Aug. 22 Illinois basketball, football and volleyball chat

Aug. 22 Illinois basketball, football and volleyball chat

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - 12:30pm

Beat writer Scott Richey spent his weekend at scrimmages for both Illinois football and volleyball, so feel free to send questions about Lovie Smith and Chris Tamas' team his way for this week's chat. But, of course, it's always basketball season. Brad Underwood is about to have his full 2018-19 team on campus for the first time, and practices start exactly one month from the first day of classes in Champaign-Urbana. Interested in recruiting? The schedule? Expectations for this season? Richey will answer any and all questions at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Running a little behind for this week's chat. Sometimes you get caught up editing video and lose all track of time. A good number of questions await me, and I'm going to try and squeeze the whole chat before 2 p.m. hits. Then I'm off to Huff Hall for my second round of interviews on the day.

Let's get to it ...

Calvin Montgomery wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Im a big Illini fan when it comes to football, basketball, and volleyball so I need some realistic answers. With all the hype around A.J Bush from these last 2 week's or so "do you think he can be the next Russell Wilson?" By Illinois owning Gonzaga in all-time games " can they not look at them as a preseason top 5 team and as a pride and knock them off the first round, and try to play in the Maui Championship game "and Win?" I think it's time to prove ourselves Now for basketball. Lastly, can Coach Tamas take us to the next level and get us a Volleyball Championship? I just moved to Memphis not that long ago and this is SEC country, they don't respect Big 10. Do you see someone out of the BIG 10 winning a Championship soon again? And how far away before Illinois see another one?

Thank you, forever an ILLINI fan
Calvin Montgomery

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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Thanks for all the questions this week. I appreciate that you hit on every sport.

I think AJ Bush is a serious improvement over what Illinois had at quarterback last season. He's so different skill set wise from Wes Lunt it's hard to make that comparision, but solely based on two-plus weeks of training camp Bush might be able to do more for the Illini than Lunt did. Is he the next Russell Wilson? That's a big leap to make. I'll have to say no given the fact Wilson put up big numbers at N.C. State before his one-year stop at Wisconsin. That doesn't mean Bush can't have a nice season for the Illini.

None of the current Illinois men's basketball players were on those teams that beat Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are going to be a top five team (most likely) for a reason. They're loaded with talent, and they all know Mark Few's system. This Illinois team might have more overall talent than last year's, but so many newcomers makes for a complete opposition situation as the one at Gonzaga. Anything can happen, but I don't see an upset coming in that game.

Volleyball wise, Illinois has to prove it can compete consistently at the very top of the Big Ten before it can think national title. Of course, being at the top of the Big Ten means you've got a pretty good shot at an NCAA championship. Right now, though, Illinois is projected behind Nebraska, Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota. For a reason. The Illini haven't beaten those teams consistently enough the past few years. This year's team could, though. It's just a matter of doing it on the court.

I'm going to assume your final question was also football related given Nebraska has won two of the last three NCAA volleyball titles. Wisconsin is certainly a College Football Playoff contender. The Badgers just have to get over the hump in the Big Ten title game. As far as Illinois winning a national title? I don't think you can honestly predict something like that for a team that went 2-10 last season and where four wins is being discusses in the preseason as a "good" year.

Pogo in Springfield wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Having read that the staff has been pleasantly suprised by Georgi and the early look at Kane, do you feel either or both can be plus or even neutral players for the Illini in the coming season?   It is difficult to buy in to an NCAA tourney bid for this team as they are depending so heavily on kids that have never worn the uniform...and most have never stepped foot in front of a packed SFC, let alone any other hostile venue.  I certainly like the makeup of this team and they should be pretty good season after next....but what do you see for this season?

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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I think the best case scenario for Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Samba Kane in the 2018-19 season is to put as much on the table for the Illini as they take off. They both have their positives. Bezhanishvili has a high basketball IQ and is a good passing big man. Kane, of course, brings some athleticism and maybe some shot blocking to the low post. They're both freshmen, though. Most freshmen struggle. We'll have to wait and see what the balance is between positive and negative plays.

I would say an NCAA tournament bid is the extreme best case scenario for this team. Like you, I like the makeup of the team, but there will be a learning curve with so many newcomers and pairing those likely struggles with a rather tough schedule is going to lead to some losses. I would say an NIT berth would be a major step forward from last year.

Effrem Winters wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm


any update on Samba Kane?

 Thank you 

Gregg G wrote on August 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Anything word on Samba Kane? Is Higgs on campus yet?  What is De La Rosa's status medically?

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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Efrem and Gregg,

Paired your questions together since the subject matter was the same. Illinois students have started to arrive in Champaign-Urbana this week. The fact it takes me longer to get from campus to our downtown headquarters is the clear giveaway. Anthony Higgs is apparently already here (per an Instagram post I didn't see). Not sure about Samba Kane.

