Nov. 28 Illinois basketball & volleyball chat

Nov. 28 Illinois basketball & volleyball chat

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - 12:30pm

Last week wasn't a great one for Illinois men's basketball. The Illini lost all three of their games at the Maui Invitational before grinding through a win against Mississippi Valley State on Sunday. In the middle of all that, they didn't sign their lone 2019 commit Antwan January. Illinois is down to five nonconference games and gets the December jumpstart in Big Ten play on Sunday at Nebraska. Time to win some games. Meanwhile, Illinois volleyball is aiming to turn its current 13-match winning streak into 19 with a potential NCAA championship run. The Illini will play Eastern Michigan in the first round at 7 p.m. Friday at Huff Hall. 

Beat writer Scott Richey will be everywhere (South Bend, Huff, Lincoln) this week, but he'll still answer all of your Illini-related questions in his weekly chat at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. I'm back from snowy and cold South Bend and home in less snowy but still cold Champaign. Last night's Illinois basketball game was ... something. Pretty much two young teams trying to give away the game to each other.

Anyway, there's questions waiting for me and a busy afternoon ahead, so let's get to it.

teachdacc2 wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm


Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.  What are your thoughts about the draw in the NCAA VB for the Illini?  Looking forward I see the Illini in Minneapolis but it will not be easy.

I was surprised the Illini didn't win a game in Maui;  Your thoughts?  Will Kipper get going or is it what we should expect?  What is the status with Williams?  I thought he would be one of the first off the bench.  

Go Illini and keep up the great chats.


Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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My Thanksgiving was, in fact, a good one. Always nice to get together with family -- especially during what's probably the busiest month of my year. 

I think Illinois volleyball's NCAA tournament draw is pretty favorable. I don't foresee a lot of trouble with Eastern Michigan or the winner of Louisville/Dayton (although the Cardinals do have former Illini Marijke Van Dyke on their roster and their coach Dani Busboom Kelly worked with Chris Tamas at Nebraska). Not that those things make Louisville tougher. Just some interesting facts. Pretty good draw for a potential Sweet 16 appearance, too. The big threat, of course, would be Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

I was not surprised Illinois went winless in Maui, although after almost beating Gonzaga I did pick the Illini to beat Iowa State. I was clearly wrong on that front. It was a tough field, and Illinois hasn't figured it out yet. The Georgetown game illustrated that.

I honestly don't know what to expect out of Kipper Nichols. So far this season, he's been "not exactly engaged Kipper" but I still think "good Kipper" is in there somewhere. Nothing going on with Da'Monte Williams. He is typically one of the first off the bench, and that's both what he wants and Brad Underwood likes. Plus, he played 25 minutes last night. 

sangman69 wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm

How did Mark Smith gain eligibility to play at Mizzou this year without sittiing out a transfer year? There did not seem to be circumstance that would warrant the waiving of the rule.

Did Antwan January sign his national letter of intent?

Congratulations to the volleyball team, Coach Tamas and his staff for a great season. Hope they bring home a national title. GO ILLINI ! ! 

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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You must have missed it on about six other chats I've done this fall. I don't know why Mark Smith got immediate eligibility beyond the NCAA approved his hardship waiver. There's no rhyme or reason to how or why the NCAA has treated those in the last couple months. The whole system is basically a farce. Absolutely no clear guidelines or procedures as far as I can tell.

Antwan January did not sign his NLI last week. Can't until spring now.


Bill-e-bob wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Hi Scott,

My experience with previous volleyball sub-regionals has been that all invited teams have an open practice on Thursday, the day before the matches are actually played.  Has there been any announcement about such an open practice this year??  Has a time for Illinois' practice been announced?  Thanks for any assistance you can give on this.

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm
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There will indeed be open practices tomorrow (Thursday) for the four volleyball teams starting their potential NCAA tournament runs here in Champaign. The schedule is as follows ...

12:00 – 1:30 PM – Dayton

1:45 – 3:15 PM – Louisville

3:30 – 5:00 PM – Illinois

5:15 – 6:45 PM – Eastern Michigan

Blakester wrote on November 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Scotty! Since Underwood's team dropped four straght, I wondering if they'll make lineup changes now that Tevin Jones has been booted off the team for breaking team rules and change defensive and offensive schemes to get this team on track? Any accountabillity being passed around by far from the players to the coaching staff to the upper adminstration on down? When is Josh Whitman gonna start taking responsibility for the state of the basketball and football programs that'll end up costing a lot of money and revenue in the end? If a business can't produce a good product, then it shut down. In this corprate world, everybody has to put forth excellent results to create a great product or else they ain't gonna last long. Is Lovie gonna finally change his defensive scheme to help some his advanced players while giving his younger players time to develop? Will Lovie have to clear the whole defensive coaching deck to make way for his new scheme to gear in? And will Lovie attack the transfer and recuiting market for players who will lead his group into newer heights in the league? And is it time for Underwood to relook at his coaching staff and players to see who will help him go into greater heights in the mist of this rugged Big Ten landscape?

