Jan. 16 Illinois basketball chat

Jan. 16 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 12:30pm

Illinois will try to snap its five-game losing streak (and get its first Big Ten win of the season) at 8 p.m. Wednesday against Minnesota. Before the Illini and Gophers square off at State Farm Center, Scott Richey will answer all of your Illinois-related questions in his weekly chat starting at 12:30 p.m. Wondering what it will take to get a win? Interested in recruiting? Looking ahead to 2019-20? Pepper our beat writer with your pregame questions.

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Considering tipoff for tonight's Illinois-Minnesota game is still 7 1/2 hour away, maybe this weekly chat can keep you occupied for at least a while as you wait for that 8 p.m. showdown between the Illini and Gophers. 

Plenty of questions already waiting for me, so let's get to it ...

Anonymous User wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Do you think with the recent commitment of Kofi, Antuam January will reconsider his commitment?

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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I would say no. I'm never surprised by anything recruiting because it's a wild world, but I kind of doubt Antwan January would have taken his official visit last week (after Kofi Cockburn's commitment) if he wasn't still on board. And honestly, there are fewer recruiting flip flops in basketball like there is in football. Plus, I have a feeling when January committed sight unseen (at least at that point) to Illinois that the coaching staff told him two bigs were the plan in 2019. That's pretty much been the plan all along. There's playing time for both of them, and maybe they get a little run at the same time. 

NJ alum - exit 15w wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Hi Scott, I have a question that if I could, I would ask Coach Underwood, but if you have any insight, that would be appreciated. Compare the morale of his Oklahoma State team at 0-6 to the current 0-5 Illini team. What does he say or do to keep morale positive?

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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NJ alum,

I went ahead and just asked Brad Underwood your question. He didn't really draw too many comparisons to his Oklahoma State team that started out 0-6 in the Big 12 and this Illinois team still winless in the Big Ten. It's probably also worth noting last year's Illinois team lost eight straight conference games before getting a win. Underwood also doesn't do a lot of season-to-season comparing anyway. Just not his style.

But, that Oklahoma State team was different than this Illinois team. Underwood had some veterans in Stillwater like Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll along with a future pro at point guard in Jawun Evans. Of those six losses Oklahoma State was probably only favored in one or two of them, and Underwood said only a home loss to Kansas State was really a bad loss. Then the Cowboys won nine of their next 10. 

This Illinois team, which Underwood continually praises for their effort and mindset (morale is not dipping at this point), probably doesn't have that type of run on the horizon, though. Just not enough experience and not enough consistency at this point.

James Holland wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

I've been watching the Illini play since the start of the season on both BTN and paying to watch on BTN+, and I"m wondering when Coach Underwood is going to give Tevian Jones, Alan Griffin and Samba kane a chance to progress because it will not happen on the bench.  Do you believe that Jordan and Nichol need to come off the bench because they're the most experienced of all the players on the team and they're not making any progression contributions.  It's time for a change.

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Tonight might be the night for more playing time ... at least for Alan Griffin. That's what Brad Underwood seemed to be getting at yesterday (read about it here). Samba Kane, physically, is still behind where he probably needs to be after missing an entire summer of workouts, but Underwood also said he's liked some of what Kane has done in practice lately. If the freshman 7-footer plays, though, it will be in short stints. As far as Tevian Jones goes, missing eight games with that suspension didn't help his cause, but if you check out my podcast this week (listen here) I take a similar stand to the one you're making. Time to see what these young guys can do.

Kipper Nichols has been a bit better the last couple games, but Aaron Jordan is struggling to the tune of just 16 points — total — in five Big Ten games. It's not an unfamiliar situation with the senior guard, but it's one that probably should be resulting in more playing time for Griffin and/or Jones.

Mike Goebel wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Opposing coaches — after beating Illinois — keep saying how good Illinois is, how hard they are to scout for, how good of defense they play, etc. ... when are we gonna see that translate into wins?

Also, what needs to happen — and don't say a miracle — for the Illini to turn things around a la Oklahoma State under Brad Underwood a few seasons ago?

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Thanks for the question this week. Yes, John Beilein's postgame had what's become a traditional theme for opposing coaches that leave State Farm Center with a win. All coaches do that. As for when Beilein's assertion that Illinois is good will result in more wins? Think 2019-20 for at least more wins than the Illini will rack up this year (although that's not going to be a particularly high bar). That's a full year in the program for what will be seven of the eight newcomers (after Adonis De La Rosa graduates and assuming nobody leaves) plus the addition of Kofi Cockburn, Antwan January and wing player TBD. Illinois should be better. Natural progression and all that.

That type of Oklahoma State turnaround all in one season's time probably isn't going to be repeatable with this year's Illinois team. The Cowboys, like I mentioned in a previous response, had several veterans and then a pro running the point. The Illini are both young and also sans NBA-ready point guard (although Ayo Dosunmu is at least piquing interest in that regard but is probably a year away). So the turnaround happens slower in Champaign, but it only happens if Brad Underwood keeps adding talent and also keeps the talent he's got from leaving. Can't stack talent if it's a roster reload every year, and Illinois simply just needs more dudes that can hoop consistently in the Big Ten.

