Nov. 15 Illinois basketball chat

Nov. 15 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 12:30pm

The Illinois basketball team is 2-0 on the season with wins against Southern and UT Martin and 1-0 in recruiting with a win by signing five-star point guard Ayo Dosunmu. So what's next for Brad Underwood's Illini? Will the season be more like the blowout against the Jaguars or what turned out to be a nailbiter against the Skyhawks? Who might be on the recruiting radar? Beat writer Scott Richey will answer all of your Illinois basketball questions in his 12:30 p.m. Wednesday chat.

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Not exactly a pleasant day in Champaign, but that just means you can huddle up with your computer and follow along with today's chat. A handful of questions have already been submitted, but I'll keep the chat open for about an hour for anyone who wants to join in. If there are questions to answer, I'll keep answering them.

Let's get to it ...

Ben in Chicago wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Would we have a better shot at making the NCAA tournement this year with Groce, JCL, and Tilmon vs Underwood and the current roster?

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Ben in Chicago,

My initial instinct is to say no. While I think Illinois making the NCAA tournament this season is also a long shot, I don't believe the Illini's chances would have been better if no coaching change was made. Illinois had not improved during John Groce's tenure, and the team would have been in the same situation — young and playing without Malcolm Hill. 

There's all the chance in the world Jeremiah Tilmon will have a productive season at Missouri. He could have done the same at Illinois. Foul trouble — what plagued him last year at East St. Louis — would have followed him either way. It has in the early going with the Tigers.

Plus, do Leron Black and Michael Finke play like they have through two games without the change? Does Aaron Jordan? Would Illinois have even landed Mark Smith? The graduate transfer situation might have been different, too, with Mark Alstork not necessarily landing in Champaign.

Lots of variables to consider.

Elmer Fudd wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Scott,  thank you for your great coverage of Illini sports, as well as answering questions from this chat!   Aaron Jordan looks to have the skills to be a huge contributor to this Illini Basketball team.  I am shocked at the transformation he has made from his first 2 years.  What happened?

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Elmer Fudd,

Appreciate the kind words. Thanks for being a regular chat participant.

I think Aaron Jordan's strong start to the season is maybe built around confidence more than anything. Change can be tough sometimes, but it can also be the best thing to happen to some people. Illinois moving from John Groce to Brad Underwood gave Jordan a clean slate.

His limited playing time in his first two seasons — plus not much going well when he got on the court — didn't change Jordan as a person. He was still very much all about the team, and his teammates pointed that out and appreciated that about him. But not playing and not playing well when he did play can be a confidence hit and create some mental obstacles. 

Those appear to be gone. I always thought Jordan had the potential to be a 3-and-D guy for the Illini, but it just never clicked the past two years. It's clicking now. Plus, he's showing a new aggressive side to his game attacking the basket and rebounding. 

Of course, it's only been two games. For all the Illini. Consistency will be the real factor.

Elmer Fudd wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Tennessee- Martin threw something at the Illini that they hadn't seen- a zone defense.   In response to this, I thought the Illini offense, at times, looked disheveled, confused, and lacked fluidity.   Your thoughts?

 

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm
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Elmer Fudd,

All your words for Illinois' zone offense are fairly spot on. While there was the occasional aggressive take to the rim — one way to attack a zone — there probably weren't enough. Not hitting three-pointers all that consistently didn't help either.

Brad Underwood said after the game Illinois was running a limited zone offense. It being the second game of the season, that's not exactly a surprise — especially with a first-year coach bringing in a wholly different style. Preseason time was spent installing the defense (doesn't matter how many points you score if you can't stop anybody) and the groundwork of Underwood's spread offense. 

The offense as a whole is a work in progress, which is to be expected. I'd look for it to be improved a month from now and again a month after that, etc.

 

Anonymous User wrote on November 15, 2017 at 12:11 pm

What's the real story behind Bailey Dee?

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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Anonymous,

I won't claim to know the whole story, but I can lay out a few things I'm aware of:

— Unit 4 policy prevents coaches from discussing personnel issues. That means the Central staff can't refute the allegations levied against them. An allegation like the decision to cut Bailey Dee was somehow racially motivated. As mentioned in the story by our Tim Mitchell, the majority of the Central basketball team is black (I believe 10 of the 14 varsity players).

— Dee's younger brother, Conley, is on Central's freshman roster

— The idea that Dee and Central senior Tim Finke playing together would somehow impact the latter's recruitment is a moot point now that Finke has committed to Grand Canyon.

— There was discussion this summer that Dee was at least looking at the idea of leaving Central and spending his senior season elsewhere (like a prep school). That prompted him to send this tweet in June, but rumors persisted as late as this fall he was going to transfer. 

Anonymous User wrote on November 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Scott,

 

Who is the best walk-on on the basketball team in your opinion

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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Anonymous,

That's an interesting question. Sort of a hard one to answer, too, because I haven't gotten a chance to really see all of their game. 

Best shooter? Probalby former Champaign Central standout Clayton Jones.

Knows the offense best? Easily Tyler Underwood.

Makes the right play? Cameron Liss because he's been around the longest.

Best athlete? Samson Oladimeji. Dude can throw down.

chipgolf11 wrote on November 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm


Has Tim Finke gone crazy or did everyone back off recruiting him?

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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chipgolf11,

I can see some people being surprised about Tim Finke's commitment to Grand Canyon. The Antelopes aren't exactly the most well known program. 

Yes, the tenor of Finke's recruitment changed this summer. He had a back injury in July and didn't play as well on the AAU circuit as he had, just for example, in April. That caused some teams to start looking elsewhere for players like him, but interest was beginning to pick back up this fall.

Even so, Grand Canyon has something going right now. The 'Lopes are now fully transitioned to Division I status, and they're 83-46 under Dan Majerle. That includes 49 wins in the last two seasons and a 2-0 start so far this year.

Gameday is supposed to be an event at GCU. This story by Deadspin founder, UI grad and former Mattoon resident Will Leitch takes a long look at the program. Interesting read.

Ever since this year's Illinois schedule was released, I've mentioned the Dec. 30 game against Grand Canyon as being one that I think could be among the most competitive nonconference games for the Illini.

Scott Richey wrote on November 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm
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Looks like that's all the questions this week. Thanks to everybody that submitted something or simply followed along. Plenty more Illinois hoops coverage coming this week with games Friday (DePaul) and Sunday (Marshall). Plus a couple cameos at women's basketball for me and Illinois football playing at Ohio State on Saturday as major underdogs.

The chat will be back next week. Same time, same place. Until then, enjoy the week!