Feb. 28 Illinois basketball chat

Feb. 28 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 12:30pm

Illinois will open the Big Ten tournament Wednesday against Iowa. Before that happens, get ready for an afternoon of basketball with Scott Richey's weekly chat. What will the Illini need to do to make a tournament run? How can they avoid the opening round next season? How's recruiting going to make that happen? Ask our beat writer those questions and more starting at 12:30 p.m. on gameday.

Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. A busy afternoon, too, what with Illinois and Iowa opening the Big Ten tournament at 4:30 p.m. So let's start off Illini gameday with a little back-and-forth in the chat.

A few questions already await me, so I'll get to those first, but if you catch me in the next hour and get a question submitted I'll answer it, too.

Let's get to it ...

Zekiah Swamp wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Where are the Illini practicing during their extended stay in NY/NJ?

Question:  Given that Butler and Creighton are now in the Big East, it would make sense for the Big East tournament to occasionally come West.  If Delaney and the Big East commissioner can get together, they could work out an arrangement by which every (pick a number) years the Big East tournament is in Indianapolis while the Big Ten plays in MSG. 

Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Zekiah Swamp,

Illinois practiced in multiple different spots between Sunday's game at Rutgers and today's game against Iowa, including NYU's rec center, the Brooklyn Nets' practice facility and today's shootaround at Baruch College. They certainly got to experience New York traffic yesterday. Michael Finke told me the trip from their hotel in Manhattan to Brooklyn took about 45 minutes. Shortest route is a 10-mile trip. Fun times.

To your more in depth question ... adding the two schools you mentioned to DePaul, Xavier and Marquette means half of the Big East is in the Midwest. Considering the Big Ten gave up on tradition and played its tournament in Washington, D.C., last year and New York City this year, maybe the Big East would abandon its history, too. While I remain 100 percent in favor of the Big Ten tournament never leaving Indianapolis or Chicago (for 100 percent selfish reasons), maybe your idea would have some merit at least to Jim Delany given his apparent need for the Big Ten's manifest destiny (only going east instead of west ... for now).


IlliniFanSincetheSpoon wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Hey Scott,

I've been impressed with D. Williams play lately. He seems to have a presence on the court.

We may discover why some coaches wear those high dollar suits....

Can you explain the stipend student athletes get?  Why can one college dole out so much more than others?

Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Da'Monte Williams is playing better. He went through a pretty rough stretch there and not just with his wayward shot — a few too many turnovers hurt him — but he plays with effort and rebounds. For a time, that's enough. Offense will come.

Per your question about the cost of attendance stipend scholarship athletes receive, here's an answer straight from the NCAA: "Subject to federal guidelines, financial aid officers at each school determine the cost of attendance. Additionally, based on each school’s policies, a student’s cost of attendance can be adjusted based on his or her individual circumstances such as transportation, childcare needs and unusual medical expenses."

Anonymous Jim wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Good morning Scott, will Mark Smith be available for the game against Iowa?

Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Anonymous Jim,

Brad Underwood said Mark Smith, while not 100 percent, made it through practice Tuesday and is expected to be in uniform today against Iowa. If/how much Smith plays is clearly up in the air. Apparently pretty weak still from fighting the flu.

Panera Guy wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm


Thanks for taking our questions today, looking forward to the (early) start to the Big 10 Tournament and March Madness! I have a couple for you:

I know the Big 10 doesn't give this award, but I think Leron Black should be the Most Underrated player in the league. What he has done this year from start to finish has been a pleasure to watch even though it didn't always translate into wins. What do you attribute his leap forward to the most this season? 

Second question, who do you think might make a similar improvement next year?

Thanks again for the chat!

Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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Panera Guy,

I voted Leron Black as an All-Big Ten Third Team selection ahead of some guys that either made the team (Moritz Wagner) or had better stats (Tyler Cook) because of just how steady Black's production was this season and how he produced going head-to-head with some of the Big Ten's best. 

Black's improved production this season can be tied to a couple things. One, while he's still fouling some he's not fouling so much that he's sitting for long stretches (regular season finale against Rutgers aside). Being on the court helps. This offense also runs more plays for him. Maybe John Groce would have done the same thing given no Malcolm Hill or Maverick Morgan on the roster, but Black's usage rate is up and so is his production. He also, as an undersized 4, has found a way to consistently score over bigger opponents. Part of his leap is that he's simply a good player, who's also being used more.

I think Mark Smith has the most room to grow next season given what he can do on the basketball court that he's just not doing very efficiently (or that much) this season.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on February 28, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Scott -

Who has the home court advantage at 4:30 pm? Is it probable that there will be more Illinois fans than Iowa fans? For other teams, who do you think their fans favor? (Illinois or Iowa)

Thank you for all you do.


Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

No one. That's who has home advantage at 4:30 p.m. at MSG. I'll give Illinois the edge on more fans simply for being 2 hours closer to New York City and for, and I didn't look this up, but what I'd say is a larger alumni base in NYC. Just expect a lot of "fans" to be dressed as empty seats.

As far as fans from other teams, I honestly can't say who'd they favor between Illinois and Iowa. My guess is neither. But I'm one of those guys. I don't have a lot of fan ties left of my own — really only pro sports at this point — but let's just say I'm not rooting for the NL Central if the Cardinals aren't in the playoffs. 

Scott Richey wrote on February 28, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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Looks like that's it for today's chat. But we've got plenty more Illinois basketball coverage coming. Get ready for some Wednesday afternoon basketball because the Illinois-Iowa tip is coming in three hours. Who knows what next week's chat will bring, but start thinking about your questions now. Always good to be prepared.

Until then, enjoy the week (and March ... the greatest month for college basketball).