Beat writer Marcus Jackson is in Austin preparing for Friday's 3:40 p.m. game against Colorado. He'll take your pregame questions at 12 p.m. - but submit them any time.
Good afternoon from courtside at the Erwin Center. The Miami and Pacific players jsut took the court for their game that will tip off at 1:10 p.m. Miami's guys are wearing some bright shoes. I need shades.
The Illini and Buffaloes will tip approximately 25 minutes after the Hurricanes and Tigers. I'll be here answering some questions for a little bit. I sense some nerves from Illinois fans.
Can you tell us a little about the psyche of this group.They can go for several minuites moving around on offense, creating good shots having success, and all of a sudden stop movng and bogging down the play. It's not that they quit playiong hard, they just seem scared.They seem to be lacking that killer instinct that puts teams away. These seniors have been dpoing this since they got here. Why can't they keep doing things that work?
The psyche is good. This team is as loose as it has been all season, maybe going back to November/December.
Once Illinois has some success with things, teams start to take those things away and in those instances, it's up to some guys to make some plays and make things happen. They don't always do that well.
Overall basketball IQ has been an issue with this collection for the bulk of their careers and that's what you see lacking at times when the offense gets bogged down. Adjustments can be made from the coaches, but guys have to be able to make plays on the fly, too.
People complained about Bruce Weber winning with Bill Self's players. I haven't heard the complaint, John Groce winning with Bruce Weber's players. Both Illinois and Kansas State had nice years. The reason I see for the continued harshness toward Bruce Weber is that he told the truth and in today's world of not offending people that is cause for backlash. That's my take. Marcus Jackson, what's yours?
What's there to complain about? He took those players that won 17 games last year, missed the tournament and has them at 22 wins and wearing white uniforms in the first game of the NCAA tournament.
Yes, Weber often told the truth and I'm all for honesty. But at th same time, you have to understand your guys and know how they will respond to public criticism. Weber's players didn't respond favorably to the criticism, thus the backlash.
I think most of the harshness directed toward Weber is the fact that his teams missed the NCAA tournament three of his last five years and went 50-56 in the Big Ten once Dee Brown and James Augustine were gone.
This matchup really scares me. Is illinois tough enough to handle the high pressure defense they're going to see? Didn't do well vs Purdue/Minnesota defenses and Colorado seems to be similar. Seems to me Abrams is the key with DJ and BP getting so much attention
It'sa scary matchup because Colorado has two pros (Roberson, Dinwiddie). Those guys can really go and when you've got pros at this stage of the game, they can make the difference.
The key for Illinois offensively is Tracy Abrams. If he's playing well and under control, Illinois should be fine offensively. He wasn't good in the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota and in the first half against Indiana and Illinois really struggled. He's got to bring it today and make some plays for the other guys.
Discuss the importance of winning at least one tournament game and how it relates to recruiting. Particularly the impact it would have on Cliff Alexander, JaQuan Lyle and Leron Black.
It's important, but I'm not sure it would sway those guys one way or the other. Obviously making a deeptournament run and the exposure that brings helps. Those guys are being sold on what the program can be once they get here, not necessarily where it is right now.
looking ahead to next season, i see these as the top 8: guards -- abrams, hill, nunn; front-liners -- bertrand, egwu, rice, henry, colbert. do you agree? who do you think will be the leading scorer? who are the top 2 keys?
That sounds about right. Looking at those guys, Abrams, Bertrand and Rice will likely carry the scoring load. Abrams is a double figure scorer now, Rice was a big-time scorer at Drake and Bertrand is close to double digits this season.
Abrams is the key. When he's playing at a high level, the team generally follows his lead.
It's hard to project how the freshmen will fit in, but those guys are going to have to play. They'll go through some growing pains.
Has Coach Groce emphasized the importance of moving the ball from side to side rather than trying to beat opponents off the dribble? I have seen a return of bad habits of late where our guards spend too much time dribbling outside the arc while our bigs are not actively trying to get open resulting in shots late in the shot clock that are contested. Quick ball movement from side to side would create openings for open uncontested shots would they not? I feel part of the low shooting percentages issue is do to not getting the open looks. Your thoughts?
They have no inside scoring presence, so whether they're passing the ball around the perimeter or trying to beat guys off the dribble, defenders are able to key in on the guards without worrying about giving anything up in the paint. That's the main issue. Working inside out opens things up. Nnanna Egwu will have to make a coupleof shots early to maybe free up the other guys.
They're working on it, but at this point, they are what they are.
Thanks for stopping by. We're about 40 minutes from tipoff for Miami and Pacific. I'll start an in-game report at about 2 p.m. today.
Enjoy the games.