Login to comment or to shop for deal of the day or books.
Login to your member account to read premium articles.
The season's over. What's next? Ask Marcus Jackson, who is busy preparing his 2013-14 report.
Good afternoon. First basketball chat of the offseason and it looks to be a busy one. Did you see Clemson knock off Belmont last night? Something tells me the Bruins would have been a tough out on their home floor last night with a trip to NYC on the line. We've got a lot to get to today, so I'll jump right in.
So everyone is saying that the 14-15 team should be much improved from last year, but by how much? Are we looking at a guaranteed NCAA tournament team? Will they finish in the top 3rd of the B1G? Just trying to set my expectations for next year.
The biggest issues you had with the 2013-14 team was scoring. You didn't have enough guys who could put the ball in the basket on a consistent bassis and shooting was poor. You're adding two guys who were double figure scorers in major conferences, both of whom were 40-percent shooters from behind the three-point line. That will help and it will take pressure off of Rayvonte Rice and he won't see as many double teams as he did throughout the course of the Big Ten season. No, a tournament berth is not guaranteed, nothing is, but reaching the tournament should be the expectation. Hard to figure how the Big Ten will shape up until we know who's leaving for the NBA, transferring, etc. Give it some time before you set your expectations.
The 14-15 team should be better, but who do you see at the top of Big 10 next year?
Without knowing who's leaving for the NBA, it's hard to know this now, but if you're asking today I'd say Michigan or Wisconsin. Nik Stauskas is likely gone, so is Glenn Robinson III and maybe even Mitch McGary, but Zak Irvin should be able to step in and be a major contributor along with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton. Those guys will be good. Wisconsin loses Ben Brust and if Sam Dekker doesn't bolt for the NBA, everyone else will be back. The Badgers have a chance to be real nice.
Do you think Brunson will consider late offers from the blue bloods or do you think it will ultimately come down to Michigan, Mich State and UI?
He'd be kind of crazy not to. But listening to some of the things Rick Brunson has said, it doesn't seem to be a huge deal to them that a school has been in on Jalen for a long time. It's all about the right fit and the right situation. If they feel there's a good fit at a Kansas or a kentucky, Duke, wherever, then they'll consider it. In my opinion, the three schools you mentioned are right there at the top as of now, but with the AAU circuit heating up next month and through the summer, a lot can change.
With the incoming talent for next year, do you see Abram's playing time being substantially reduced? I know he is Groce's leader and I like his grit, but his inconsistent offense has really hurt the Illini this past year.
Substantially? No. The good news for Illinois and for Abrams with Starks and Cosby entering the mix is that he won't be relied on so heavily to score and make plays. There will be enough talent around him where he won't be tasked with doing so much. If he struggles, like he has at times this season, you can sit him for a while and let the other guys give you a lift. And that will work with all of the backcourt guys, you won't have to leave a guy out there and hope he can play through the struggles and instead turn to someone else. The depth and the competition should bring out the best in guys.
Since there will be an influx of big men next year, do you thnk Black will be moved to the 3 to open up playing time? Do they have any other guys who can play the 3 besides Hill?
Leron Black can play some 3, but it might take some time before he develops his skills to be able to play there on a consistent basis. He can get there, just might not be as early as you're thinking. Malcolm Hill is a 3. Rayvonte Rice can play the 3, he did it a lot late in the season when Abrams and Nunn were on the floor with him.
Next year I anticipate the team being on the bubble. Not sure how much is known about next year's schedule, but what quality opponents do we play in the non-conference that give us a chance to build a tournament resume?
In the nonconference, Illinois has the Missouri game, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game (opponent to be determined) and a game against Oregon at the United Center. The Illini are playing the the Las Vegas Invitation with a game against Indiana State and then either Memphis or Baylor. Those are the main ones that are known right now.
It appears that Crean is 'Creaning' a few more players this offseason. Do you expect Groce to try to purge the remaining Weber guys this year?
No. That would mean getting rid of Nnanna Egwu and Tracy Abrams. Those are the lone scholarship guys remaining who were recruited by the former staff. That's not happening. Do you want that?
Coach Weber took the Illini on a summer basketball trip to Italy two years ago. Does Coach Groce have a foreign trip on tap for this squad?
Teams can go on foreign trips every four years, so that every four-year player gets the opportunity to make one trip during his career if the school chooses. Illinois is eligible to take another foreign trip in the summer of 2015.
