Feb. 6 Illinois basketball chat

Feb. 6 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 12:30pm

Illinois is right in the middle of its three-game homestand as our weekly chat returns to its regular 12:30 p.m. Wednesday time slot. Will the Illini have consecutive wins at that point following Tuesday's showdown with No. 9 Michigan State? Does Kipper Nichols have another breakthrough performance in him? Can the type of performance that led to wins against Minnesota, Maryland and Nebraska be sustainable? Beat writer Scott Richey will answer any Illini basketball questions you have this week, so submit them early and often.

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Everybody recovered from the excitement that was last night's upset win against Michigan State? Illinois fans (at least for the time being) seem pretty positive about the way things are going. The Illini can't slip up Saturday against Rutgers, though. All those good feelings might disappear in a hurry.

But for now? Revel in the biggest win for Illinois since 2013.

A few questions waiting for, so I'll get right to it. I'll leave the chat open for an hour in case somebody stumbles across it, but there's other work to be done today (including a 3 p.m. Lovie Smith press conference). Look for all of our Illini basketball and football coverage in Thursday's N-G.

On to the chat ...

Olaf Blab wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Thanks for the chat. I’m wondering what and how some of the guys who left the BB program with eligibility remaining are doing now? I can think of  DJ Williams, JCL, Leron Black, Michael Finke, T’Jon Lucas and Mark Smith. How are they doing? 

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Olaf,

Here's a rundown on how those former Illini are faring ...

-- D.J. Williams has started 20 games for 7-14 George Washington and is averaging 14 points and 4.8 rebounds

-- Jalen Coleman-Lands broke his left hand in mid-December and hasn't played since Dec. 14. He started the first nine games of the season for DePaul and averaged 9.6 points and 2.8 rebounds but was shooting just 25 percent from three-point range.

-- Leron Black is putting up 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a starter for Argentino Junin in Liga Nacional de Básquet, which is the top tier league in Argentina.

-- Michael Finke has started 16 of the 18 games he's played for 14-7 Grand Canyon and is averaging 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds and shooting 32.7 percent from three-point range.

-- Te'Jon Lucas is redshirting this season at Milwaukee.

-- Mark Smith has missed the last four games for Missouri after injuring his ankle in a Jan. 23 loss to Arkansas. He's averaging 12.6 points and 5.5 rebounds and shooting 47.5 percent from three-point range for the 11-10 Tigers.

-- Greg Eboigbodin is also redshirting this season at Northeastern.

Anonymous User wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm

With the Big ten so strong basically every team a top 100 team including Illinois if Illinois don't win Big ten tournament is it possible Illinois plays in CBI tournament ? Maybe 13-20 after big ten tournament.
Will the team take a trip this summer out of country ?
Thanks for your chats and all your good information

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Anonymous,

Since Illinois is still a ways away from .500, therefore eliminating the NIT as an option, the CBI could be a consideration. But the Illini would, I think, have to be considerably closer to .500 than 13-20. 

Not a lot of high major teams agree to play in the CBS, but the $50,000 entry fee is something Illinois obviously could afford, and the chance for a young team to play more games isn't a bad thing. We'll see. Have to keep winning now to even make it a possibility.

Illinois is due for an overseas trip. The last one was in 2015, and teams can take them every four years. Not sure what the plan is yet for the next destination, though.

EDIT: Was reminded that being .500 is not a prerequisite for making the NIT, but it being closer to that mark still provides a better shot for teams hoping for an at-large bid. Regular season conference champs that don't win their conference tournament and fail to make the NCAA tournament are guaranteed NIT bids. That keeps the number of at-large berths in flux every year.

Hopeful fan wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm

So after the last few weeks, care to give us an updated prediction for number of Big Ten wins? 5 seems a little low now. And what would it take for this team to make it to ANY postseason play? Thanks for the chats.

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Hopeful fan,

This back half of the Big Ten schedule is pretty kind to Illinois. Here's a middle-of-the-road projection for what the record could look like heading into the Big Ten tournament.

Must win games -- vs. Rutgers, vs. Penn State, vs. Northwestern

Winnable games -- at Ohio State, vs. Indiana, at Penn State

Long shots -- at Wisconsin, at Purdue

With that breakdown, I could see Illinois winning five more games. That's a one step past conservative approach, but that would put the Illini at 13-18 overall and 9-11 heading into the Big Ten tournament. 

Of course, that's all predicated on Illinois continuing to play like it has in its Big Ten wins so far, and absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the Big Ten this season. One of the crazier, more competitive top to bottom seasons I've seen.

Derek B wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Hey Scott, thanks for taking my question. What do you think are the best Big Ten Tournament matchups for the Illini to make a deep run?

