November 30 Illinois basketball chat

November 30 Illinois basketball chat

Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 3:30pm

How will Brad Underwood's program do now that Big Ten play arrives on Friday night? Can the Illini start off with a 2-0 mark in conference action? How are Mark Smith, Trent Frazier and the rest of the newcomers adapting to the Illini now that the season is well underway? What recruits are Underwood and his staff targeting? Beat writer Scott Richey is chatting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and will gladly take questions on any of those topics or whatever else is on your mind. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for waiting a day plus a few extra hours for today's chat to start. Illinois was practicing during our regular time, so I spent a little time over at Ubben with preparation underway for Friday's Big Ten opener against Northwestern.

With a dozen questions already waiting for me, let's jump right in to the chat ... 

Kevin H. wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Very disappointed in the loss.  There is no way around it- that is a bad Wake Forest team. Being on the road isn't a good excuse either because that was the least hostile road game environment that the Illini will be in all year.  I've been in libraries that were louder.

After 7 games I still don't know who the go-to option is on offense, and I don't think this team knows who it is either.  The last several years it's always been clear - Brandon Paul, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill, etc.  You knew these were the guys who would get a bucket to stop an 8-0 run.  I thought it may be Alstork, but I don't think he scored (maybe 2 points) after his hot start to the game.  Mark Smith was a non-factor the whole game.  Black and Finke aren't shot creators and Lucas isn't a scoring point guard.

I like that they have 7-8 guys who can score double figures on a given night but I don't know who the go-to guy is.  Who's the guy to step up and get a basket to stop a run, or who takes the last second shot when they are down 1?  Curious on your thoughts about it. 

Thanks as always for your chats!!

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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Kevin H.,

Like you, I thought Mark Alstork might be that "go to" guy for Illinois this season. After all, he's been that guy before in his time at Wright State. The way he started Tuesday's game at Wake Forest shows he can be that type of player. The way he finished (zero points after scoring the first eight of the game for the Illini) shows he's not truly there yet at Illinois. As Mark Smith gets more comfortable, I think he can be an option as a "go to" guy, too. He's shown he can take his man off the dribble and finish at the rim. Sometimes that's all you need. It's a rare true freshman, though, that can immediately become that guy. Maybe a handful every year. Smith, though, can get there.

And while Aaron Jordan and Michael Finke, to use two examples, aren't necessarily shot creators. They are shot makers. A kickout for a three-pointer from either of them is a good way to stop or run or be a last-second attempt.

Bloomington Rev wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

After watching on television and especially after getting to a game in person the other night, the one thing I have noticed is our in your face defense.  We play it hard, but at the end of the shot clock, we have breakdowns.  Dribble penetration by guards is still a problem.  Can we back off a little from 35 feet out when we have no elite shot blocker in the paint? 

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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Bloomington Rev,

There's a balance in there somewhere between the aggressive nature Brad Underwood wants Illinois to play with defensively and not getting burnt on drives to the basket. The ball pressure-based system has helped the Illini on defense, I think, compared to the Pack Line. It's all about making the correct play along with the aggressive play. The Illinois defenders have to know when to make adjustments in the heat of a play. Because you're right. Shutdown defense for 25 seconds isn't worth much if you still give up an easy opportunity to the offense.

Elmer Fudd wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

A very winnable game at Wake Forest. Our bugs play against their zone defense a little disappointing wouldn't you say.? Also way too many fouls.

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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Elmer Fudd,

Brad Underwood didn't hesitate to point out the 13 turnovers the Illinois forwards committed against Wake Forest. Not ideal when the times the Illini were able to get the ball to the high post or short corner against the zone they tended to turn it over.  And, yes, too many fouls. That's been the case for most of the season. The theme today talking with a couple players before practice was play hard, but play smart.

IlliniFansinceTheSpoon wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Hey Scott,

Coaches, fans, and the media blow about the sixth man, spark off the bench, but it's time that

Nichols and Jordan start. Sure, some guys share the minutes but should'nt the best 5 now start?

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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IlliniFansinceTheSpoon,

Here's an answer straight from the coach since Brad Underwood was asked about this today. He puts more emphasis on who he has coming off the bench (looking for production, a spark) than he does in who starts. In short, according to Underwood, who starts doesn't really matter. Some guys tend to thrive off the bench anyway. While they could be just as productive as starters, who's to say Kipper Nichols or Aaron Jordan wouldn't play worse if their role changed?

