Feb. 13 Illinois basketball chat

Feb. 13 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 12:30pm

Illinois has won three straight games (and four of its last five), and the Illini have done so by playing their best basketball of the season. Those wins, though, all came at home. Three of Illinois' next four games are on the road, including Thursday at Ohio State. Can the Illini keep their winning ways going? Who's next to have a breakout performance? What does the final month of the regular season mean for Illinois' future? Before beat writer Scott Richey heads to Columbus, Ohio, he'll answer all of your Illini hoops questions at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in his weekly chat. 

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. Not exactly a warm Wednesday in Champaign, but I'll take any day where there's some sunshine. Suffice it to say, I'm over this whole winter thing. But not over college basketball. Yesterday's games -- from Penn State's upset to the Michigan State-Wisconsin slugfest and Duke's incredible comeback -- were all pretty terrific TV. 

Then there's Illinois. The Illini have won three straight and four of their last five. So has Ohio State. Tomorrow's game in Columbus should be something. I'll be there chronicling it all.

But right now? I've got our weekly chat. Let's get to it ...

Anonymous User wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm



Please pull the question from football, just found this one....really would like to see the staff offer the Kayne Henry kid?


Thank you

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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I'll be honest. I had to google Kayne Henry. Can't say I'm particularly well versed in the JUCO basketball world (other than what Parkland does since I get emailed results of all their games).

I also can't say that Henry's numbers really jump out at me. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.4 rebounds and shot 36.7 percent from three-point range at San Jacinto College last seaon. Then they shuttered their basketball program (among many other teams) and he transferred to Northwest Florida State (former home of current Illini Andres Feliz). This season? Well, his production is down at 6.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, but he is shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range. He's also got some international experience playing for Great Britain. 

But there are just other wings Illinois has prioritized like Oak Hill Academy's Christian Brown for sure. Then there's Terrence Shannon and Tristan Enaruna and then some guys that probably aren't really fully on the radar yet but could/will be by spring. 

To be clear, I haven't seen Kayne Henry play. At all. But the guys I mentioned before (high school wings) are who I'd prioritize, too. 

James Holland wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm

I still believe that Coach Underwood needs to start Tevian Jones in place of Williams.  I know that Jones defense is lacking but wouldn't a little more scoring punch boost the team?  What do you think?

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Brad Underwood's first response to this would be it doesn't matter who starts. Take a guy like Andres Feliz. According to Underwood (today in fact), Feliz's minutes will be the same no matter if he starts or comes off the bench. This was in response to a question about his bench. 

I asked him about Da'Monte Williams starting, though, considering not that long ago he talked about Williams as a guy that prefers to come off the bench. Here's a part of his response (a sneak peak at the preview of Illinois-Ohio State that will run in tomorrow's N-G) ... Williams gives the Illini "a sense of toughness." That was 100 percent in regard to his defense and rebounding effor, which are further along than Tevian Jones.

Illinois' got some scoring in its starting lineup with Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Giorgi Bezhanishvili. Underwood likes to have a scoring punch off the bench. That's been more Feliz lately, but Jones (i.e. the Maryland game) can do it, too. Bench production is huge in Underwood's opinion. 

Rushstreet7 wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm

The game at Ohio State is the biggest game of the year.

I want to run a scenario by you with a question to follow:

Illinois beats OSU and splits road trips to Wisconsin and Purdue.

All of the remaining games Illinois should be favored to win...

Illinois finishes the Big Ten 11-9 which should be good for 7th place. 

Illinois wins 3 games in the Big Ten Tournament and loses the championship to finish  with an overall record of 18-17. 

Does Illinois get an NCAA at large bid with a finish as described above?

In the meantime - it all starts with beating OSU Thursday!

Go Illini!




Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm
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Let's run down your scenario a bit. I can get behind a win tomorrow at Ohio State. As a matter of fact, that's my pick (another sneak peak at tomorrow's preview). I'm less inclined to think Illinois can split the road games at Wisconsin and Purdue. Considering the Boilermakers' home record the last like seven years (upward of 90 percent wins), that would mean winning at Wisconsin. The Badgers have won 14 straight against Illinois, and the Illini's last win in Madison came in 2010. 

Even if Illinois drops a couple games down the stretch, I think there's a pretty good shot the Illini avoid the first day of the Big Ten tournament.  But let's go with your scenario and say the Illini go on a run to the title game. The end of the year run looks good in regard to the NCAA tournament, but you can't discount what happened the rest of the season. The bubble probably bursts, but the NIT would certainly be in play and more basketball (and more big game experience) would be good for this team.

Tom in San Diego wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm


Georgi, a freshman, wins B1G player of the week. Ayo wins B1G freshman of the week. If Georgi is a freshman and the overall player of the week, doesn't that make him the freshman of the week? Can he not win both?

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Save yourself the headache about trying to apply logic to things like this. Yes, if Giorgi Bezhanishvili, a freshman, was named Big Ten Player of the Week then he was, in fact, also the best freshman and should have been Freshman of the Week, too. But the way they did it, the Big Ten could honor more than one player, and Illinois got to make some history with two freshmen sweeping the awards. That said, I get all of the Big Ten weekly award emails from the conference, and I've seen one freshman take home both so that's a thing that could happen.

Not Anonymous User wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm

I believe the basketball team is eligible for a foreign trip this summer.  Do you know if there is a plan?  Is it true that incoming freshmen are now eligible for those trips?  Thanks.

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Not Anonymous (but still anonymous),

Illinois is eligible for a foreign trip this summer. I'm sure there's a plan in the works (you don't really just throw that type of thing together last minute), but Illinois hasn't shared any of that yet. Incoming freshmen are apparently eligible for those trips. Duke's freshmen played in Canada this past summer, and Kentucky's did in the Bahamas. Unless, as lots of college basketball fans believe, the rules don't apply the same to Duke and Kentucky. (#SarcasmFont)

john in Tucson wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Georgi is playing fantastically as a 5, which I assume is the position the new big guy will play. Do you think Georgi will be  moved to a 4?

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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If Illinois has plans to play Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Kofi Cockburn together, then, yes, Bezhanishvili will have to play the 4. But that's a workable situation in my opinion. Bezhanishvili is valuable in the high post as a passer, and if he spends his offseason just putting up jump shot after jump shot I'd say he can stretch the floor a little better. He did a bit of that early this season, but then his shot stopped falling and the coaching staff pointed out that he was, in fact, scoring pretty well around the basket.

Even if he's sharing the court with Cockburn, though, there will be low post opportunities for Bezhanishvili, too. Just take MInnesota as an example in the Big Ten because it's the first team that came to my mind. The Gophers have found ways to get touches for both Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu when they're on the court together.

Scott Richey wrote on February 13, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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Looks like that's it for today's chat, so I'm going to wrap things up so I can finish up my pregame coverage for tomorrow's game at Ohio State. If you're looking for more Illini hoops talk (and Buckeyes, too), tune in to Sports Talk on WDWS 1400-AM starting at 5:10 p.m. I'll "co-host" as it were alongside Scott Beatty, and we're set to have Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch on as well.

The regular gameday coverage (LIVE! Report, Twitter storm, postgame stories and video) will all come tomorrow after I get to Ohio.

If you're a podcast listener and subscribe to "Inside Illini Basketball" that probably won't be recorded until next Tuesday when I return from Wisconsin. Keep an eye out for an official word on that. I'll tweet it (@srrichey).

The chat, of course, will be back next week. Same time, same place.