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Is Illinois really a lock to make the NCAA tournament? Any chance at the Big Ten tournament? Ask beat writer Marcus Jackson, who is chatting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Good afternoon and welcome to the last Illinois basketball chat before the NCAA tournament. Hope those of you in the area caught our B1g tournament preview in today's News-Gazette. We'll have that online sometime in the next couple of days. I'll be here for about an hour so let's get going.
MJ - on your last chat from March 6 you mentioned hearing Weber on the Van Pelt show state that his 9 year run may have been the best in program history. Just so that you know, the BEST 9 year run in history was from 1947 to 1956 in which the Illini went 164-44, good for a .7884 win percentage. There were about 6 better 9 year runs than Weber's run here.
Question about Bertrand - obviously he did not play Sunday, something about his shoulder, but this wasn't reported except on the game broadcast (i find nothing on illinihq) Can you tell us what happened? Do you expect him for the BTT?
I thought Weber's comment might stir up some strong feelings in these parts. The 1947-56 run was a good one. So were the nine years pervious to Weber's tenure. Dave Wischnowsky wrote about it day at CBS Chicago. Weber's run was good, but there's an argument for a few others, too.
As far as Bertrand, here's what I wrote about him after the OSU game. And I had an update on him today. My guess is he'll play tomorrow. He hasn't played particularly well of late. They'll need him to get going here in the postseason.
Please explain how Purdue got the 7 seed in the Big 10 tournament with the Illini and Minnesota having the same conference record, and both beating conference champion Indiana.
Purdue is the No. 7 seed because it had the best record between the three teams in games involving those three.
Purdue went 2-1 (.667) in games against Minnesota and Illinois
Illinois went 2-2 (.500) in games against Purdue and Minnesota
Minnesota went 1-2 (.333) in games against Illinois and Purdue
Is IL/MN a 'play in' game for the Big Dance?
No. Illinois is in. Minnesota, despite its late-seaosn struggles, is also probably in. A loss in this game doesn't damage either too much, as it will be a loss to a quality, Top-50 opponent.
Thanks for taking my question! I know it's the Big Ten and it's the strongest conference in america, but do you see Illinois making a run like they did in Maui? I know teams are much different from November to March.
Also, non-related Illinois question. Gonzaga played it's conference tournament championship game on Monday, and they don't play again until either Thursday or Friday of next week. Does it hurt them or benefit them not playing for 10-11 days?
We all know Illinois is capable of just about anything. The Illini can get hot. I see them beating Minnesota tomorrow then losing in the quarterfinal Friday against Indiana. I wouldn't be surprised to see them get on a roll like they did in Maui, though the competition here is much stiffer. They talk a lot about how loose and how much fun they were having in Maui and this format is similar to that, playing back-to-back-to-back. Maybe that's something they really like. We'll see.
As for Gonzaga: Sitting 10-11 days might affect the team in terms of its rhythm, but they've done everything they were supposed to do this season to cement their place in the tournament. Not playing the next week and a half won't bump them off the No. 1 seed line. They won't be losing any games during that time.
2 Part Question
1) Most brackets have Illini at #8 seed. Considering Minnesota is a top 50 RPI team, would a win against them be enough to move into the 7 seed? Obviously a win and then playing (even with a loss) against The Team of Tom Crean's Hair would help SOS.
2) In the buzz leading up to the Demetrius Jackson decision, Paul Klee wrote that there was negative recruiting going on against Illinois in the Big Ten-as in, some programs pushed him away from Illinois. Any idea who that was? Obviously you didn't say that so this one's a stretch.
Yes, Illinois could move up a line with a win tomorrow, depends on how some other things around the country shake out.
Not sure who specifically was negative recruiting against Illinois in that recruitment, but I will say, there is negative recruiting happening in every single recruitment in the country. It was not a unique situation. That's the climate.
Not winning enough games the last six or seven years has given other programs plenty of ammunition to use against Illinois in recruiting battles. Win more games and that stuff takes care of itself.
With Illini limping into Big Ten tournament on heels of two losses and playing healthy Minnesota team, do you think this could be an early exit for Illinois? I sure do. I haven't been happy with the Illini effort and focus of late. Offense has been pathetic and anemic, too much standing around and settling for easy shots. Defense has been very spotty and unfocused.
I predict Illini bow out of B1G early and then lose in first NCAA game. They don't have the strong will and determination of successful Illini teams of the past. Too soft and erratic.
It could be an early exit, Minnesota blew Illinois out at the Assembly Hall earlier this season. But, for as worried as the folks here are about the illini, Minnesota has really struggled lately. The Gophers have alos lost two straight: to Nebraska and got blownout by Purdue. They're not real scary right now.
Illinois' offense needs to get better and generate more good looks in the two-point area. I think they'll be ready to play tomorrow, but you're never really sure with these guys.
A pattern for the men's basketball team this year is a lack of assists. In their last
game, they only had 6 assists for 19 field goals...Your thoughts on this?
Part of it is the lack of a true point guard. While Tracy Abrams and Brandon Paul have done a good job of running the offense, neither is a pass-first guard. They're scorers first, Abrams is learning to position and he's got the chance to get better in that area.
It's not a selfish team, but there just aren't guys who are naturals at setting up other guys for shots.
