Dec. 18 college basketball chat

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 12:30pm

Does Illinois need to beat Missouri to reach the NCAA tournament? It's early but worth asking. College basketball beat writer Marcus Jackson is chatting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Submit questions of any kind at any time.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:34 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Good afternoon, folks, thanks for taking some time to participate in today's basketball chat. Big week for the illini with final exams and the big annual Braggin' Rights game with Missouri on Saturday in St. Louis. I'll be here taking your questions for up to an hour, so let's get going.

Anonymous User — 12:34 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

It would seem that Groce has done a tremendous job thus far considering the fact that he's having to work with a team full of transfers and freshman.  How much do recruits pay attention to intangibles like that which would show the quality of a coach?  While it's all well and good that the above average Illini fan can see how well he's doing, what really matters is whehter or not recruits can see that and begin to believe in Groce's coaching ability.  Is that being made a focus during recent recruiting pitches?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:40 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

That's a big part of the recruiting process. A lot of times when you see and hear comments from prospective players, they talk about John Groce and his staff getting the most out of their players and how they individually would fit into the system. It's a big part of the pitch. The players recognize what's being done here, their coaches do and the basketball-savvy parents get it, too. Aaron Jordan has talked a lot about the coaching staff's ability to get the best out of its players and how he sees himself fititng it. Time will tell if that ultimately works, but the majority of the kids Illinois is targeting understand what they're trying to do and what they accomplished with last year's team.

JESalukillini — 12:41 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Since we didnt get Cliff & we lost Snyder, doesnt it seem that the U of I is back in the middle of the road s far as recruiting the top tier guys?


Also why hasnt Groce done any full court pressing with the young athletic guys that we have.


Jalon Tate needs to run the point.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:45 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


Illinois still got a Top 50 kid in Leron Black, he was rated right in the same tier as Quentin Snider. It's hard to look negatively at the recruiting, particularly in the Snider case. You had him until the 11th hour and some strange things developed that led him to Louisville. Snider, Alexander and Black were guys Illinois was never even in legitimate conversations for, so that shows there's progress. I know it doesn't make you feel any better about not landing Alexander and Snider, but there have been some serious strides.

Pressing isn't a major part of what Illinois does right now and with the defense in the half court being as stout as it's been to this point, they're hanging their hat on that. As guys continue to learn and understand more of what they're supposed to be doing at both ends of the floor, it might be implemented a bit more.


big time — 12:46 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

If you were watching a team that had guards that cant finish on plays, team that has no inside game, record of folding with a lead, limited scorers, would you honestly say they could have enough quality big wins and non conf to make the tourny? 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:48 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Big Time,

No, they don't have any wins that are considered quality at this point and they've got a bad loss on the resume, too. In order to get into the NCAA tournament conversation, Illinois will have to beat Missouri on saturday and/or make some serious noise during the Big Ten season. They're not there right now. Can they get better and surprise some people? Sure, but as it stands right now, they've got some work to do. It's a lot like Iowa last year. The Hawkeyes had a weak nonconference schedule, finished 9-9 in the Big Ten and were playing some real good basketball late in the season, but it wasn't enough to get into the tournament.

Anonymous Jim — 12:49 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

MJ, both loses have come in similar fashion, the Illini took the lead and then reverted to tactics of the recent past waiting for the shot clock to dwindle down and taking bad rushed shots not running any type of offense. Has coach Groce addressed this to the media at all?<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:53 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


Groce talked about it after the game on Saturday. He said his team got tentative in the latter part of that game in Portland and he didn't like it. He kept saying they needed to get better at imposing their will. Essentially, they're trying to do the same things they do for the part of the game when they're in control, but they're just not tough enough at this point to carry that over to crunch time and continue making those same types of plays. He said Oregon came out of a timeout when Illinois led by seven late and they had a look in their eyes that Illinois didn't. It's going to be a point of emphasis going forward. The idea is to make plays early in the shot clock so that you're not against the clock like Illinois has been of late. We'll see going forward how or if it improves.

