Aug. 29 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Aug. 29 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 - 12:30pm

The Illinois volleyball team opened the season 3-0 but faces a tough test this weekend in Seattle. Saturday also marks the start of the 2018 Illinois football season, with all eyes on new quarterback AJ Bush and the Illini. Meanwhile, the Illinois basketball never truly ends. Players are back on campus, practices start in a month and recruiting is a year-round constant. Beat writer Scott Richey will answer any and all basketball, football and volleyball questions you might have in his weekly chat starting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Another busy day in the world of Illinois athletics from football still prepping for its season opener to volleyball getting ready to head to Seattle for a pair of top 25 showdowns to a $20 million donation (more on that in Thursday's N-G). 

Plus, there's today's chat. I've got a few questions waiting for me and with plenty to do this afternoon I'll keep the chat open until 1:30 p.m. or so before moving on to the next item on my to do list.

Away we go ...

teachdacc2 wrote on August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Great start to a new school year.  Do you see the volleyball team cracking the top 4 Big Ten?  Will they be able to make it past Sweet 16?  

In football can the Illini go .500?  How is Cam Thomas handling the naming of  Bush as starting QB?  Will he transfer as the Indiana QB did?


Thanks and keep up the great work.

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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There's certainly a chance that Illinois volleyball finishes in the top four in the Big Ten, but it won't be easy. The Illini are currently ranked 11th in the country. Four other Big Ten teams are in the top 10. Illinois will have to play more consistently than it did in the opening weekend of the season to break into that group. Yes, getting a pair of five-set wins was good. The Illini know they can pull out that type of match, and they did so with two players making their debuts and two others playing in different positions. Still, those five-set wins — particularly Northern Colorado — had a pretty good shot at being losses if they would have been against almost any Big Ten team. The level of competition is just that much higher.

Can Illinois football go .500? Sure, anything is possible. Will Illinois football go .500? No, probably not. I think this team has more talent than it did last season, and AJ Bush Jr. at quarterback is a big part of that. I think the offense should generate more points. But Illinois is one offensive line injury from being in a real pickle, and a team built almost entirely on freshmen and sophomores is still going to struggle in a Big Ten where redshirt seniors are key on every other roster. Age and experience matter.

You can read some of what Cam Thomas had to say about being the backup after I spoke with him on Tuesday. He doesn't sound like a guy that's going to transfer just because he isn't the starter. Plus, a year perfecting the offense, learning from Bush and getting a redshirt even if he plays as many as four games, puts him in position to start next year if he wins that quarterback competition.

mattk61 wrote on August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm

How close is Beth Prince to returning? The volleyball team pulled out its matches the first weekend, but they badly need her for the upcoming weekend and the Big Ten.

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm
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I'd say it's kind of a day-to-day thing with Beth Prince. Illinois is being cautious with her injury. I'd say there's no need to put her in if she's not 100 percent if doing so creates a greater chance to exacerbate the injury. It's not an overly serious issue from what I understand given the fact she did play at least the back row in the scrimmage and went through some warmups last weekend in Colorado. The latter would make me think she's close to a return, although Chris Tamas didn't go as far as to say anything of the sort earlier this week.

That said, I do agree with you. Illinois is better with Prince at outside hitter and Megan Cooney back at opposite. It's a more dangerous lineup.

Blakester wrote on August 29, 2018 at 12:08 pm

        My man Scott in the house! I wanna dive into some hoop recuiting updates regarding our men and women squads and who are the realistic targets are going forward. I wanna start with the girls and what can they do in order to climb to the top of the league and what it take to run with the alphas and omegas that rule them. Can they begin an Oregon State turnaround in the next few years after they reccive the right pieces to the team? Or do they have to find and hope them diamonds in the rough shine through the ashes. And can our boys mold themselves into another club like John Belien did with his teams in Ann Arbor scheme wise and recuting wise? What's the most realistic place to begin the construct of these two teams in order for them to challenge the elites day in and day out without them blinking every step of the way? Peace out!

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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I'm more than happy to talk basketball recruiting — and I even have some names on the women's side to keep track of. More on that in a bit. In general, however, with Nancy Fahey's rebuild attempt for Illinois women's basketball it's going to come down to talent. A gap exists in the Big Ten. Lots of talent at the top and not as much at the bottom, where Illinois has found itself of late. Matt Bollant got some, but it didn't last with top 100 players like Amarah Coleman and Chatrice White transferring. White was, after all, a McDonald's All-American. 

