Oct. 26 Illini volleyball/women's hoops chat

Oct. 26 Illini volleyball/women's hoops chat

Friday, October 26, 2012 - 11:00am

Beat writer Jeff Huth's got an idea about Illinois making the NCAA tournament — in volleyball or women's basketball. Ask him about it — or anything else on your mind — during Friday's 11 a.m. chat. Submit questions any time.


Jeff Huth wrote on October 26, 2012 at 10:10 am
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Welcome to our weekly chat on Illini volleyball. We'll also take any questions/comments on women's volleyball, which was recently added to my list of coverage beats.

The Illini volleyball team visits Wisconsin tonight to open the second half of its Big Ten schedule. Then its on to Minneapolis for a match on Sunday against No. 10 Minnesota.

We'll get started with the chat in a few minutes.

-- Jeff Huth

Jeanette wrote on October 26, 2012 at 11:10 am


Why would NCAA invite Illinois to the tournament? Wouldn't there be better teams or many teams with better records available? Illinois is in what place now in the Big Ten?

Jeff Huth wrote on October 26, 2012 at 11:10 am
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The question you posed is the major storyline for Illinois for the rest of the regular season: Will the Illini get into the tournament?

Illinois enters tonight's match at Wisconsin with a 10-10 record, including 4-6 in the Big Ten.  The Illini are tied for sixth in the conference.

Under NCAA rules, any team that finishes the regular season with at least a .500 record is eligible for consideration for an at-large berth

(unless it wins its conference tournament, in which case even a sub-.500 record would not exclude that school since it would then be the league's NCAA tournament automatic qualifier;  the Big Ten is among the conferences that do not hold a league tournament to decide its automatic qualifier).

NCAA rules aside, would Illinois earn an at-large bid with a 15-15 regular season record? It seems highly unlikely unless that win total includes some highly impressive wins the rest of the way. For example, if Illinois were to defeat Minnesota on Sunday and No. 1 Penn State on Nov. 8 -- both matches are on the road -- I think the NCAA tournament selection committee's view of Illinois becomes much more favorable. Of course, if the Illini can knock off the Gophers and the Nittany Lions, chances are their final regular season record isn't merely 15-15.

I looked up last year's NCAA tournament field, and the at-large selections with the most modest records were Baylor at 18-14 and Ohio State at 19-14. I haven't asked Kevin Hambly about this lately, but a while back he indicated that for Illinois to have a shot at an at-large bid, he thought his team needed at least 17 wins.



Billibob wrote on October 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

Hi Jeff,

Obviously if the team can win two on the road, Coach Hambly will stay with Viliunas; but what if they lose two?  Will he consider going back to Luhrsen.

The Nebraska match was pretty disappointing.  Too many hitting errors for us and too many solid blocks for them.  Replacing their setter with an extra blocker in some rotations really worked.  Has Nebraska done this previously, or was this a special wrinkle they created for Illinois?

Lex needs to set the middles more consistently to keep the blockers guessing.  Did Coach say anything else about what he was hoping for from her this weekend?

Jeff Huth wrote on October 26, 2012 at 11:10 am
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I think the only way that Kevin Hambly changes starting setters a second time is if things completely fall apart offensively over the next couple of weeks. And even then, with Viliunas certain to be Illinois' No. 1 setter next season, you could make the argument that it makes sense to ride this out since it furthers Viliunas' development for the future.

I wouldn't panic on Viliunas based on one poor performance against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have made a lot of opposing attacks look bad this season. And there was plenty of blame to spread around. When Nebraska servers often targeted Viliunas, it forced other Illini players to set the ball. They struggled with that.

During practice this week, I suspect a special emphasis was placed on shoring up second contacts by non-setters as well as on getting Viliunas to be more aggressive in feeding the ball to her middle blockers (against Nebraska, Erin Johnson and Anna Dorn combined for only 19 of Illinois' 116 swings).

I don't know enough about how Nebraska has operated this season to say whether what they did with their setter was new or had been done previously. Regardless, it was highly effective. When the Cornhuskers went to a 6-2 attack at times, right-side hitter Morgan Broekhuis served as the setter. Although she's 6-foot-5, the versatile and athletic Broekhuis more than was up to the challenge of running the offense. It was an impressive sight.

Jeff Huth wrote on October 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm
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We'll wrap up this week's chat now. Talk to you next week.

-- Jeff Huth