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Beat writer Marcus Jackson, who is in Atlanta all week to cover the Illini's games vs. Georgia Tech and Auburn, takes your questions at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Submit them any time.
Good afternoon from Kennesaw, Ga., where the sun has finally decided to come out for a peek. It's been pretty miserable here the past few days. It took a while for the Illini to get their plane in the air last night because of the fog. They eventually had to land in St. Louis because the fog was too bad back home to land. They got on a bus a couple of hours ago and should be arriving to campus shortly. Pretty miserable traveling conditions after last night's second-half collapse at Georgia Tech. I'm sure there are plenty of questions, comments, concerns about that. I'll try to get to all of your inquiries in the next hour.
The NG had a huge article on the ACC/Big10 challenge for men. I look forward to equal coverage for the women's challenge which starts Wednesday.
I haven't seen the paper, so I'm not sure what the coverage was. Truth is, I don't call the shots and I'm not the women's beat writer, so I can't help you much there. That being said, I will be covering the women's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at Georgia Tech tonight. We'll have coverage from McCamish Pavilion in Thursday's News-Gazette.
I know it is only one game, but did Groce shorten his bench in the second half, after the Illini opened up a 12 point lead? I read the article on Abrams the other day, and I just don't see why he gets so much playing time. Poor plays, ball handling, very poor shots, and probably the first player this year to get called for a charge. I know coach needs every player he has this year with a short, young bench. But, unless things change and the way Tate has played. Add in the other two transfer guards. With Rice, Tate and Nunn returning. I don't see Abrams getting a lot of playing time next year. Or at least I hope not. The offense just dosn't seam to have the same flow, with him at the point. Can't win them all but like my wife texted me, "they blow a 12 point lead and lose?"
Maybe I put the jinx on Tracy, writing about him before yesterday's game. He had a rough night, but instead of being a one-loss team right now, Illinois might have two or three without him, seriously. He's a double figure scorer, plays good defense and he's shown a tendency at times of his career of coming up big in clutch moments. Last night wasn't his finest showing, but those things happen. I asked Groce about sticking with the same guys when things were going bad last night and he said he made the decision because those are the guys he rode with down the stretch at UNLV and it worked out. Last night, not so much. Again, bad night for Tracy, but I think he'll be OK. You're going to need him to be.
Why is an Indiana fan, who has been banned from all other Illinois message boards, allowed to create dozens of usernames and troll your board ripping Illinois and coach Groce, without being permanently banned? Is it because the News-Gazette is desperate for clicks on their website?
I had no idea about any of this. I don't read message boards, so I'm out of the loop on this one. I'll inform whoever needs to know about this and find out if it's some sort of problem. Not sure what the outcome will be, but I'll pass along your concerns.
What are your thoughts on Tracy's early season struggles? Groce says he isn't worried and believes that the PG will bounce back but his performance so far this year has been poor. Yesterday I believe we would have been better off with Tate in the game down the stretch to get the ball in Rayvonte and Joe's hands. I realize everyone goes through shooting slumps but Tracy's basketball IQ and control of the game concern me more. He seems to want to take over games with his scoring but just doesn't have the ability at this time.
Tracy hasn't shot the ball well this year, that's no secret, but up until last night, I thought the rest of his game had been fine. I wrote a little bit above on Tracy. With the offense struggling the way it was down the stretch last night, I wondered why Tate didn't get the nod for a little bit, but Groce opted to stick with the veterans. It didn't work out and a bad loss was the result.
Thanks for taking my question. Assuming you will speculate...er....guess a little bit, what is your feeling on the Illini record after the BTT? They seem to have a degree of toughness and resiliency so anything could happen once they are challenged night after night. I like these kids, but can they get enough wins to get an NCAA tourney bid?
This is asking for some serious speculation. I'm not a huge fan of predicting win totals and such, but I'll try to play along. Before last night, I figured Illinois would go about 11-2 in the nonconference and I picked them eighth in the Big Ten in the preseason so that gets you seven or eight wins probably. So, assume 18, 19 regular season wins and maybe one in the tournament and you're knocking on the door of 20. It's not necessarily the win total that gets you in the tournament as much as who you beat. There needs to be a couple of signature nonconference wins and you've got to beat a couple of heavyweights in the Big Ten, while avoiding losses to the teams at the bottom, especially at home.
Do you think Croce got to conservative the last 4 minutes They were running and had control of the game. It reminded me of Webers end of the game coaching.
I do not. They were calling and trying to run the same stuff they were running when they got out to the lead, they just didn't get it done. It looks that way because the ball stayed on the perimeter so much, but guys weren't where they were supposed to be and the ball wasn't moving like it was supposed to be. The reason they were able to run when they were having success is because Georgia Tech wasn't converting on their end. It's a lot easier to run when you're getting rebounds and getting up the floor in transition or creating turnovers. Ga. Tech started the second half 4 for 16, I believe. They finished something like 6 for 10, so it wasn't as easy to run on them.