Elmer Fudd wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Didn't see much driving to the basket, especially by the guards, thus we didn't draw many fouls. your thoughts?

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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Elmer Fudd,

That would be my take from Tuesday's game against Wake Forest, too. Te'Jon Lucas was one of the players available today before practice, and he mentioned the ball needed to touch the paint more against the Demon Deacons. Entry passes are one way. Dribble drives by the guards are another. A kickout three-pointer after the ball got inside (either way) would have been better than some of the three-pointers the Illini attempted. Plus, yeah, maybe Wake Forest fouls on those drives. Free throws are (or should be) easy points.

LifetimeIllini wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Scott,

A few questions for you and thanks for the chats.  

 

On the three point shot with the questionable basket interferance call vs Wake Forest, have you gone back to look at the replay to confirm whether the Wake player actually touched the ball?  It wasn't obvioius to me from the replay I saw but I didn't get a good look.

 

I don't recall ever seeing a foul call reversed because of a review.  I suppose the ref concluded that they either had to call a flagrant foul (because the elbow contact would have been to the face), or no foul at all (because if there was no contact, there couldn't be a foul). So, does this mean that we will see more foul calls reversed when they are faced with that choice?  Or should the refs rule that even if there is no contact, the original foul call can't be reversed?

 

Finally, do you think we will see Underwood change his defense to stop the "layup line" that we saw with Wake Forest?  Without a rim defender and with Lucas and Frazier undersized as defenders, it seems that bigger guards with a good handle will have no problem getting to the rim.  It seemed like he tried the Zone and then put in Smith at the point to counter, but neither seemed very effective.  

 

Appreciate your thoughts/

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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LifetimeIllini,

The three-pointer that Doral Moore didn't touch (per the officials) was made on the basket right in front of me. My initial thought was he touched it on the rim, which would be offensive goaltending. The replay angles I saw (mostly GIFs on Twitter) looked like he touched it, too. I never saw the apparent angle from above that might have indicated some daylight between his giant hands and the ball.

I don't think I've seen a foul call reversed after a review either. People like to talk about the human element in officiating, umpiring, etc. If we're going to have human officials actually on the court or field or diamond, I think there have to be narrow parameters on what can be reviewed and what can't. All of that stoppage Tuesday added nothing to the actual game happening. I can understand the "want to get the call right" replay crowd, but who enjoys that inaction?

Brad Underwood has shown he'll make changes on the fly with his system. Like last season at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were in a bunch of their early games in the Big 12, but they weren't winning them mainly because they couldn't stop anybody. Underwood changed up his defense to more of a Pack Line look and Oklahoma State ended up in the NCAA tournament. As far as Te'Jon Lucas and Trent Frazier go, however, I think they can be effective defenders even against bigger guards. Their lateral quickness can help. It's just a matter of execution (plus help side assistance, which this defense should have, won't hurt).

Kid Rock wrote on November 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

  Scott,   We lose 1 game and now the naysayers are coming out to criticize Underwood's decisions, even though he has stated on numerous occassions that they are "just playing" and haven't grasped the system fully to begin "scheming" in this offense. What are your views on this and also on a few calls made during the game?  

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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Kid Rock,

I had a quote from Chin Coleman in the story that ran in today's paper. The gist? Brad Underwood-coached teams get better as the season progresses. His system is a complete 180 from what the Illini veterans ran the past few seasons, and college basketball is brand new to the freshmen. I don't think it was a secret that it was going to take some time for them to 100 percent grasp what Underwood wants to run.

I'm in the "let 'em play" category when it comes to foul calls. I thought Illinois deserved some. Others were questionable. Mainly, all these fouls just kill any kind of flow to the game.

Chuckles Smith wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

I know he announced that the team worked on playing against the zone earlier this week in preparation for Wake Forest, what kinda prep are they working on this week to get ready for NWU.  I know they like to play man to man but you know they will throw zone at Illinois.  Personally I think the pressure defense will totally take NWU out of their game.

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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Chuckles,

I think everybody will throw a little zone at Illinois just to see what happens. Wake Forest couldn't stop the Illini early in the first half wit its man-to-man defense. The Illinois offense, when run correctly, is hard to stop with man. More teams will go zone to shut it down. The Illini have to be more efficient scoring against those zone defenses than they were Tuesday.

