can stay "hot."

HNLINI on March 22, 2021 @ 03:13 PM

Meant "on the line, up the line", not "on the ball, up the line".

MinnIllini on March 22, 2021 @ 03:55 PM

Most devastating loss since 1989 FF

IlliniJedi on March 22, 2021 @ 05:39 PM

The way I cope with loses is the manner in which the Illini lose. In games like this one where the run never materializes, no matter the stakes, it is easier for me to accept. Where the lose is robbed from us by a Luther 3 that doesn't go down or the refs letting a smug brat steam roll us and foul Augie out in the process. I'm still angry about it. We should already have National Title and not have to pin our hopes on a team that have never danced before.

danny on March 22, 2021 @ 06:21 PM

After seeing Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan State lose to equal or lesser seeds the first weekend, I feel the Big 10 highly compressed schedule of games - 6 games in 13 days followed by 3 games in 3 days (4 in 4 for Ohio State) in the Big Ten took its toll on these Big 10 teams this weekend. They were physically and mentally exhausted. They looked a bit slow. I don’t think it’s coincidence they all lost. Of all these teams, the Illini have a championship to show for it!! on March 22, 2021 @ 06:35 PM

Painful, but not the most devastating... That would be Austin Peay... I'm thankful for the wins, the BTT, and getting back to the dance in this our winter of discontent... on March 22, 2021 @ 08:51 PM

Shock, devastation and disappointment but you’re right- if this is the rebirth of a top ten program that gets 1-4 seeds every year again and can have elite teams than like some of these programs (Villanova, etc) the positive variances will cancel the negative ones and well punch through...maybe even some year as a higher seed. Hopefully it’s a new foundation with Miller and Belo. Hopefully Kofi returns to work on passing, jumpshot and perimeter D and hopefully this was the team the revived a program for the 2020s. That will be the hope that gets me through the hurt for now. Thanks for covering a great season. I’ll go back and watch my DVR of us dominating mich, iowa, OSU, minn, wisc, and others in the off-season!!! Thanks again Ayo, Trent, Kofi and others. Thanks Robert and Tyler!

DWAIL on March 22, 2021 @ 09:09 PM

I just don’t understand the lack of adjustment by Illinois on both defense and offense during the game. With Kofi playing a middle to low box zone on defense it was like 5 vs. 4 when Loyola was in their single high post offense. Also, Illinois’ repeated inability to handle the double teams on Ayo when he had the ball mystifies me. I recall that during his post-game comments Brad said they tried everything for adjustments but nothing worked. I’m hoping I just didn’t notice those adjustments because I did not see any other than a soft press on defense near the end of the game when it was too late. Tyler, it would be so great for the fan base if you could please educate us on what adjustments Illinois made and why they did not work.

eczerwonka on March 22, 2021 @ 11:34 PM

I won't comment on the game, smarter people than myself will go on and on about it, I just want to say how much I "enjoyed" this article. It was a well executed punch in the gut. The references, the emotion... hearing the song in my head as I read the article, literally on the edge of tears even today was both beautiful and cathartic. THIS was the the year, and it didn't happen. Years of pent up fandom sadness brought out by one article. I loved and hated it. I vividly remember going nuts in my barracks in 89, going nuts in my new apartment in 2005 and yesterday just shutting off the TV and calmly taking the dog for a really long walk to silently freak out. This was the year. Thanks for the article :)

EastSide105 on March 23, 2021 @ 08:03 AM

We should have passed the ball quickly and back-door cut all day. Our staff should have known this because Loyola's overplaying defense is similar to what we used during Underwood's first year! The team that will be Loyola will attack, attack, attack. Instead, we let them set-up into their defense and tried to dribble through doubles all day long. No adjustments. No apparent game plan for Loyola. What a shame.

AGig21 on March 23, 2021 @ 12:50 PM

I've been defending our coaches and team to a couple of friends. There is always going to be the debate of is it the coach or is it the talent that gets a team thru tough situations (Coach K, Cal and Izzo are the best to explore in depth on that issue in my opinion).

Sometimes you can explain and explain over and over to your players (kids, spouse, yourself, clients you pick) and they just don’t get it or just can’t execute it the way you hope. Maybe it’s miscommunication on the coach and/or it’s the players not understanding or not capable of mentally and/or physically pulling it off at or during a particular moment.

Loyola did not have to do any prep prior to our game, they played the way they did all year. No change just a different team (albeit a far more talented team then they were used to). We were the ones who basically had to be able to change our entire offense and defense overnight. I can't help but think if the team were allowed to return to Champaign after the big ten tourney they would have spent the majority of the week prepping for Loyola. We didn't need nearly the prep (if any) facing Drexel or if we had faced G Tech; we are used to those offense and defensive schemes. Obvisouly after a loss like this as fans we want to question so many things and bring up so many what if scenarios. However, let's not forget in pretty much the last 30-45 days Illinois beat Iowa twice, Wisconsin twice, at MU, at OSU and was a cheap, intentional foul away from winning at MSU. The future will continue to be bright for us. Of course as I re-read this prior to posting and looking at the sweet 16 teams, maybe that wasn't such a tough and impressive run....

FatButcher45 on March 23, 2021 @ 07:36 PM

First and foremost disappointed for the players, they put it all on the floor through a very difficult year and provided a sliver of joy in a terrible year.

I also was struck by how sad it was to see them slapping the floor on "D" and feeling like the lack of change to our approach meant that they were doomed to fail no matter how gritty or locked in they attempted to be.

I hope this doesn't serve as a blueprint to beat our drop defense approach for next year too. OSU had a field day using Walker and Washington in similar action, Loyola took it to another level by not using standard pnr action but letting Krutwig initiate from the pinch post.

Here's to hoping its only a blueprint if you have a big as skilled as Krutwig!

iluvrt on March 24, 2021 @ 06:30 PM

Wait until next year

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