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Ask beat writer Marcus Jackson about the Missouri game, the Auburn game and where Illinois stacks up in Big Ten play. He's chatting on Thursday this week, but submit questions any time.
Good afternoon, welcome to another Illinois basketball chat. Hope every is enjoying a great holiday season so far. I'm sure you all would have enjoyed it more coming off a win in St. Louis, but you're rooting for a Top-15 team that's 12-1. It could be worse.
Just got off a teleconference with John Groce. The Illini return to practice this afternoon. Sam McLaurin and Ibby Djimde got back in town late last night. Devin Langford will return from Alabama today and Joseph Bertrand will rejoin the team today. He's a little under the weather. Everyone else got back into town late last night.
Ready for questions, fire away.
Do you know of any way to get tickets in Champaign for the Auburn game?
Your best bet for tickets to the game is through TicketMaster. Here's a direct link to tickets for Saturday's game.
There are still plenty available, mostly in the 300 level.
After Missouri ran away with the game at the end last Saturday, is the confidence of this team shaken and will they start playing not to lose and with less of an edge? I'm worried they may let up more when they play Auburn and then get into the Big Ten season. Missouri showed us our guards aren't fast or dogged enough to guard fast guards and that our Bigs can't guard tall athletic bigs like Missouri's Oriakhi and Bowers who together had a field day inside 36pt/24rb. Griffey was totally embarrased defensively against Bowers and Sam didn't do much better.
Looks like Bruce Weber's recruiting is going to hurt us for years to come still. Weber left us with a complete lack of genuine top point guards and defensive competitive big men. Still believe Egwu who is very green will come around eventually and be a force (probably next year) but Griffey, Shaw and Djimde are clearly unable to compete and defend at a high D-1 level.
I see nothing that leads me to believe this team will show any lingering affects from Saturday's loss. I thought they played with as much of an edge as I've seen this season. They played hard. It came down to them not making shots and Phil Pressey, one of the best point guards in the country, making big plays down the stretch.
There might be one or two teams in the Big Ten with a frontcourt duo like Oriakhi and Bowers. Missouri is a Top-10 team for a reason and Illinois was within a couple of made shots from having a chance to win in the final minute. I wouldn't press thepanic button just yet.
The one thing that was most troubling was the transition defense. Missouri got a lot of buckets in transition. If that doesn't get cleaned up, then it would be OK to worry some.
Will this chat happen?
Anyway, what's next on the Illini Agenda?
Who is this Villanova transfer? Does he play point? And how do they make room for him when they don't have room as it is? Will he play in January, 2014?
Is Groce to guards like what Kenny Williams used to say about pitching: whenever you think you have enough, get another pitcher.
It's happening. I think I was on time, maybe a minute or two early.
Next on the agenda? Most of the team returned to Champaign last night. They met. They're practicing as we speak and will likely have another workout later. Practice tomorrow then board a bus for Chicago.
Ty Johnson is the Villanova transfer. He is a point guard. He is going to South Carolina.
Yes, Groce likes point guards and if there are quality ones available who he thinks can help the program, he will go after them. They're looking for PGs.
Marcus...it has likely been asked but I have not seen the answer. I recently saw that the Illini were looking to add one more player to the 2014 class to join Finke. With the current scholarship grid showing no slots, please explain to me how that can happen. I cannot imagine that the Illini want to get into the habit of jerking a scholarship from a player in the program. That is a precedent that is both dangerous and unethical, regardless of who does it. It leaves me wondering. Thanks.
They are looking. No one knows for sure at this point how a slot will open up, but they usually do. A player or two might decide at the end of the season that their careers might better served somewhere else. We'll see how the rest of the season plays out.
Don't think you'll see what folks are terming "Creaning" with these guys. Whatever route they choose will be best for all involved.
MJ - When did the guys get back to practice after the holiday break and how do you see the game against Auburn this Saturday shaping up? Thank you very much
Most of them got back last night, they'll be back at full strength today for practice.
Auburn isn't very good. The Tigers are 5-6 with losses to Murray State, Dayton, Boston College, Rhode Island, DePaul and Winthrop. They've beaten Grambling, IPFW, College of Charleston, Furman and Tennessee Tech.
They rebound well and that's concerning considering theIllini just got hammered on the boards against Missouri but they've been outrebounded five times this season and only have one loss.
I expect this is a game where Illinois gets back on track with a much-needed easy win in Chicago heading into the Big Ten opener at Purdue next week.
The 3 ball wasn't going in for us and I saw that the guards were driving it to the rim more shouldn't they be doing that first instead of trying to hit so many 3s?
I asked Groce after the Missouri game if he was concerned about the poor outside shooting of late (they're 20 for 78 in the last three games) and he's not. He said they'll focus more on taking good threes. D.J. Richardson was 1 for 9 from long range and Groce said six of them were good looks. They just weren't falling.
They've got good shooters and they're going to continue shooting the three. I think they should look to get to the rim more and if the shots aren't falling, you'll see more of that. Brandon Paul can get to the basket whenever he wants. he did it frequently Saturday and shot 14 free throws.
But, shooting is their strength. They're cold right now, it'll come back, but they need to find other ways to manufacture points.
Has the Basketball team started to slow down the pace of the game recently? I've been expecting them to get out fast off a rebound or get the ball in quick on a made basket but it doesn't seem that way. Has the game plan changed or are the players tired?
I don't think they're trying to slow things down. Part of the problem with getting the ball and pushing it up the floor is they didn't rebound it at a high enough rate to be able to push the tempo. Missouri had 22 offensive rebounds. That limits opportunities. The game plan is the same, but everything has to fall in place.
They took 74 shots against Missouri, that equals their season high.
Hey Marcus: Happy Holidays to you and yours! I'm wondering just how bad Mike Shaw and Ibby really are when they can't even help us a little bit when we are getting just pounded on the glass. Do you think that either will ever be able to help out when we face MSU, OSU, Minny, and some of the other beasts in the Big Ten? Egwu and Tyler will be pretty worn down if they don't get any help, don't you think?
Thanks, same to you.
I think Mike Shaw is closer than Ibby and you'll probably see him a little more once Big Ten play gets going. But, as Groce has said over and over, "Players play players" so he must not be getting it done consistently enough in practice to warrant the minutes right now. He can get there.
I'm not sure Djimde is a guy who will be ready to contribute this season. He's a ways away.
Missouri's success in the paint and on the boards isnt all on the bigs. Pressey got to the bucket a lot and that forced guys to rotate and the Tigers took advantage of that. They need to get better, sure, but those numbers from Saturday aren't a complete indictment their ability to rebound and defend in the paint.
That'll do it for today. Thanks again for the questions. Heading over to practice to talk with the players here in a little bit. Enjoy the rest of your week and hope to see you all in Chicago on Saturday.