DaBears — 12:53 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Hi Marcus,


                          I was thrilled when DJ Wiilliams verballed to the Illin earlier and still am. However, some people are concerned that he is not putting up gaudier numbers in the stats dept. Anything that you as an insider can tell them to alleviate their fears?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 12:59 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


DJ was a background player last year as a sophomore at Simeon and this is his first year being one of the major go-to guys in the program. He's been brought along slowly and he's still maturing and coming into his own. His best basketball is ahead of him, that being said, he's still having a good season. Not scoring a tom right now, but he's been active on the boards. He will be fine and he's a long way from peaking as a player. There's no reason to worry about him, the talelent scoutis and evaluators in Chicago love him.

cary_ty — 12:59 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

What does Groce's ideal offense look like? What are the guards doing? What are the forwards doing? What is the center's responsibility? Any insight would be appreciated. We hear so often that he's still adapting his offense to the personnel, what will it look like when he's got the right players? 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:04 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


As you know, it's a ball screen offense, so a lot of the time, you're going to see the 4 or the 5 out at the perimeter setting a screen for the player with the ball. The offense is designed to create great spacing and get the defense into rotation after the ball screen is set. From there, the guard and the perimeter players are making reads based on what the defense does in its rotation. A guy like Jon Ekey can pop off the ball screen and knock down a jumper. Nnanna Egwu can pop and hit a jumper, or roll to the basket to get a look in the paint, depending on what the defense gives him.

They like to get paint touches from the guards breaking down the defense off the bounce and post entries. They need more balance there. After the game Saturday, Groce said they've got to do a better job of getting Nnanna Egwu touches in the paint. They've also got to get back to crashing the glass on the offensive end, that's fallen off a bit of late.

BrianA — 01:04 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Who is in charge of subbing players in the game ?

seems like at times Groce does it than at other times seems like one of the assistants makes the decision 

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:06 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


Groce makes the calls some of the time and Dustin Ford does a lot of the subbing, too. There's a pretty high level of trust between Groce and the assistants to make that call. A lot of times, he'll turn to the bench and say, "I need our best defensive lineup out there for this possesison" or "Best shooting lineup", etc. and the assistants will put together a lineup right then to fit what the head coach wants.

WI IL fan — 01:07 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Hello Marcus,

After watching the endings of the Georgia Tech and Oregon game, what do you think Illinois needs to do differently to pull out victories moving forward?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:10 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


The biggest thing is to remain aggressive. For the first 25, 30 minutes Saturday, Tracy Abrams was the best player on the floor. He was making such good decisions off the ball screen. He was rejecting a lot of them, getting into gaps and into the paint making things happen. That kind of went away late in the game and he wasn't as decisive. It wasn't just him. other guys passe don looks and then they just didn't finish some others. To answer your question, the main thing is to stay aggressive and keep forcing the issue. It's not a conscious decision to go late in the clock. There seems to be some sort of mental block there right now that illinois needs to clear.

Reed G — 01:12 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Any recruiting news regarding Charles Matthews, Carlton Bragg, or any of the other big names on the list for 2015?

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:20 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013


Matthews recently said he's not paying a lot of attention to recruiting right now, but he has a great relationship with Illinois and has for quite some time. He and D.J. Williams are close, so that's working in Illinois' favor. There's not a ton to report otherwise. Guys are starting their seasons and focused on that. Jamall Walker was out last night watching Columbia (Mo.) watching point guard Jimmy Whitt. Paris Parham was in to Morgan Park and Bogan last night where Luwane Pipkins put on a show. Illinois is still hard after Bragg, Brunson and some other sin the class. Will be a while before there's much movement on those fronts.

Marcus Jackson (moderator) — 01:21 PM on Wed, 12/18/2013

Thanks again for the questions. We've got Braggin' Rights coverage coming your way all week, so be on the lookout for that. We'll see you Saturday in St. Louis.