Hey Marcus I have 2 things for you.
1) I read the chats every week and it drives me crazy when people think that JG needs to land a 5 star recruit to get the Illini back to prominence. According to Rival.com Illinois has not landed a 5 star recruit since Dee Brown in 2002. I think us fans need to hold judgement on JG until he gets the roster filled with his recruits regardless of their star rating.
2) I heard next year Illinois will go through a rebranding and understand that one of the selling points for JG in recruiting is the new SFC. Do you know if they are also looking at updating the pregame and in game music? At the start of each game the play Zombie nation which was released 1999. I think by updating the music could help get the Crush back to being a factor in games plus give a recruit the atmosphere they want to play in. I watched highlights of the game when Wake Forest played at the Hall in 05 that place was nuts.
Thanks for reading my ramble.
Recruiting guys get it right a lot with their ratings, but not all guys who turn out to be stars were big-time recruits in high school. Stephen Curry, Trey Burke, those are just a couple of examples of guys who were overlooked in high school. You're right, it's not always about the stars.
Not sure what's going to happen with the pregame music and the intros. I know a lot of places use that Zombie Nation song, but maybe something new will come along to spark some enthusiasm. The best way to fix all that is to have a better team, that seems to excite people more than the music, but I see what you're getting at. You caould have played Mozart before those games in 2005 and that place would have still been bonkers.
I think a successful season given the influx of new talent and lack of penetrating distributor of the ball.
What are the expectations for next season: ranking, Big 10 finish, NCAA finish, etc.?
Impossible to predict how guys like Finke and Black will perform, but what are your first five on the floor and the second five as backups?
Do you see Hill still getting some minutes at the 4 but that Black, Finke, or Colbert are the likely candidates for Ekey's spot? If Maverick beefs up and takes a sophomore step forward, maybe then Egwu can take his natural position at 4, huh?
Last question, I promise, do you think it is full court pressure on Brunson at this point?
Thanks - great job this season and always.
A finish in the top half of the Big Ten isn't out of the question, but that depends on who returns, etc.
Until we see the other guys perform, I would anticipate seeing the same starting lineup that finished this season to start next season. That could and likely will change based on performance, but no reason to think it'll change now. I'd expect all those guys, especially Nunn and Hill to get better.
Starks, Cosby, Paul, Morgan and Black would probably be the next five. I see Hill playing some at the four, depending on the rotations and such.
Yes, Illinois is doing everything it can now to land Jalen Brunson.
Hi, Marcus - Thanks for the chats. I know you are a fan of Tracy Abrams the person, so I don't want to pile on him. But watching almost every game, his decision making and shooting left a lot to be desired in my eyes. I think this is because he was asked to do a lot more than his talent would allow. That being said, do you see his role next year changing? I know he'll get lots of minutes, but do you see his shot attempts going down, as well as playing off the ball more? Thanks!
Yep, touched on this a bit earlier. Having other scoring options on the floor should help Tracy's game. He'll also have to understand his role better and I think a summer and fall playing with all the new pieces will help him move toward that. Tracy wants to win above anything else, so this shouldn't be a problem, but we'll know when it all starts to happen.
I see in some circles where Illinois is pursuing Juwan Evans as a PG for the 2015class . I thought we were all in on a Jalen Brunson? Does this turn Brunson off- again?
Illinois is also recruiting Evans, but still all in on Brunson. The recruitment of Evans does not affect Brunson. Illinois has made him a priority and will continue to do so. He wasn't turned off so much by Illinois getting Quentin Snider as he was that the communication broke down. That's not the case now.
If it is even possible, what is it going to take (and how long WILL it take) to get Illinois basketball back to being a consistent threat to win the Big Ten and being a national title contender on a regular basis?
Sure, it's possible, but these things take time, more time than people are willing to give coaches and programs these days. I continue to point at Michigan as an example of this. John Beilein struggled mightily his first four years there. Look where the Wolverines are now, two of the last three Big Ten titles and a trip to the national title game. I still think Illinois is two, maybe three years away from that, but do think the right people are in place to get it done. These things don't happen over night.
With Derrick Walton Jr and possibly Jalen Coleman at Michigan and Lourawls Narin and possibly Eric Davis at Michigan State in 2015, do you think the Illini have the best shot at Brunson since immediate playing time is a major factor?
