Up To Speed - 3-24-22


Robert
Mar 24, 2022
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14 Comments

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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.

Tweet 16

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?

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.

Comments

IlliniJoe81 on March 24, 2022 @ 06:37 PM

I think Kofi is back next year and we take another run at it.

HNLINI on March 24, 2022 @ 08:56 PM

So. . . Michigan made it one more game in the tourney than Illinois (and no further than they made it last year), but Illinois has the B1G Regular Season Championship -- of forced to choose, which season would you rather have?

Winning programs don't rebuild, they reload. We will soon find out if Illinois has returned to winning program status - we replaced two starters and a key bench player (Giorgi) this year, and will need to replace three to five starters (Plummer, Trent, DMFW and likely Kofi/Grandison) next year. We have four high major capable, game tested (episodically but not yet consistently) players potentially coming back in Curbelo, Hawkins, Melendez and Goode, and other potential returning pieces in Dainja, Payne, BBV, and Podz. Grandison, Kofi and Hutcherson are status question marks (two highly proven and eligible, but returning or not tbd; one snake bitten by injuries); while Lieb if likely still a year or two away.

Kofi is the key -- if he comes back, far less of a reload than if he leaves, due in most part to his impact on the style of defense and offense that we play.

1978fan on March 24, 2022 @ 10:47 PM

I’m not convinced that Kofi is a lottery pick again this year. I think he really needs to have a shot outside 3 feet, along with a 70%+ FT avg. Does anyone know where to look to find if the $1,000,000 I was told he made from merchandising is correct or not?

Also, can someone please explain again the transfer portal…need a guard, go to the portal, need two guards, same portal. Need a forward, same portal. Running Back, hey, check out the portal. I’m not sure I like this portal stuff.

GO ILLINI!!

GilThorpe on March 25, 2022 @ 03:55 PM

Kofi will likely not be a first round pick and he may very well not be a 2nd round pick . He’s not ready for todays NBA. He would be ready for the NBA of the 90’s, but not today .

He either has to play another year in college to hopefully further advance his skills or maybe play in Europe .

Here’s hoping he stays in C-U

ATOillini on March 24, 2022 @ 10:57 PM

Yep…..My annual March schadenfreude ritual. Michigan lost! Yeah, I hate them. Gonzaga lost! Yeah, they’ve been too successful even though I respect the program. But wait, what is Arkansas doing in the Elite 8? Etc. Etc. Pretty much a no win situation.

1972 was the first year IHSA went to two classes for basketball. My high school, one of the two stars you have on the map, made it to the Assembly Hall in the lower class….Class A. We had the leading scorer in the state. We knew it was our destiny to win. Not so fast my friend. Lost on Friday night Elite 8 last few seconds. I was a 14 year old freshman. Remember just sitting in the stands….stunned. 50 years later…..

1978fan on March 25, 2022 @ 08:10 AM

Small world, I was a junior and on the JV and didn’t get called up for the state team that beat yours. Lancers ended up finishing 3rd in state. I remember a quote from one of our guards the first time they stepped foot on the court at the Assembly Hall, “Boy, this place would hold a lot of straw”! They just had a reunion for that team, amazing thing is, only our coach and starting center are no longer with us.

IlliniMan91 on March 24, 2022 @ 10:57 PM

I also don’t plan on watching any remaining ncaa tournament games. I just can’t bring myself do it. Although I may turn on the last 5 minutes of national championship in case a Kris Jenkins moment happens, just cause as a sports fan I probably shouldn’t miss that.

This reminds of a couple months ago I made a frozen supreme pizza and when taking it out of the oven, It slipped out of my oven mitt and I dropped it on the floor (toppings side down). It was a mess and totally ruined - And for whatever reason I didn’t even make anything else for dinner that night. I just threw it out and left the kitchen. So yea, I just need to leave the kitchen here. The ncaa Tourney or “dinner” for me is over. Watching Duke/Texas Tech just doesn’t do it for me - our team isn’t impacted and that’s that. We do have Lots to look forward to though… Here is to hoping we have Brighter days ahead…

larue on March 24, 2022 @ 11:09 PM

I've been watching the tournament all evening and loving it. Looks like TT is going to fall just short of taking out Duke, but it's been a fantastic game. I don't quite get fans who don't want to watch great basketball played, but to each their own.

BelieveInIllinois on March 24, 2022 @ 11:20 PM

Robert, time to get over loss. I have loved the Illini since 1976. But I think Underwood is not that good of an in-game coach. I dont see adjustments. He is similar to Lou Henson in that regard. Both are great coaches in virtually every other facet. But the fact is we will have alot of losses like this post season. And maybe a couple of years we will do better. Once I accepted that, I could get on with my life.

uilaw71 on March 25, 2022 @ 07:05 AM

Turns out Houston is pretty darn good, much as we might wish otherwise.

twinter04 on March 25, 2022 @ 07:07 AM

Give it up Robert. We had a great season and this “era” is just getting started.

ktcesw on March 25, 2022 @ 08:30 AM

I would love to see Kofi apply for the draft, play in the G League, or play in Europe. He will get much better by doing that. The inside level of play is much higher. There is no guarantee that he will be used any differently by staying at Illinois. BU has no reason to allow him to stand outside and shoot a bunch of 16 to 18 footers. He needs to do what is best for himself. The NIL money only counts if he wasn't getting a paycheck for playing professionally. The only way that he will truly learn what he needs to do to play at that level is to, play at that level. Illinois might lose an All-American but, that is why we recruit.

Dix on March 25, 2022 @ 09:40 AM

I agree. I know there’s a “imagine not wanting Kofi back for another year” crowd. I would be happy if he came back because he wanted to cement his legacy and truly loves this place as much as we do (a la Trent and Ayo). Less thrilled about a money grab.

And I do think in some ways it’s time for both parties to move on. I think we’ve reached the ceiling of what we can do with a Kofi-led Illini, and maybe it’s time to get some other bigs some PT, open up the lane, and play the style of basketball I believe Brad wants to play. I also think it’s a way for us to truly see what we have in Brad. Is he a Greg Gard who is going to have us there year in and year out regardless of personnel, or was this largely having a generational talent on the floor?

illinois81 on March 25, 2022 @ 11:43 AM

Houston beating #1 seed Arizona took some of the sting out of losing to Houston in the Round of 32. Loyola Chicago stepping up to be the beloved last year then rolling over in the next game made the loss to them even worse. Take the good where you can find it.

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