Feb. 22 Illinois basketball chat

Feb. 22 Illinois basketball chat

Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 12:30pm

How will the final two regular-season games play out for the Illini? What seed will Brad Underwood's program get in the Big Ten tournament? Can they avoid playing on the first day at Madison Square Garden? What will the roster look like next season? How is the recruitment of E.J. Liddell, Francis Okoro and others going? Beat writer Scott Richey handles your questions at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday before the Illini host Purdue in the final game at State Farm Center this season. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time.

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Particularly good because not only is it gameday, but it's time for our weekly Illinois basketball chat. Consider this a warmup for tonight's game against Purdue. Of note concerning that, the Boilermakers will be without senior forward Vincent Edwards. Considering he's the team's best defender and a double-digit scorer, that's bad news for Purdue and good news for the Illini.

Meanwhile, I've got plenty of questions ready for me, so let's get to the chat ...

illiniFL wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Ok so during the Michigan State game, the commentators were basically going on and on and on and on about anything but the game in the first half for MINUTES!? Is this usual on ESPN?  The BTN commentators don't do that, sure they talk about the players during the game but not at length like they did on ESPN during Michigan State.


Also been watching this videos of interviews.  Why are professoinal journalists using phones to video?  Any decent compact camera will give you leaps and bounds better quality that any phone (iphone included). Other than convenience and your target audience probably doesn't care about the quality (at least the majority), don't you'll want somewhat decent quality for archival purposes?!

Prediction: we beat Purdue Thursday night, and lose to Rutgers on Sunday (because it'll be tradition) and make a run in the tourney. We'll take revenge on MSU whenever we play them and then lose the next game.

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Obviously, I wasn't listening/watching Tuesday night's broadcast. One, I had a baseline view. Two, I couldn't hear anything anyway with part of the Izzone right behind me and the Micigan State band not far away. Ears were ringing a bit. But I've certainly seen other ESPN broadcasts this season. It's what they do. At least it has been this season more than I remember from previous years. To be honest, I'll hit mute or find a different game to watch. I can see interjecting some different stories into the broadcast, but I'm tuning in to watch the game. 

I use my iPhone to shoot video because that's what I have to use. While the videos are just one part of the coverage we provide, I'll try and look for other ways I can improve quality. Or ... I'm open to donations if you want me to have a different camera. The mailing address for News-Gazette Media headquarters can be found here on our site. (And because sarcasm doesn't come across in the written word, I'm kidding). 

Your prediction is equal parts optimistic and realistic. No telling what will actually happen given the way this season has played out so far.

IlliniFanSincetheSpoon wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Hey Scott,

I've heard talk that some players may transfer and/or the BB coaching staff is encouraging some to do so. My reply, Why? Frazier and Black can start elsewhere but the rest have mins. here. As far as the staffs rumoured actions, they have 1, ONE, scholly player on board, who isn't back playing, as far as I know. I thought the TV analyst touched on transfers during the Mich. St. telecast. I think this talk is frustration fueled. Please share your insiders take on this!

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Any word on potential transfers at this point is just pure speculation. Do I have some of my own speculative thoughts on the matter? Sure, but I try to deal in facts. We don't have any of those right now.

Remember when everyone thought Aaron Jordan wouldn't be back this year and were sure he'd transfer just like Jalen Coleman-Lands and D.J. Williams did? Obviously that worked out differently.

That said, players transfer. It happens everywhere. That's how we've gotten to the point in college basketball where more than 700 players have transferred in each of the past few seasons. The simple math on that works out to an average of basically two for every D-I program.

As for Illinois' one signed 2018 recruit, Ayo Dosunmu is, in fact, back from his ankle injury. 

Anonymous User wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Scott-  To my knowledge, Leron Black has graduated and is currently a graduate student.  Accordingly, do you anticipate him turning pro after this year?  To his credit, he seems very possessed to move-on to the next level especially since he is also engaged.

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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To be honest, I'm not aware of Leron Black's academic status (i.e. graduated or not). Black could turn pro, I suppose, but turn pro where? He's not, at this point, considered an NBA draft prospect. So the G-League? Overseas? All I can say is nothing I've heard would indicate his immediate future plans lean that direction. Of course, there's the usual caveat ... I've been wrong before. It might even happen again.

disappointed fan wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

How much of the "second half woes" are attributable to other teams simply not taking the Illini seriously, and so playing below their ability in the first half. After their coach chews them out,  they come out with intensity in the second half to dominate us? Do any of our current team or recruiting targets have the atheltic ability to make baskets up close, and occasionally make a crwod-thrilling dunk?

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Disappointed fan,

Illinois has had plenty of first half woes, too. Remember the Ohio State game? That scoring drought was 90 percent first half. Either way, I'm going to put the Illini's struggles as the result of the other team not taking them seriously at 0.1 percent. I'd go 0 percent, but that doesn't give me any wiggle room. 

Illinois making just 6 of 23 layups against Michigan State, for example, isn't because the Spartans all of a sudden started playing harder in the second half. It comes from not executing, which happened in both the first and second halves. 

I've seen the current Illini make layups and dunks, so I'd say, yes, they have that ability. Incoming guard Ayo Dosunmu plays downhill at a tremendous pace. Getting layup opportunities off the bounce and finishing them is his specialty.

B-man wrote on February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Hi Scott,

Once again, thanks for the Chats!  I have a simple question for you that leads to all sorts of thoughts in terms of where this program is at and what needs to happen over the nest few years. 

If Leron Black was on Michigan State, would he start or would he come off the bench?

Unfortunately, I don't think he would be a starter, and given the fact that he is clearly our best player, at least currently, that says a lot about how far we have to go.

Thanks for your thoughts on this!