The last word from Brad Underwood on Adonis De La Rosa (late last month) was no clear timetable on the 7-footer's return. Illinois didn't get Da'Monte Williams cleared until the first day of practice last season. De La Rosa's rehab and recovery isn't as far along at this point as Williams' was because of the gap between when they had their respective surgeries. I wouldn't count on De La Rosa to be available in a month when practice starts. Think November for him to be cleared to return to the court full time and maybe December/January until he plays. That's just based on the typical recovery for an ACL tear.

Bill-e-bob wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the chats.  What was your assessment of the Orange/Blue Volleyball scrimmage?  What is your take on the new players:  Fleming, Kuper, and Brown?  I was excited to see Quade terminate better, especially from the back row.  Ali B. looked strong, as did Cooney and Blayke.  The DS's were digging well and extending points, but because of all the switching around, first-contact passes were pretty weak; that needs to be fixed.  Do you know anything about when we might hear something about Bruna's case?

Thanks in advance.

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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I don't know that I was able to make a true assessment after the Orange and Blue scimmage simply for the fact some players played on both teams (in the same set) and others were in different positions because of depth concerns last weekend.

I did like what I saw from Ashlyn Fleming and Taylor Kuper. Fleming will need some time to develop a connection with Jordyn Poulter, but I think she could be an offensive threat at middle blocker. Kuper played with a ton of energy, and she's got some serious hops to play outside hitter at just 5-foot-8. I liked her attack out of the back row especially. Diana Brown is the future at setter, but future is the optimal word. She's going to redshirt this season (at least that's the plan at the moment) and soak up all she can from Jordyn Poulter.

Ali Bastianelli was everything she's always been, but you're right about first contact. It wasn't great very often, but I think all of the moving parts (subs crossing over to both teams) to make the scrimmage work played a factor in that.

Whether or not Bruna Ana Vrankovic plays this season is in the hands of the NCAA. Her eligibility case is being reviewed and depending on the initial outcome Illinois has the right to appeal. It's just a waiting game.

Melissa Mathews wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Hi Scott, thanks for the chat.

I was wondering a few things about the volleyball scrimmage, I didn’t see Beth Prince mentioned, did she play ?  I also noticed that Blake H had a kill on the right side, did she play a position other than middle ?  How did Ashlyn Fleming look,can she help us ? And lastly, who looks good in the back row ? 

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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Beth Prince played back row only in the scrimmage as a precaution more than anything. Nothing serious at the moment that I'm aware of. The nature of the scrimmage, with Prince not playing the front row and Emily Hollowell unavailable with a hand in a soft cast meant some lineup shuffling. Blayke Hranicka played some at opposite because of that, and that could remain an option depending on how Ashlyn Fleming does in the middle. Otherwise, Hranicka will be needed there.

Fleming had some good moments -- particularly attacking -- but it's clear she arrived at Illinois less than a week before the start of preseason training. Once she better establishes a connection with Jordyn Poulter and a rhythm defensively with her new teammates, I think you'll see her production make a jump. The potential is certainly there.

The back row play was a little iffy. Morgan O'Brien had some good moments. Caroline Welsh, too, but that's what I expected. Passing was just a little off, though. What I did like out of the back row was Jacqueline Quade attacking. That could be a big weapon for the Illini to pull out this season.

Blakester wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

        Happy Hump Day Illini Family! Or should I say Dump Day! I wanna ask of you about the proposed new NCAA rules affecting scouting and recuiting on a daily basis for all parties including schools, travel teams, pro teams and shoe companies involved in the latest sludge feast that polluted the recuiting waters since them cases and stories submerged to the surface. If this stuff leak into the Titanic, then everybody would jump ship and vest their way to shore. How will the big boys deal with the rats on their sinking ship and the little boys sail their raft to shore from the storm just as Louisville and other schools trying to do to keep their sails afloat without drinking too much martini? Peace & out!

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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You've gotten to the point where I can hardly figure out what you're trying to ask. You can certainly paint a word picture, though. Anyway, the recruiting calendar might have been tweaked for next season, but I don't know that any major changes were made. It will probably continue like it always has -- for better or worse.

B-man wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm

I took a look at the schedule and I think the Illini go 17-13. What do you think? Am I crazy? Hopefully I counted right and they actually have 30 games - I put them down for 1 & 2 in Maui.

Thanks for your thoughts and the chats!

Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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I don't think your crazy (although there are 31 games by my count ... 11 nonconference with three in Maui and then 20 Big Ten games). A 17-13 record or the 31-game equivalent is certainly possible for Illinois in the 2018-19 season. The Illini could also be a little better or a little worse than that.

My first take on the schedule -- truly just ripping through it with first instinct -- had Illinois at 16 wins. Because so many players on this team are new and haven't played together before, no one will really have a solid grasp on what this team can do until they actually play. That number is fluid, though, particularly if Illinois shows some tangible improvement as the season progresses -- or other teams don't.


Scott Richey wrote on August 22, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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That's all the questions in the hopper for today's chat, so we'll call it a day. Thanks to everyone that submitted questions and for hitting on all three sports. Your participation is what makes the chat go each week. I'll be back next week -- same time, same place -- to answer all of your Illini-related questions.

Until then, enjoy the week!