Up To Speed - 3-24-22
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Still not OK. This entire day has been one big "we should all be in San Antonio." Football practice has helped - something to do - but I'm still not OK. Tyler and I are recording another therapy session tonight (just like last year) and all I can think is that I can't believe we have to record a therapy session again. In case you're wondering, I still hate everything.
But things are happening all around despite my desire to hide in the closet. So I need to get caught up. And when I need to get caught up, I write an Up To Speed post.
These Were The Brighter Days
This is where I'm stuck. I just got a text from Brandon Indianapolis and it helped me frame all of this in my head.
That's not his real name. I met Brandon and his friends at the Drexel game last March and then we met up later to go to the West Virginia/Morehead State game because they had two extra tickets. After that weekend I saved his number in my phone as Brandon Indianapolis because when I don't know someone's last name I usually just put their first name plus how I know them. So if you're ever looking through my contacts and you see some weird names, that's why. Except for Candy S. Bullet. That's just my cousin Candy.
(Sometimes I'll take a joke and walk it right to the edge, just for shock value. Love using shock value. But this is one of those jokes where I'll probably wake up in the middle of the night feeling awful about it and then go delete it.)
Anyway, Brandon Indianapolis responded to my depression text with "brighter days ahead - at least that's what I keep telling myself" and that helped me see why these two R32 losses will stick with me for a long time. I spent 10 years longing for brighter days. Then the brighter days arrived. And we won a Big Ten Tournament title and a Big Ten regular season title. And then we lost to Loyola one year and Houston the next.
Which is what we'll always remember about this era, unfortunately. In 2035, when we talk about the three-year run from 2020 to 2022, it's "one year the Tournament was canceled by a pandemic and the next two years we lost in the second round." I'm sure I'll find a way to settle on "we were playing so well at the end of the 2020 season that I feel like that would have been the year we made a run to the Elite Eight", but the harsh reality is that the Trent-Ayo-Kofi era ended without a Sweet 16.
(Yes, I know that Kofi could come back. He could actually play two more seasons if he wanted. Until that happens, though, I'm going with the Senior Night we just saw a few weekends ago. The entire starting lineup walked on Senior Night, and when the entire starting lineup walks on Senior Night, next year is a rebuild until proven otherwise. I think we can draw an "era" line after 2022.)
As time rolls on, I'm sure I'll also cling to the 2021 BTT title and the 2022 regular season title. The 1987 Illini team - the one I scream about from time to time as being the forgotten incredible Illini team - did not win the Big Ten (finished 4th, actually). That team still got a 3-seed (because the Big Ten was so strong that year), but it continued our streak of not winning a Big Ten title. Two losses in mid-February - one at Iowa, one at home to Purdue - cost us the conference title. And that streak continued even through 1989 with an Illini team that got a 1-seed and made it to the Final Four but couldn't win the Big Ten. So I fully understand and acknowledge that adding 2022 to the Big Ten title banner (ending this awful 17-year streak) is a really big deal. This era doesn't end completely empty-handed.
Still, the one thing we'll mention is Loyola + Houston. Lost as a 1-seed, lost as a 4-seed. First team All American in 2021, first-team All American in 2022, didn't get out of the first weekend either year. It just... is.
And it will have me depressed for a very long time. It all feels so empty.
Aidan And Kaden
I'll have the Kaden Feagin LLUOI written by October, but first, let me just say this. It's a little crazy that East Central Illinois produced back-to-back ATH recruits like Aidan Laughery and Kaden Feagin. It's been a long time since that happened.
There have been other recruits from central Illinois. On the current roster, tight End Griffin Moore is from Bloomington, and both OT Julian Pearl and PK Caleb Griffin are from Danville. But using 247 Composite, Laughery has a Composite score of .8714 and Feagin currently has a Composite score of .9115. The last East Central Illinois recruit with a ranking like that would be... Mikel LeShoure maybe? I need to look this up.
Here's the area I'm looking at. I put a star on Laughery's high school in Gibson City and a star on Feagin's high school in Arthur:
So if we draw a circle around Champaign - just enough to grab Bloomington, Decatur, and Danville - then let's find the last high three-star or 4-star recruit in that area. We'll use .8700 in the Composite rankings as the bar needed to be cleared to meet "high three star" (like Laughery).
Would you believe that the answer really is Mikel LeShoure (Champaign Centennial) and John Wienke (Tuscola) in 2008? There was Hunter Woodard in Tuscola in 2018 (Oklahoma State), but he was a mid 3-star (.85xx), ranked 16th-best in the state. JJ Guedet in Washington, IL was above .87xx in 2019, but that's outside the hour-from-campus range I'm talking about here. Same with Rashad Rochelle at Springfield last year (he picked Rutgers). And, I guess, Kendrick Green (Peoria) in 2017. Trent Sherfield (Danville) was inside the hour-from-campus circle and very close to making the cut in 2014 (ranking was .8649), but if we're looking for recruits above .87xx within an hour of campus, here's the full list the last 15 years:
2008 - RB Mikel Leshoure (Champaign Centennial) - picked Illinois
2008 - QB John Wienke (Tuscola) - picked Iowa
2022 - ATH Aidan Laughery (Gibson City) - picked Illinois
2023 - ATH Kaden Feagin (Arthur) - picked Illinois
Might not be another one for 10-15 years. Really glad we landed these two.
I can hardly stand Twitter today. I follow too many national college basketball writers. And their glee is just destroying me.
I mean, I get the glee at the first two rounds of the Tournament. Always a chance for a Kentucky-St. Peters. There will almost always be right-down-to-the-wire games after right-down-to-the-wire games. I understand loving the NCAA Tournament for the NCAA Tournament on the first weekend.
But the second weekend? I hate everyone. How can any human person get excited about this graphic?
3 of the top 4 winningest men's programs in CBB history are in the Sweet Sixteen!— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 22, 2022
Whose win total surprises you? pic.twitter.com/cW8W4DUQk6
I'll just never understand cheering for a college sport. I understand the "spectacle" of sports - that crazy NFL playoff weekend in January, the World Cup - but when it comes to something like college sports, I'll never understand. These are teams tied in closely with their students and alumni. A fandom that goes a bit beyond "I moved to Cincinnati in 1992 so I'm a Cincinnati Bengals fan".
I live in that space. I visited almost every Big Ten campus this year. I wear Illini gear around town every single day (not a joke - every single day). My life - from the place where I live to what I do for a living to the University which issued my diploma - is steeped in ILL-INI.
So when I get a tweet from some national writer saying "Nova-Michigan AND Zona-Houston AND Coach K tonight - pinch me" I want to punch, not pinch. I know that not everyone lives their team like this, but still, I just can't wrap my head around being excited to see Coach K coach another game tonight. And don't get me started on the glee surrounding UCLA-UNC. People are actually celebrating that two blue-bloods made it this far when both might have been out by now.
As a result, I think I've been on Twitter like three times this week. I know I could un-follow or mute, but then I'd need to re-follow or un-mute so I can get college basketball news this summer. The better choice, I think, is to just keep Twitter closed.
And be nowhere near a TV showing college basketball the next two weekends.