Who gets your vote as the most improved Illini since the start of the season?
That's a really good question. The first guy who comes to mind is Nnanna Egwu. His scoring has more than tripled, though he's not much of a low-post scorer, that might be something they really work with him on this offseason.
I like the strides Myke Henry has made here late in the season, that's important for his confidence going into next season because he'll be counted on to play big minutes.
I know a lot of people don't want to hear this, but Brandon Paul's evolution into a more rounded player has also been impressive. He's exerting more energy on the defensive end and he's embraced playing point guard when asked.
Marcus, can you please explain to Illinois fans that there isn't a crazy enough set of circumstances to keep Illinois out of the tournament at this point? The regular season is over, both Lunardi and Palm have us as a No. 8 seed, which means there's roughly 15 or so teams between us and the edge of the bubble. At least. Yet I've still seen some furrowing their brows about Illinois possibly not making it. Please help. My head hurts.
I think that nervousness/paranoia comes from the last few years where Illinois has been left out of the tournament all together or very squarely on the bubble. The last time we were certain Illinois would be included in the NCAA field was 2009. The good people in Illini land are nervous, though they shouldn't be.
You know who hasn't helped this? Bob Wischusen. Every time he does an Illinois game, he talks about Illinois needing that particular game to get into the NCAA tournament, from what I'm told.
Leron Black, Jaquan Lyle, and Cliff Alexander....have Illini fans died and gone to heaven or are we being set up for more dissappointment?
It's good to be in with these guys and Illinois is in solid shape with these three guys. You're not going to get all of them, but you need one of them. After being the runner-up on a few guys in the fall, it's time for Illinois to get one of the big dogs.
I got to watch Cliff Alexander play a couple of times last week. He's big time.
I know this is nothing but a what if game, but what are your feelings as to what extra expansion and when it might occur in the Big Ten after Rutgers and Maryland. Are Virginia and Georgia Tech really posibilities? Have the Big Ten powers that be contacted North Carolina? I have even read Florida St., however I think that would never happen.
What do you think will happen and if so, when?
To be honest with you, I was really curious about the conference realignment stuff when it all started a few years ago, but I really tune out now when it comes up. After the Big 12 was supposed to dissolve a couple years ago, it made me skeptical about what was really going to happen. It seems like every day some new scenario comes up and I can't keep up.
There's probably some truth to everything you've heard, but I'll pay attention when it really happens. Sorry for the lack of insight. "Missouri Valley" Bob Asmussen is really into that stuff.
Regarding the earlier question about "lack of assists," Marcus, do you feel like I do that assist percentage is an overrated stat? As much as Illinois has struggled on the defensive glass they've actually done a better job than most recent Illinois teams of getting points on offensive rebounds, and in Abrams and Paul they have two guards who can create their own offense. Sure, you'd love a Deron Williams or even a Demetri McCamey that can create for others regularly, but would you agree that percentage of baskets that are assisted on is a fairly pointless stat when considered without any other context?
There's something to that. If you get 30 buckets in a game, you don't care how many of them were the result of a pass. You just care that you got 30 buckets. That can be in transition or a guy like BP or Tracy, Joe or D.J. making plays.
What it's another indication of is Illinois doesn't have a go-to guy to score in the post, so they're not getting buckets from post-entry passes like a lot of teams do.
First off, great job all year covering the up and down illini. Two questions:
1) Do you enjoy making a prediction each game? This team, and really all of college basketball, is ridiculously hard to pick game by game.
2) Would most coaches rather lock up their bid over the past weekend, giving them basically 10-12 days to prepare/practice/sit around? Or would they rather play their conference tourney this weekend, and only have a few days off before the dance begins?
1. Predicting games is like anything in competition; when you're winning, it's a lot of fun. I think I've got a seven-game streak of getting them right, so it's been fun. You're right, though, these guys are a nightmare to pick. I got made fun of a lot early in the seaosn when I was really struggling.
2. I think it's good to play this week because you don't know who your NCAA opponent is going to be, so it's difficult to prepare without knowing what style you're going to be playing against. A couple of days to work on your own stuff could be helpful, but I think most coaches and players prefer to play games. The only problem is playing a lot of games if you make a deep tournament run. You don't want your guys to be worn out.
I think in women's basketball, where most conference tournaments were last week and the bracket isn't revealed until this coming Monday, they're allowed to bring in another team to scrimmage behind closed doors in an effor tto get some competition.
Marcus, speaking of Nnanna, I agree he's made tremendous strides this season, but still has a lot of room to grow. Do you think the staff will try to shore up some of his weakness (post offense, defensive rebounding) or simply accept what he is in those areas and have him work on being better at what he does well, i.e. make him more of a "stretch 4" type guy (even though he may defend the 5 on the other end)?
They're going to work on the areas where he needs to grow. The thing with him is he was so raw and had so much room to grow in so many areas, they didn't want to overwhelm him and hit him with too much stuff all at once.
I asked them earlier this season about his post game and I was told it's not something at the time he was real comfortable with yet, so they weren't going to force it, especially during the season. But in the offseason, those will be a couple of the areas they work on.
Good stuff today. Thanks for all the questions. We'll talk next week about the NCAA tournament. Hope to see a lot of you in Chicago this weekend.