Ask beat writer Jeff Huth about the Illini's chances in the Big Ten and - maybe - NCAA tournaments. He chats every Friday - submit questions any time. NOTE: He also covers volleyball and baseball, so quiz him about those topics, too.
Welcome to our weekly chat. We'll get started shortly.
-- Jeff Huth
With interest growing in WBB, are there any plans for Coach Bollant to do a(n official) coach's show next season?
I just checked with Ben Taylor, the team's sports information contact, and if you are asking about a TV show, he said there are no such plans at this time. Bollant can be seen on the weekly "Fighting Illini Insider" TV show. It's an all-sports show, but it focuses on football during the fall and basketball in the winter.
A Matt Bollant radio show is a possibility, Taylor said, if enough advertising interest develops to support it. With the team improving and creating more fan interest, that's something the athletic department would like to continue to explore.
I'm still not sure we don't need one more win to get in to the tournament. Purdue has had our number forever: How good a shot do we have at winning there?
Before Thursday night's home loss to Ohio State, I would have said Illinois has a good shot at winning at Purdue. Now, I think this game is really difficult to get a handle on.
Neither team is exactly rolling into this regular season finale. Purdue, in particular, is struggling. The Boilermakers have lost five of their last seven games. Illinois is struggling with its shooting, finishing at 33.3 percent or under in three of its last four games. In those three poor-shooting games, the Illini went 1-2.
In addition, the Illini historically have taken a beating at Purdue -- losing 27 of 31 games on the Boilermakers' home court.
One thing this Illini team is remarkably good at, however, is boucing back from defeat. Illinois is 9-1 this season following a loss.
What does all this mean? Your guess is as good as mine.
I was wondering what has happened to piper? she used to be kinda the 7th person and now she doesnt get in the game.. It doesnt even seem like she is on the bench at least i can't spot her on tv Just wondered if she is hurt or what her status is
what has hapened to piper? havn't seen her in games recently
I haven't specifically asked Matt Bollant about this, but it's possible that Nia Oden simply has passed Piper among the reserves. And I don't think Piper is off the radar at this point. It's true she wasn't used in either of the last two games, but in the one immediately before that, Piper did play nine minutes at Penn State. Oden offers more quickness than Piper. And Bollant previously has said that Piper needs to make strides defensively, which isn't unusual for a freshman, to get more into the mix for court time.
Let me straddle over two sports:
first, WBB - how will K. Penn be replaced next year? Is there a candidate who could work in? Or is it going to be "by committee" for a while?
Next, volleyball: Have you had any opportunity to check up on how player development work is going at this juncture? This aspect and the incoming players, have unlimited potential to excite old time fans and recharge hopes for next year.
Thank you. NaplesIllini
I asked Matt Bollant a while back about successors to Penn, and he mentioned three names: current freshman McKenzie Piper and incoming freshmen Jacqui Grant of Maine South High School and Sarah Livingston of Morton High School.
Grant is the tallest at 6-foot-3 so, just like this season, Illinois won't be able to match the towering height that it faces from some opponents. Particularly in the Big Ten, there are some teams that can present matchup problems in the paint because of a size advantage.
However, that can cut two ways. Penn's quickness has been difficult for some of the taller, slower post players to contend with. And Bollant's system leans more toward quickness at the 4 and 5 spots, even if it means giving up height. He wants players that can switch on defense and extend the defense. It's not uncommon for Penn to be pretty far out in the half-court defensively when Illinois is switching and pressuring.
Since I've been immersed in covering women's basketball, I haven't made it over to Huff Hall for volleyball. Just got off the phone with Kevin Hambly, however, and he said Maddie Mayers and fellow freshman blocker Kathryn Polkoff are making good strides. He said Liz McMahon and Jocelynn Birks have been impressive with their jumping and elevation above the net. All the freshmen, he said, are looking good and making the kind of progress you'd expect after going through their first season of college competition.
are their any girls red shirting this year, also is it true a girl came with coach from his previous school, if so can you tell us about her?
There is one Illini women's basketball player who is redshirting this season. Sarah Hartwell, a 5-10 guard, joined the program this season after starting her career in 2011-12 at Georgia Tech. Under NCAA transfer rules, she was not eligible to play this season and is using it as a redshirt. Hartwell will have three seasons of eligibility over the next three years. Everything I've heard indicates that Hartwell very much figures into Matt Bollant's plans for next season. With Adrienne GodBold finishing up her career this season, there'll be a lineup opening that Hartwell is a strong candidate to fill. Coming out of high school in Tacoma, Wash., she was the 29th-ranked guard nationally in her class.
I think the player you are referring to in the second part of your question is Mikaala Shackleford, currently a senior at Hopkins High School in the Minneapolis area. She originally committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay when Bollant coached there, but when he took the job at Illinois, Shackleford reopened her recruiting and decided to follow Bollant to Champaign. She's part of the six-player recruiting class that will arrive next school year.
Which 2013 recruit do you think will have the biggest impact
That could depend on returning starters and available playing time. However, if an incoming player is good enough to be on the floor right away, Matt Bollant undoubtedly will see that it happens in some form -- whether as a starter or top reserve in the rotation.
If you pin me down to just one name, I wonder if Jacqui Grant of Maine South might have the biggest impact. With Penn graduating, there will be a need at the 5 position. I also think Bollant is high on Taylor Gleason, a 5-8 guard from Michigan.
Whichever recruit makes the biggest impact, I'd expect all of them to make this important contribution: practices should become a lot more competitive. With Illinois so short in numbers this season, there's a major need for depth -- quality depth. The current starters really haven't been pushed or challenged for playing time. That could change next season, and that's an important change.
Looks like we've run out of questions, so we'll wrap this up. Thanks for your interest, and we'll talk to you next week.