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Derek,

The first key will be avoiding the Wednesday game. The Illini are currently tied for 10th with Rutgers, so a win Saturday against the Scarlet Knights will have Illinois out of the bottom four at least for now.

For an extended run, I'd say the teams Illinois need to avoid early are Purdue (hottest team in the Big Ten currently), Wisconsin (has Illinois' number) and Michigan (ditto). A rematch with Michigan State, should the Spartans figure out how to not turn it over 24 times, might be tough, too.

Other than that, I'd say the Big Ten is a crap shoot. Should be a really interesting and competitive tournament, and I'm glad it's back in Chicago.

mark jugg wrote on February 06, 2019 at 12:02 pm

I love the Orange Krush, but at times last night I was screaming in my living room during MSU free throws and I could hear crickets on tv? Are they restricted from being loud during opposing teams free throws? Everyone claims how great the crowd is but does it just not translate to tv? I wish I could be at every game but I can't make the trip due to work. 

 

GO ILLINI!!!!!!!!!

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Mark,

I saw some tweets basically mentioning the same thing about the crowd noise on TV. My perspective is a little skewed because the Orange Krush is literally 2-3 feet behind me, but it was loud in State Farm Center. Not peak level loud because a crowd of 12,960 makes less noise than a sellout 15,544, but maybe it just didn't translate to TV well. Believe me, the Krush were chanting during every free throw.

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Mark,

I saw some tweets basically mentioning the same thing about the crowd noise on TV. My perspective is a little skewed because the Orange Krush is literally 2-3 feet behind me, but it was loud in State Farm Center. Not peak level loud because a crowd of 12,960 makes less noise than a sellout 15,544, but maybe it just didn't translate to TV well. Believe me, the Krush were chanting during every free throw.

Rich Patton wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Can Andres Feliz shoot a 3 pointer with consistency?  It would really help the Illini and Andres if he could do that?  I think he shot very well in Junior college.

Also, Allan Griffin looks to me ike he will be very good in the future and just needs some time.  Is he OK with his current playing time and will he stay with the Illini?  I think he and Tevian and Kipper can provide lots of firepwer at the wing and 4 positions. 

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Rich,

Andres Feliz shot 41.8 percent from three-point range last season at Northwest Florida State. So he's obviously shown he can make them. Of course, getting three-pointers off at the JUCO level compared to the Big Ten (and its slew of long-armed athletes) is a little different. But Feliz did knock down an open corner three-pointer against Michigan State, and if he can do that (even if it's just one or two a game) that could be a big deal.

Everybody seems to assume Alan Griffin is like one step away from transferring, but you never really know about any of that until the season's over (unless guys leave in the middle of the year). He has the potential to be a good 3-and-D type wing. It's the defense part that's keeping him off the court right now in addition to the fact Tevian Jones, Kipper Nichols, Aaron Jordan and Da'Monte Williams all play the wing, too.

Dee 4 Three wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm

The team’s performance these past few games has me pretty excited for next year. What are your thoughts on Kofi Cockburn? How do you think his presence next year will affect returning players? Can he get us over the hump and get us back into postseason play for the first time in years? The tourney even? How high should our expectations be for next season? Thanks for the chat

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Dee,

I've heard some serious negativity on Kofi Cockburn this season based on the games Oak Hill Academy has played on national TV. Having seen him play in person in both 2017 and 2018, I'm still pretty positive about the type of impact he could have at Illinois. All the Illini need to do is get him with Adam Fletcher as soon as possible, trim him down a little and let him loose. If he can get moving better again (like I've seen in person), he could dominate around the basket because he's so physical. He's not going to be some elite rim protector, but his presence inside offensively is going to open things up on the perimeter. Illinois' got the shooting potential to take adavantage of that. And if he makes the other Illinois bigs work even harder to compete for playing time, then all the better.

Expectations are a tricky thing. If Illinois finishes this year on the high note permeating the program right now, this could be an NCAA tourney team in 2019-20. That does hinge a bit, however, if Ayo Dosunmu is still around. I'm not saying he's automatically gone, but the way he's playing right now has already drawn NBA interest. It would be in his best interest to put his name in the draft, and I assume he'll get a combine invite. If he shows out there and gets some kind of first round promise, then he's gone. And he should go.

But that would be tough for the Illini. They don't have anybody on the roster that does what he does, and come spring they're not going to find it on the recruiting trail for the 2019-20 season. 

Scott Richey wrote on February 06, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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That's it for today's chat. Need to keep working on an Illinois basketball story before heading to Lovie Smith's press conference. Thanks to everybody that submitted questions or followed along, and make sure you keep an eye out in the N-G through the weekend for continued Illinois basketball coverage.

The chat will be back next week. Should be the usual 12:30 p.m. Wednesday time slot in advance of Illinois' game at Ohio State the next day.

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