Oh no - there goes the perfect undefeated season. I really thought Groce could have an undefeated team this season with all the new stars on the team and top 15 2013 recruiting class. Frosh elsewhere are playing great and I was sure ours would too.
Now with a loss to unheralded Georgia Tech and Groce disgusted with his team's effort, playing smarts and lack of will and execution, it looks like as long season.
That slowdown ordered by the coach with a lot of time on the clock and only 12 point lead was reminiscent of Bruce Weber's strategy that constantly backfired on him.
I'm not sure how much of what you wrote was sarcasm, but I'll play along. Yes, you've got a Top 15 recruiting class, but none of them are program-changing guys who are going to be immediate stars. There are very few guys like Parker, Wiggins, Randle and Gordon. These Illinois guys are going to be solid four-year guys and maybe one or more will develop into stars. To expect that now isn't fair.
It's looked like it could be a long season from the beginning, that's part of the reason I picked Illinois eighth in the league. The league is really good again and there are going to be growing paisn. But you don't expect to lose to a bad Georgia Tech team, but according to my gambling friends, Illinois was a two-point underdog.
There was no slowdown ordered. Just not enough plays made or offensive flow from the guys on the floor last night. They were bad at execution out of timeouts, some shots didn't go down and some sets weren't run properly.
The more I see Tate on the floor, the more I see the ball move effectively. The more I see Abrams on the floor, the more I see the ball turned over, dropped into isolation plays, and don't see a lot of ball movement. Are there numbers out there to back up what I'm seeing? I'm really tiring of Abrams--congratulations on toughness, but I'd rather have a creator and distributor on the offensive end playing point guard. What are your thoughts on the topic?
If you're looking for me to pile on, it's not going to happen. We can all acknowledge that he had a rough game last night, he hasn't shot the ball well this seaosn, but he's helped far more than he's hurt. This is starting to remind me a little bit of Chester Frazier, though it hasn't reached that depth yet. If I recall, the home fans booed Chester so feverishly at one point he was almost brought to tears. The last year and a half of his career, there was no more loved player on the Illinois roster than Chester Frazier.
I don't have the numbers handy on Abrams in the game versus Tate in the game, but if I can get my hands on them, I'll share.
Both guys are going to be needed at certain points this year and will make some plays to help win games. You're going to need them both
Great to see the Celtics pull out a close game last night at the Garden, but much more sad to see the close Illini loss. What a drag to have to follow the games on Gamecast, but I guess better than nothing.
What sort of chance to you give to Rayvonte going pro? He is so impressive this year. Any sense that Ahmad and Aaron are working as hard as Rayvonte did during his year off the court? Seems like it was so transformational for Rayvonte.
Not sure if you're asking about the possibility of Rice going pro after this year or jsut in general. He'll be here for his senior season, in my opinion. He will make money after that playing basketball. Doug Gottlieb, who apparently wasn't very warm toward Rice, according to what I've heard from all of you who watched the UNLV telecast, said he'll make money playing ball. Gottlieb seemed like a big Rice fan when I sat down with him. He says at this point, it's more likely he'll make his money in Europe, but he'll get a look. A friend of mine was at the game last night and he was seated near an NBA scout who said he didn't think there was much NBA talent on the court last night. We'll see how it all shales out with Rice.
Starks, Cosby and Paul are all going through the same workout routines that Rice did last year. I wrote about those guys last week and got some thoughts from Jamall Walker on their progress. You can read that here.
Aaron Cosby tweeted his disappointment after watching last night's game and then he said he was headed to the gym to get some work in.
Do you think the Illini are in trouble on the glass if Egwu gets in foul trouble? Who is the Illini's best scoring option if Rice is double-teamed?
I certainly doesn't help, but he's the fourth-leading rebounder on the team behind Rice, Bertrand and Ekey. He'd have a few more if he could stay out of foul trouble, but it's not a crippling issue. Rebounding has probably been the strength of this team through eight games.
I'd say Joe is the next-best option because he's capable of creating his own shot and Tracy can, too. Those are your top three threats.
Marcus, the defense played good for a portion of the second half. But was it more Georgia Tech not going inside outside like they did once they started their comeback. What can the Illini do to fix their 2nd half breakdown.
The defense got bad when Illinois' offense started to struggle and Ga. Tech was able to get them a little in transition. The 12 offensive rebounds didn't help, Ga. Tech got 13 points off those. Part of that was the zone. When you're in a zone, you aren't always close enough to a guy to hit him and get ready for the rebound. And another part of it was Illinois just blew a few assignments. Solomon Poole got loose for a couple of threes and the fact that he was a very good three-point shooter was highlighted on the scouting report.
Illinois made adjustments in the second half to keep the Yellow Jackets out of the paint and beating them up down low like they did in the first half.
Bottom line is Illinois just screwed some things up there during that 19-4 run.
Looks like that's all for today. I appreciate all the questions and comments, hope you're all able to relax over the next few days and not get too worked up over it. I've got to get back to the house and get ready for the women's game. The traffic here is a pain. I was almost late for the pregame show last night.
I'll talk to you all from Philips Arena on Sunday for the Auburn game.