Sept. 12 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Sept. 12 Illinois basketball, football & volleyball chat

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 - 12:30pm

The official start of the 2018-19 basketball season is just 2 1/2 weeks away. Perhaps of more importance heading into that is official visits coming up next weekend for the Illini, with both Terrence Shannon Jr. and Oscar Tshiebwe expected on campus. Can Illinois get some positive momentum going in the 2019 recruiting class with a commitment? Who else remains on Brad Underwood and Co.'s radar? Beat writer Scott Richey will answer any and all Illinois basketball questions in his weekly chat. Illini football and volleyball questions are also welcome before he kicks things off at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 12:09 pm
Profile Picture

Good afternoon everybody. Apologies for being a little behind with today's chat, but I was getting some post-practice video edited and posted. Big weekend for Illinois. The Illini football team has a shot at redemption on Saturday against South Florida, and the Illini volleyball team will actually play in Champaign after starting the season with three straight weekends on the road. I'll be at Huff Hall on Friday night for Illinois-Northern Iowa volleyball before heading to Chicago on Saturday for Illinois-USF football.

Next weekend will be even bigger. That happens when you couple a Big Ten football opener against Penn State (relatively big deal) with three top 50 basketball recruits on campus at the same time (an incredibly big deal).

Anyway, I've got some questions to answer (thanks in advance everyone), so let's get to it ...

MMME wrote on September 12, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Thank you for these chats. I look forward to them each week and appriciate your time. Please endulge me and give me a percentage chance of getting a commitment this weekend from Shannon or Tshiebwe. Also what do YOU think our chances are of landing a commit from Lidell and who is your guess of the first chip to fall for Brad U. Thank You!

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 12:09 pm
Profile Picture

MMME,

Thanks for the question this week. Our readers make the chat what it is, but I appreciate the kind words.

E.J. Liddell cutting Kansas State and Wisconsin from his list of teams and moving up his Illinois official visit from Oct. 12 to next weekend certainly adds a new wrinkle to what was already going to be a big weekend for the Illini. I don't know that Illinois will get a commitment that weekend -- I've heard Liddell will announce a week later -- the Illini have to be feeling good about his recruitment in particular. They get the last shot at him after previous visits to Ohio State and Missouri, and they have the longest term relationship already built with the reigning Illinois Mr. Basketball.

In terms of percentages, I'd say the latest Liddell news puts him at maybe 70-75 percent to Illinois in my opinion (stressing it's my opinion only). I'd go 55-60 percent on Terrence Shannon Jr. and maybe 35 percent on Oscar Tshiebwe, who is seen as bound likely for West Virginia or Kentucky. Getting Tshiebwe together with Shannon and Liddell is basically Illinois shooting its shot, though, to just go all in and see what happens.

Not Anonymous User wrote on September 12, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Was that a current player who drew a penalty at Saturday's game for going onto the field to celebrate while not in uniform?  

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Profile Picture

Not Anonymous,

I was down on the field but at the north end when that happened, so I was blocked by basically everyone on the Illinois sideline from seeing who it was that was on the field that wasn't supposed to be. Odds are it was a player not in uniform given the only other options are a coach or a manager. The first of those three options seems more likely considering the call on the field (official said something like player no number) and the box score (no player listed with penalty but it also didn't say bench/sideline like it would if it was a team penalty).

 

Illini fan for life wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Looking at your crystal ball, what record will Brad Underwood's second team finish with going into the Big Ten tournament? And will Illinois volleyball be undefeated before Nebraska visits at the end of the month?

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Profile Picture

Illini fan,

I've done what you've asked a time or two since the full schedule came out just going on first instinct what I think the final result of each game will be. I always end up at 17-14 or 16-15. I feel more confident in some games than others, of course, and that methodology can't take into account any real improvement the Illini will make during the course of the season. I could see as many as 18 wins maybe? Just flip four of those close games from last year Illinois lost?

As far as Illinois volleyball goes, I think it's certainly possible the Illini will be undefeated when Nebraska hits town the final weekend of the month. To do so, of course, will mean not taking Northern Iowa lightly (the Panthers pulled two top 25 upsets the first week of the season), beating No. 10 Creighton, winning on the road at Purdue and not having a trap match against Indiana. A lot has to fall Illinois' way, but the first three weeks of the season make me feel like this could be a special year.

Mr. Illini wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Scott,

Some people feel how the Illini do against S. Florida will give a significant indication of how the season will go. I'm thinking the 5th and 6th games , Rutgers and Purdue, will be more signifcant. Assuming the suspended and less severely injured players are back, winning games against the lower tier Big Ten teams can show the improvemnent step needed. 3-0 would be great but I'm hoping for 4-2 and momentum. Your thoughts?

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Profile Picture

Mr. Illini,

I would say both Saturday's game against USF and those two Big Ten games against Rutgers and Purdue are significant. If the Illini can't hang with USF this year — in a repeat of last season — I think that doesn't bode well for winning at Rutgers or at home against Purdue. Rutgers probably isn't as bad as everyone  (myself included) thinks, and Purdue has simply shot itself in the foot over and over and over again. Even if Illinois plays a close game against USF and loses, I think that's a sign of progress.

I would say 4-2 is certainly possible through the Purdue game, but 3-3 is maybe more likely and, honestly, I wouldn't discount 2-4. The way Illinois played against Kent State and Western Illinois does not translate well, in my opinion, to facing USF or playing in the Big Ten.

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Hey Scott,

All the buzz is about the recruits on campus visits, but is there any scuttlebutt about this years class? Like a player(s) that are going to "wow" the fans? Thanks for your chats!

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Profile Picture

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon,

Welcome back to the chat. Glad to see whatever issue that kept you from submitting questions a time or two has been resolved — at least for this week. 

When it comes to the 2018 class, I can say the Illinois coaching staff really likes this group of freshmen and how they've started their Illini careers. They put in some serious work this summer and just competed in the gym. I still feel like the dark horse potential "wow" candidate is Alan Griffin. If his shooting translates, watch out. The fact he hit 48 percent of his three-pointers in his senior year is notable. 

All eyes will be on Ayo Dosunmu, of course. I'm interested in what he and Trent Frazier can do defensively playing together as much as what they might do on the offensive end. Dosunmu has the length. Frazier has the quick hands. That's a combination to get behind.

Anonymous Jim wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

What's up Scott?  Walter Young committed to the Illini years ago as a QB and wound up being one heck of a WR.  Given how thin the WR position currently is, any chance Lovie reaches out to Cam Thomas and this story has a happy ending or has that ship sailed?

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Profile Picture

Jim,

That ship hasn't necessarily sailed. Cam Thomas is still on the Illinois campus and will at least finish out this semester on the academic side now that he's left the team. That presents him the opportunity to transfer at the semester and be ready for spring ball elsewhere or maybe entertain a return to the Illini if that's a decision he and the coaching staff can agree upon down the road.

Do I think it's likely he comes back? Not really. The only way it happens is if he wants to switch positions. His Illinois future pivoted away from quarterback after both M.J. Rivers II and Matt Robinson passed him on the "depth chart" in training camp. Of course, that's a depth chart in theory only since Lovie Smith's depth charts before the first two games of the season have been mostly fiction. The eye test, though, saw Rivers and Robinson move past Thomas.

Scott Richey wrote on September 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm
Profile Picture

Looks like that's it for today's chat. Thanks again to everyone that submitted questions. It was good to be back. We've got plenty of Illinois football, basketball and volleyball coverage coming in The News-Gazette the rest of the week. Be sure to check it out.

The chat will be back next week — same time, same place. Until then enjoy the week!