Nov. 7 Illinois basketball, volleyball & football chat

Nov. 7 Illinois basketball, volleyball & football chat

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 - 12:30pm

OK, now it's real. The 2018-19 college basketball season is officially underway after months (and months) of buildup. Illinois tips things off at 7 p.m. Thursday against Evansville. Then a busy weekend for Illinois athletics continues. The fourth-ranked Illinois volleyball team will put its seven-match winning streak on the line Friday against Rutgers and Saturday in another top 10 showdown against Penn State (both at Huff Hall). Saturday will also see Illinois football head to Nebraska to try and build off its big win against Minnesota.

That leaves plenty of opportunity for questions. What will the Illini basketball team show in its season opener? Is their three-headed monster at guard the real deal? Can Chris Tamas' squad finish the rest of the regular season unbeaten? Was that combined offensive/defensive breakout sustainable for Illinois football?

Beat writer Scott Richey will answer any and all of your Illini-related questions in his weekly chat starting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Another Wednesday, another all things Illini chat. With my to do list for this week remaining rather lengthy, I'm going to just dive right in to today's back and forth. 

Let's get to it ...

Wichita Doug wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

The hurry up offense is geared to keep opposing defenses off balance.  But a downside is that it keeps our defense on the field that much longer.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the offense to eat a little more clock to give the defense a hand?

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Wichita Doug,

Considering the struggles Illinois has had offensively the past few seasons, any touchdowns are good touchdowns. While longer drives would give the defense more of a breather, those drives haven't always been successful ones for the Illini. Illinois is tied for 61st nationally in red zone offense (converting at 85 percent). That's neither awful nor great. Simply average, and that includes seven field goals of the 22 scores.

The shorter (in terms of clock) scoring drives Saturday against Minnesota obviously all came on big plays. Part of that's on defensive breakdowns by the Gophers, but are you ready to give up three 70-yard touchdowns just to give the defense a bit of a break?

TJF1306 wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Scott,

Can you please find out what the status of Bruna is?  Obviously, she wasn't cleared to play this year.  Is she allowed to practice? Will she stick around next year or go back to being a pro?

It's strange that there hasn't been a statement about it.

 

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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TJF1306,

Here's what I know about Bruna Ana Vrankovic's situation. Illinois tried to get her on the team this year, was denied and then appealed. At this point, I would say that appeal has also been denied. Even if she were declared eligible (even as far back as August), the way I understand it she was always going to redshirt.

As far as practice, Illinois' are closed so I haven't actually seen Vrankovic in the gym, but Illinois has male practice players that work with the team and she's kind of in the same boat. As far as I'm aware, even tough her FIVB doping ban ends July 3, 2019, she's in Illinois' plans next season.

Clearly, I don't have a lot of official information, but that's because Illinois has kept the whole situation pretty close to the vest.

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Hey Scott,

How did T. Jones and A. Griffin look vs Ill Wes? Saw that Samba Kane logged a few minutes too. K. Nichols had a bad game, too early to worry? Lace `em up, play for real!

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon,

Alan Griffin had a quiet, but effective performance against Illinois Wesleyan. What probably stands out the most is his passing ... four assists and zero turnovers. Tevian Jones looked a little sped up, but once the game slows down for him I think he'll be fine. Samba Kane's effort was there, but he simply looked lost a lot of the time. I doubt he plays much moving forward (at least for the time being).

Let's wait until there's a game that counts before getting too wrapped up in Kipper Nichols' inconsistencies. If he finishes a little better around the rim, it's a different story. Also ... he has to finish better around the rim.

larry harnly wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

could leron black have signed with an overseas team?  he chose the nba g league and was released.  did he get bonus money to sign with raptors 905?

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Larry,

Leron Black actually did sign with Elitznur Yavne in Israel before Toronto picked him up in the G-League draft. I imagine there was some type of bonus to leave his Israeli team and go through the Raptors 905 camp, but it probably wasn't much. If Black doesn't go back to Israel, I'm fairly certain he'll get another offer somewhere else.

Elmer B Fudd wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Who will be the first ‘19 men’s basketball recruit to sign?

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Elmer,

No clue. Considering the early signing period starts exactly one week from today and Illinois has zero commitments, there's not a whole lot to go on in terms of who will be first. If Drew Timme picks the Illini, he's the guy. Otherwise, I envision a situation where Illinois signs its entire class in the spring, and the makeup of that class will be mostly players we haven't discussed yet.

Elmer B Fudd wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

If healthy, Adonis DeLaRosa could be a huge addition to this team.  Could you describe what kind of player he is?  Does he have anything to offer defensively?

Anonymous Jim wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

What does a healthy De La Rosa mean to the Illini?

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Elmer & Jim,

Adonis De La Rosa could, in fact, be a pretty serious addition for Illinois when he's healthy. Mainly because the Illini don't have anyone like him that is playing right now. He's a load in the paint at 7 feet and 260 pounds and can finish around the rim. The space he takes up also draws defensive interest, which could potentially free up Illinois' guards a little more. 

Whenever he does make his debut, the big things he can bring right away are rebounding and defense. He was a top 70 offensive rebounder in the country last season, and if he can hit the defensive boards hard, too, that will fuel Illinois' transition offense. While he's not a big time shot blocker, his presence in the paint defensively will at least give teams pause from trying to run a layup line offense (which the Illini have given up on several occasions).

Blakester wrote on November 07, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Orange and Blue family! I wanna press on to some main questions regarding current happenings in some programs going out. First is  will Tamas and company overcome some last minute letdowns and downpours that will cause this team to be complacent or flabbergasted along the way? Second, there are new targets surfacing for Underwood's squad and which one of them boost their troubled frontcourt which has been shaky from that last exhibition game last week? And third and last question, who do Lovie look to now for his new defensive coordinator now that Nickerson is gone and do it affect California recuiting as a whole? Or is it a minimal effect with him calling the defensive plays and his defensive line coach in charge of California recuiting? How will Lovie reel in some of the finest talents from the Golden State and overcome these odds now that Benett Williams is booted off and do it on a consistant basis? Peace Out!

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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Blakester,

I don't envision a scenario where the Illinois volleyball team becomes complacent and has a late season letdown. Mostly because senior setter Jordyn Poulter is such a serious competitor. This is her team, and she's not going to let that happen.

The latest 2019 recruiting targets for Brad Underwood and Co. are four-star center Antwan January (Phoenix's Hillcrest Prep via California) and three-star wing Tristan Enaruna (Utah's Wasatch Academy via the Netherlands). January is 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds. That's some size. Enaruna is 6-8 and 180 pounds. There's some length. Whether they get either of them is clearly the question.

Unless Lovie Smith decides to take Bob Asmussen's advice and just be the full time defensive coordinator, too, I think he has to look for somebody that runs a similar system to his variation on the Tampa 2 but has maybe modernized it some for the college game. Who that might be? I don't know. That potential new DC, though, doesn't have to be a California guy. Illinois has Rod Smith to recruit the west coast, too. I would worry more about scheme in hiring a new DC than where his recruiting roots lie. Yes, California has some dudes, but they're not the end-all, be-all for recruiting. Honestly, more ties to Florida/Georgia or Texas would probably help more in the long run.

Scott Richey wrote on November 07, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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That's it for today's chat, as I turn my attention back to all the Illinois basketball, volleyball and football coverage that will be in the pages of The News-Gazette the next few days. Thanks to everyone that submitted questions or followed along.

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

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