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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I have a simple answer for your simple question. No, Leron Black probably doesn't start if he played at Michigan State. Black's a 4. That spot is currently filled for the Spartans by a future lottery pick in Jaren Jackson Jr. I don't think allowing Jackson to be the rim-protecting 5 in name only and Black supplanting Nick Ward is likely either.

I envision Black as the first big man off the bench in this hypothetical scenario in the Gavin Schilling role. He'd be able to provide more than Schilling does as a scoring threat (both inside and beyond the arc) but maybe not quite as much as a rebounder (per 40 minute numbers give MSU big the edge).

Elmer B Fudd wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Scott,     Assuming in 2018, the Illini get that big to play the "5"position.   This would allow Leron to move back to his more natural position at the "4."   Do we see an even better Leron next year?

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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Elmer B Fudd,

The only time Leron Black hasn't played the 4 this season is in smaller lineups when neither Michael Finke nor Greg Eboigbodin are in the game. He's played more 4 than 5 this year, and that's what Illinois should continue to shoot for.

The last four games have sort of been peak Leron Black with averages of 21.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. That sort of sets the expectation level moving forward the rest of this season and into next, with things balancing out to not quite as much scoring and a bit more rebounding.

Elmer B Fudd wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Scott,   For 2018,  as of right now, the Illini have 2 scholarships available and Ayo coming in. Ther have been numerous players reported to have received offers from Illinois (Jones, Rodriquez, Jacobs, Ramey, Calloo, Trice) and reported interest in others (Taylor, Brangers).   The Illini are also expected to secure the services of a big man via the grad transfer route.   Do you think the staff are anticipating the transfer of some current players?  Can they sign over  the 13 scholarships allotted?

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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Elmer B Fudd,

To answer your last question first, no, it is my understanding Illinois cannot sign more players than can fill the 13 total scholarships available now that scholarships in the Big Ten are a four-year guarantee. Used to be, when scholarhips were renewed on a yearly basis, you could oversign and then have to figure out a way back to 13. Usually a "surprise" "transfer" would happen. Both of those words are in quotes for a reason.

That said, as I mentioned in a previous answer, as more and more players transfer each season, roster churn regularly happens in the offseason. Illinois has two open scholarships as things stand now. Any potential transfer would add to that number. 

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Scott -

With college basketball world likely to be turned upside down by the FBI College Basketball Corruption Investigation soon, which unnamed teams do you think will benefit most from this anticipated impact?

It appears clear that named schools will be greatly affected via sanctions, loss of players and recruits, records reversed, etc. 

Your thoughts on how it will impact Illinois and the Big Ten Conference as  a whole?

Thank you.





Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

I typically like to given an opinion that can be backed up with facts. That way even if people don't agree, at least there's something concrete behind what I said. All we have now is a couple of Yahoo! stories that say college basketball as we know it is about to come crashing down. Will it, though? And when? 

Trial dates for the 10 people initially charged in the corruption case are reportedly spread across the next 14 months. Any and all documentation related to those cases is under a protective order. Here's a section from one of Pete Thamel's recent stories: "There’s a general expectation that this information will be released. It could come in trial, pre-trial motions or released by the government at some point. (No one is certain if they’ve agreed to eventually give it to the NCAA if it doesn’t go public.)"

"General expectation" stands out to be there. No one knows for sure. Maybe the college basketball world does topple. Maybe things change for the better. If and when remain the questions.

As for how any of this theoretically can impact Illinois, here's another line from another Thamel story: "If your school produced a first-round pick in the past three years, be worried.”

If that's the only standard, the Illini seem safe.

Chris N. wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm

First. Does Illinois have anything to worry about in this NCAA investigation mess?  Second, what was the truth about Horton-Tucker?  He appears to be the best player in Illinois.  Did Illinois screw this up? THT would sure look good in O and B next year. 

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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Chris N.,

First, no one knows. If and when the initial corruption cases are brought to trial, then documenation can come out. Second, there is no NCAA investigation. Yet. It's a federal investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice. The NCAA can slap a few wrists, cut a few scholarships and take down a few banners. The DOJ can send people to prison. 

I honestly doubt the full story of what happened with Talen Horton-Tucker's recruitment will ever be out. At the moment, there are conflicting reports. Several people reported Illinois pulled his scholarship at essentially the last minute and remain firm on that. Horton-Tucker's mom, Shirley Horton, told the Des Moines Register that never happened. 

Yes, Horton-Tucker appears to be the best player in Illinois this season. He's having a huge year, and he's also playing for what I would say is clearly the best team in the state. Don't take that as a slight to Ayo Dosunmu. He's really good, too, but his injury kept him off the court for multiple weeks. That didn't help him.

Did Illinois screw up? Yes and no. More of a no, at least in terms of actual facts that people can agree on. The Illini got Dosunmu. That's huge. Then they swung for the fences, trying to add Horton-Tucker even though there were clearly some obstacles to clear in that regard. Can't fault the coaching staff for trying to get top players. But it didn't happen and led to some stories that didn't exactly cast a positive light on the program.

James Russell wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm

How will the game turn out tonight and Sunday what are your predictions

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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James Russell,

I picked Purdue to win tonight, and I still feel like that's the likely outcome even though the Boilermakers won't have Vincent Edwards. Sunday, I'll probably pick Illinois to beat Rutgers in the regular season finale.

Scott Richey wrote on February 22, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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That's it for today's chat, but it's just the beginning of today's Illinois basketball coverage. The LIVE! Report before tonight's game will start at 5 p.m. Then there will be plenty of coverage in Friday's News-Gazette and here at IlliniHQ.com following the game.

The chat will be back next week with date and time still to be determined. A lot depends on when Illinois plays in the Big Ten tournament. Stay tuned.