Fan from Wisconsin wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Scott, Do you see Tevian or Alan Griffin transferring after season? Always wonder about players from out of state and have lack of playing time. Also, sny news on adding a wing player from Oak Hill Academy?

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
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Fan from Wisconsin,

Right now I wouldn't say Tevian Jones or Alan Griffin would transfer after this season, but those type of situations sometimes come as a surprise. Also, check out this college hoops roundup by CBS Sports' Matt Norlander (click here). The second item touches on the fact that more than half of college basketball players will transfer in their career. So never say never, I guess. 

Having Kofi Cockburn on board might help Illinois in recruiting Christian Brown since they play together now at Oak Hill, but it's probably worth mentioning this year is also the first time they've been on the same team. It's not like they've grown up as lifelong friends and teammates. Still, the Illini are in the mix along with N.C. State, Clemson, Georgia and Pitt. At this point it appears N.C. State is the favorite, however.

Miss Lou wrote on January 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for all the great insight and answering all our questions.

Will Brad ever change his style of half court offense? The high post dribble handoff never seems to work, too predictable and the defense is always ready for it. It's not football and it looks like a poor mans RPO. 


Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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Miss Lou,

My short answer is no.

My only slightly longer answer is Brad Underwood did make changes to his system (at least defensively) at Oklahoma State and got the Cowboys from 10-8 through mid-January that season to the NCAA tournament. He's not shown much interest in doing anything of that ilk in his time with the Illini, though, other than adding more ball screen actions. That might increase even more next year when Kofi Cockburn is added to the mix (presuming he does, in fact, sign in April).

I will say the dribble handoff in the pinch post has been a little cleaner the last couple games, but it's effectiveness hasn't made great strides. 

Mica wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Did anyone else find Cuonzo Martin's post game comments about taking all blame for last year's loss to the Illini disrespectful?  Isn't it common courtesy to give some credit to the opposing players and coach?  Any word on how Antwan January's visit went?

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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I guess I didn't really take it that way. To me, Cuonzo Martin said he didn't have his team prepared to handle Illinois' defense last season, giving credit to the Illini in a way for putting on some serious ball pressure and forcing turnovers. It was more about him taking blame for that instead of the players and not a slight of Illinois. Of course, Illini fans could see it your way. I simply don't have any stakes in this particular rivalry other than I cover a game between the two teams once a year.

Like all visits, sounds like Antwan January's went well. It will be an interesting day when word comes out from a recruit/team that a visit went terribly wrong and it was the worst thing ever. (That will never happen, at least for public consumption).

IlliniFanSinceTheSpoon wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Hey Scott,

More mins. for Griffin huh! Over or Under - 5? How many guys transfer after this season, Over/Under - 3? Transfer is the new gig now! Even transfer BACK from whence you came. I think it's time these student athelets are allowed to move where they like. And not need an unexplained waiver, in some cases, to do it. All others involved in college sports walk away with impunity, esp. coaches! If the NCAA thinks any of these rules inhibit "cheating" they need to take a Graduate Transfer season to the FBI. One question, after a player commits but doesn't sign, can other schools still talk with them? Love the rants!

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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I want to take the over for Alan Griffin minutes tonight, but I'm not overly confident doing so even with Brad Underwood saying he's earned more. But, yeah, put me down for that over. And I'll risk it again and take the under for transfers. 

Like I mentioned and linked to in another response today, transfers are just the way of the college basketball world now given the sheer numbers each and every season. It's basically a free for all now (with waivers applied haphazardly) so why not just open it up? Other NCAA sports like volleyball and softball don't have any transfer limitations. That's why Auburn transfer Mica Allison will be able to play right away for Chris Tamas and Illini volleyball this coming season.

Until there's a signature on that NLI, recruits are still fair game. Just look at football where teams try to flip guys leading up to each signing period. I mean, Shammond Cooper is still scheduled to take an official visit to Florida State next week. I assume the Seminoles' coaching staff won't go the whole weekend without speaking to him. Recruiting's wild, man.

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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One last question via an email from regular correspondent John:

"I keep reading that talent is way down in Chicago high schools but up in St. Louis area. How true is it?
Team quality seems so-so in the Southwestern Conference (Belleville West excepted), but there seem to be some very good individuals at East St. Louis, Alton and maybe Collinsville -- but how good. Any top prospects besides Liddell and Hargrove?

First of all, talent in Chicago is on an upswing with the 2021 class. Several guys worth watching there, and you can read about them here. I'd say most of the high major players from the St. Louis area are on the other side of the river with Caleb Love (CBC), Cam'Ron Fletcher (Vashon) and Luke Kasubke (Chaminade) in the 2020 class and a guy like Jordan Nesbitt (Lutheran North) in 2021.

There are a couple guys to watch, though, from this side of the Mississippi beyond E.J. Liddell and Terrence Hargrove. Can't overlook Alton senior Donovan Clay and Collinsville junior Ray'Sean Taylor. Not that they're high major guys (at least not yet) but they're talented.

Scott Richey wrote on January 16, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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That's it for the chat today. But be sure to come back right here at IlliniHQ.com starting at 6 p.m. with another LIVE! Report and then plenty of coverage from tonight's Illinois-Minnesota game at State Farm Center.

The chat will return next week as scheduled. Until then, stay warm and enjoy the week!