You can get wins with a group of players 100 percent bought into what you're trying to do with a program. You can win more if those same players can match the collective talent level of their conference opponents. Will Illinois land Maryland-level talent all the time? Right now, you say no. Down the road? Well, that's certainly a goal to shoot for.

Now, for some names to watch on the women's basketball recruiting front. The top one, of course, is two-time N-G All-State Player of the Year Brea Beal. She's a potential program changer, and if Illinois can get her on board that could help 2019 recruiting as a whole. Good players want to play with good players, and Beal is ranked No. 12 nationally.

Others that have included Illinois as a finalist include Jenae Terry (5-10 guard out of Michigan), Klarke Sconiers (a 6-3, three-star center out of powerhouse Christ the King) and Alexis Duckett (5-11 guard out of the Miami area).

When it comes to Brad Underwood rebuilding the men's basketball program, I think he's taken a step in the right direction. I like that so many of the 2018 recruits won elsewhere, and that was big for Underwood. There's talent in that group — and landing Ayo Dosunmu was a big deal — but Underwood and Co. have to keep stacking talent. Like I said before, system and scheme can help get wins, but you've got to have the players to make it happen in a big way.

Vball Vinnie wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Hey Scott,

What is Beth Prince's injury, and any idea when we can expect her back?




TJF1306 wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm

I'm sure it's been asked but what is the nature of Beth Prince's injury?

Bruna question - Is the NCAA waiting on her drug suspension to be resolved before making a decision on her college eligibility.


Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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TJF1306 (and Vinnie),

Check out my previous answer about Beth Prince. I think I covered all those bases there.

As far as an NCAA ruling on eligibility for Bruna Ana Vrankovic goes, I'm not sure what is making the process play out this long. The Czech outside hitter is serving a 1 year, 10 month FIVB doping ban after testing positive for Clostebol (an anabolic-androgenic steroid). That supsension began on Sept. 22, 2017, and runs through July 3, 2019. ~ (FIVB report)

However, I don't know any specifics of the case being made for her eligibility or how that doping ban plays into it. 

Effingham wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Always appreciate your chats!  Looking forward to the upcoming basketball season to see what the new talent will bring to the table. I’m hoping that we shock a lot of people with the introduction to some talented players buying into Brad’s program.   Looking forward in hearing some recruiting updates. What is the time table for a possible EJ Liddell commitment?  What are Illinois chances?  Seems like we have some big opportunities coming the next couple of months with some 2019 recruits.  What are your thoughts on the possible commitments and timing.  

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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Thanks for the questions from a place I used to call home for a couple years. 

E.J. Liddell is taking his first official visit this weekend at Ohio State. Making the assumption he doesn't just go ahead and commit to the Buckeyes (perhaps every Illinois fans' worst nightmare), I don't know that there's an exact timetable for his decision. The Belleville West product has his four other official visits scheduled this month and next, and Illinois will get the last of those on Oct. 12.

If Liddell does end up taking all of his visits, being last is a good thing for the Illini. I give them a good chance to land the reigning N-G All-State Player of the Year, too. The Illinois staff has the longest relationship with Liddell (at least Jamall Walker does), and he's a priority for the Illini. However, Ohio State is a legitimate threat.

As far as a commitment from anyone, you'd think it would be coming soon. Oscar Tshiebwe (in C-U next weekend) seems like the next of the Illinois targets to pop. West Virginia is the perceived leader there, but Illinois getting a visit is big. 

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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That's all the questions for this week's chat. Thanks to everyone that submitted something or just followed along. You all are appreciated. Lots of Illinois coverage coming in the N-G the next several days as the Illini open the 2018 football season, but there will be volleyball and basketball coverage, too. 

The chat returns next week. Same time, same place. Until then, enjoy the week!

Mica wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Did Samba Kane make it on campus?

Scott Richey wrote on August 29, 2018 at 1:08 pm
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You got your question in before I could close the chat, so we get a bonus answer. Samba Kane is on campus. I saw him Tuesday morning getting breakfast at the Varsity Room while I was waiting for Illinois football practice to finish. A 7-footer is hard to miss.