The thing about Northwestern is the Wildcats aren't exactly a deep team. Bryant McIntosh is playing more minutes than anybody in the Big Ten. Doing so with Te'Jon Lucas or Trent Frazier in his face for the 35.9 minutes per game he's playing probably won't be fun.

Kid Rock wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

   

    Scott,   While the next signing period isn't until spring, do you see any commits coming before then? Will we see a 5th yr graduate transfer this spring also?  Will Illini women win their opening round match Friday?  Did Manning say anything after the game regarding the questionable calls going his way? 

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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Kid Rock,

There could be a commitment or two before the spring signing period actually starts. Will there be? That's impossible to know. I wouldn't say Illinois is that close on anybody. The recruiting board had to be rebuilt, so there are new offers out, but I'd call those recruitments in early stages. As far as a grad transfer goes, sure, that could happen. Those names won't hit until after the season. Keep thinking spring -- for everything.

I didn't stay in the Wake Forest media room for Danny Manning's postgame press conference. Road games are a bit different. Brad Underwood went first before Manning, and then the choices are either get Illinois players outside the locker room or stay for the opposing coach. I'll pick the Illini players every time in that situation since I can only be in one place at a time.

 

Bwp5p wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Hi Scott,

I assume you were at the Game Tuesday. Did some of the fouls seem a bit ticky tack to you?

Don't remember if it was Finke's 1st or 2nd....and my recording didn't catch the 1st 10 minutes or so, but one of them I thought was terrible! Take the best shooter out of the game is a solid strategy to garner a win!

Should we be expecting Mark Smith to start shooting better?

Thanks for the Chats

Bruce

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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Bruce,

Some of the fouls were a bit questionable. Others I thought Illinois deserved. They got a little reach-y on occasion. That's a no-no. Without going back through the play-by-play, I thought the offensive foul called on Michael Finke was a little eyebrow raising, but that's one of the points of emphasis this season for the officials. You have to get set when you're setting screens and then not move any part of your body basically. It happened at the end opposite from me, but I thought Finke was pretty well set.

I've seen Mark Smith shoot better. He did it in high school. Something tells me he can do it now, too. 

Anonymous User wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

I know it is basketball season, but you covered football this year as well.  Just curious what your feeling is as to the recent spate of transfers out of the program.  Is this a good or bad siogn?  Does it free up scholarships that could be used this recruiting period?

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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Anonymous,

I don't think the football transfers are exactly unexpected. The older players on the Illinois roster saw the coaching staff commit to the freshmen. As far as good/bad goes, the bad of it is losing players like Tre Watson and Pat Nelson who were contributors. Depth is still an issue for the Illini. They just lost some of it, and it was experienced depth, too.

The flip side is, yes, Illini have a few more scholarships to give for the 2018 class since before the season started they were looking at, I think, maybe 18 guys. That number ticks up now.

ILLFighter wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Has there ever been a B1G Volleyball championship match/tournament? I'm sure coaches/players think the season is long enough already, and the NCAA generally feaures a good number of Conference teams. Just wondered how they've avoided it when all other sports have playoffs. Looking forward to some Illini WOW (wins out west)! 

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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ILLFighter,

Off the top of my head, I don't know if there's ever been a Big Ten volleyball championship, but I don't think there has been one. I do know, however, that nobody in the Big Ten wants one. Just from my interactions with them, Kevin Hambly was against it and Chris Tamas doesn't want it either. 

The reason is the Big Ten beats each other up for 20 conference matches already. It's said in a joking manner, but it's not really a joke that it's easier to win a national championship (only takes six wins) than it is to win a Big Ten championship. Plus, if the Big Ten went to a tourney, it devalues the regular season title winner who went through the gauntlet that is the conference to claim the crown.

Scott Richey wrote on November 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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Looks like that's it for today's chat. It was a good one, so the thanks goes to everybody that submitted questions. Our Illinois basketball coverage this week, though, has barely started. Make sure to check out everything leading up to and after Friday's game against Northwestern and more for Sunday's game against Maryland. 

The chat should return to its usual time next week at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday as a preview to that night's game against Austin Peay. Until then, enjoy the week!