If playing time early at the right place is the big draw for Brunson, then Illinois seems to offer the best fit. There's still a lot that will happen ebtween now and the end of his recruitment, but Illinois has positioned itself very well with Brunson. It's just a matter of what he feels like is the best fit for him.
I tend to agree with the argument that college baskeball players and football players deserve better compensation for their service to the university. IE, post college medical care, and eduction. Do you know if any of the current players have talked about this subject with you. Just curious as NU is obviously gettting national attention on the subject.
It's never come up with any of the current Illinois players I've dealt with and none have ever even hinted at feeling unhappy with circumstances or looking toward the future.
It's a hot topic in college sports and I'm not sure I even know where I stand on the issue. I know a lot of poeple who make a lot of money to figure these things out and are way smarter than me have been trying to figure out something that works and they're a long, long way away from coming up with something that makes sense.
Does the incident Jalen Brunson had in Peoria during the Whitney Young game affect his recruiting status?
Not at all.
First of all, no one is even really sure if what the photo showed was really an intentional act. Second, if so, he's a kid. Kids make mistakes.
By all accounts, Brunson is a great kid. There are some not-so-great kids out there and he's never come up in the conversation of the ones who fall into that category.
Marcus: Tracy is hard worker, leader and a good guy. However, is he a good enough point guard to be a starter for a team that hopes to finish in the upper half of the BT next year? His numbers suggest that he isn't but are there better options.
Who do you feel will be the point guard next year?
He's not a natural point guard, so what he's been able to accomplish in that role in his career shouldn't be overlooked. He's not perfect, but 112 assists to 67 turnovers isn't all that bad on a team that sturggled to shoot the ball. With the right pieces around him, he can be a PG whose team can finish in the top half of the league. And he'll have help next year with Ahmad Starks able to play big minutes at that spot. Tracy will be the guy with Starks and Tate able to step in and play there.
When will the 5th year transfers who have been talked about decide on where they are going ?
where do you see Hill fitting in the rotation next season ? Love his potential
Those guys usually make their decisions in early April, the first couple weeks of the month.
Malcolm Hill will be a big part of the Illinois rotation next season. I expect he can make a big jump and be a double-figure scorer. He will figure prominently.
Who is going to have the biggest impact on moving this team to the next level, whether it is a new teammate or current teammate?
Not sure I completely understand the question. What's the next level? If you're talking about what players are going to have on the program going forward, I think it's the two young guys (Kendrick Nunn, Malcolm Hill) who played a lot down the stretch. Those guys have a chance to be really good. And whomever the staff brings in as the point guard going forward will have a major impact. A guy like Jalen Brunson or Jawun Evans are those kinds of guys.
Now I know that Groce's offense is built around ball screen. We went through a low point during Bruce Weber's tenure and he only used the ball screen offense even though it suppose to be the motion. This past years team looked dangerously close to the final years with Weber and, as a fan, I want to see something different since we already experienced the "fruits" of the ball screen offense. Do you see the same similarities that I witnessed or am I delusional?
On the same note, how big of an impact do you envision a post presence and some outside shooting doing to our current offense next year with the infusion of talant coming in?
What would you have them run instead? The biggest issue with the offense this year was you didn't have enough guys who could knock down shots consistently. Look at all the open looks they got in that last game against Clemson. You've got to make some of those shots. As the talent level continues to be upgraded, the offense will run much more smooth. The biggest key to that is having the right point guard in place. It wored well at Ohio because they had D.J. Cooper running the show. It makes a world of difference having the right guy quarterbacking it and they're working toward finding that guy.
Having outside shooting makes a world of difference, as does having a post scorer. I think the overall shooting will be upgraded, we'll see what happens in the post.
What basketball related activities (if any) can the players participate in during the offseason? Besides practicing on their own of course...
Up until the week before final exams, players can be on the court with coaches for two hours per week and six in the weight room. You can do individual instruction on the court or go as a full team through April 15, I believe. In the summer, players can be on the court with coaches for up to two hours a day or up to eight hours per week during an eight-week stretch so long as they're enrolled in classes for that term.
Thanks to all for participating. Lots of good stuff today. I'll be back next week with another one and this weekend I'll be taking a look and some questions facing the team entering the offseason and looking a bit ahead to next season.