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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First, a clarification. Tevian Jones has not been "booted off the team" as you suggest. He's simply been supsended indefinitely. Not sure where you think anyone, anywhere, said he'd been "booted." Anyway, don't count on any scheme changes on the basketball court.

Probably not on the football field either. Lovie Smith doesn't strike me as a guy looking to go away from what he's always done. He's said as much. He believes his defense is sound and won't be chucking it entirely. The defensive coordinator hire, therefore is pretty important. But if it's someone other than Lovie Smith or Gill Byrd, color me surprised. As far as assistant coaches go, I've heard all of them got their contracts re-upped.

Now is the time, though, for Illinois to pursue some transfers, whether it be JUCO or fifth-year guys. There's plenty of youth on the roster. Time to add some grown dudes. Anything to help a recruiting class ranked 66th in the country.

I understand Illinois basketball didn't have the magical turnaround Illini fans wanted when Brad Underwood was hired, but I'm a little surprised by the "burn it to the ground" group through barely more than one season. If three losing seasons apparently isn't enough for Josh Whitman to declare the Lovie Smith experiment a miss, he's certainly not going to do so with Underwood barely into his second season. Any changes from Underwood's end probably don't happen until the end of the year either if it doesn't work this season.

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Hey Scott,

Young Illini should, could, are, maybe getting better!? Watch a lot of college bball, lot of young teams that are decent now. Is it due to Illini's few veterans that's causing the inconsistent play? Where is T. Jones? I bet A. January is watching! Illinois at Notre Dame, two storied programs, relegated to ESPNU. And BTN+ makes me miss Bill Walton! One last rant, BTW thanks for the sounding board, these major programs under investigation just keep rollin' along. Arizona has #1 recruiting class per some pubs.

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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I think you can see some definite improvement from guys like Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Alan Griffin and (even if he isn't scoring a ton) Ayo Dosunmu. The fact Dosunmu took the challenge to go rebound and actually did it with 18 in his last two games is laudable.

Illinois could use more from Kipper Nichols. Of the rest of the veterans, they're giving you what you probably should expect (although Aaron Jordan has played really well).

Tevian Jones, as I reported last night, has been suspended indefinitely from game competition. We'll see when he comes back. As for if it affects Antwan January at all, well, he can't sign until April. That's a lot of time for his recruitment to go any number of directions for any number of reasons. 

Glad to see you're on the Bill Walton bandwagon, and, yes, can't say the FBI investigations hurt Arizona or Louisville too much. Sean Miller and Chris Mack both landed some fairly impressive 2019 classes.

Rod Serling wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm

In a dimension unknown to mortal man lives an athletic administration that rewards a 25% winning percentage, the largest loss in the history of the program, and a defense that gets pushed around the netherlands of the universe.  In this half hour you will step back in time and witness "The coach who knew too much."  Has he hypnotized the AD?  Does the agent's coach have a secret file on UI administrators?  Illini fan, what is happening as you live in "The Twilight Zone?"  

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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A tip of the hat to your creativity. Since you didn't really have an answerable question in there, I'll just say a two-year contract extension for Lovie Smith was the last thing I thought I'd be hearing about Sunday even with the foresight that some type of football news was coming.

Honeywood wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm


Thanks for all you do.

I see that Kofi Cockburn is going to be on campus for an official visit in late December. If my not-so-crystal-clear memories of my time as a student are accurate, Campustown becomes a ghost town for both students and staff around that time. So the likelihood of a big Ubben turnout seems unlikely. Is this a deliberate, strategic move by the staff, or more of a "hey, we have to shoot our shot with a guy this good no matter when" decision?

Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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Yeah, I can't say that C-U will be hopping the final weekend of December. I wouldn't discount a decent turnout at Ubben, but the crowd for the Florida Atlantic game on Dec. 29 won't be a super great crowd probably. Biggest thing there is no Orange Krush, so the atmosphere in the arena certainly changes.

Anyway, if that's the weekend a five-star center says he can make it to your campus, the only correct response is, "You got it!"


Scott Richey wrote on November 28, 2018 at 1:11 pm
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Looks like that's all the questions for this week's chat. Thanks to everyone that submitted one or just followed along. Be on the lookout for plenty more Illini coverage in the next few days. I'll have all things Illinois volleyball for you plus a trip to Lincoln, Neb., on Sunday for more Illinois basketball.

The chat will probably be on a different day next week since Illinois plays Ohio State on Wednesday in Chicago. Maybe Thursday to get in all your postgame questions? Yeah, probably Thursday.

Until then, stay warm and enjoy the week!