Each Friday, Jeff Huth channels his inner Matt Bollant to chat online (11 a.m. start). Ask him about GodBold's status, Penn's WNBA stock and the Illini's RPI. Or anything that comes to mind. Submit questions any time.
Welcome to our weekly chat on Illini women's basketball. We'll get started in a few minutes, and I see we have a few questions already.
Illinois' next game is at 2 p.m. Sunday at Memphis.
Sorry to go back to volleyball. Is there any chance you will do an interview with Coach Hambly that reviews the season and explores his plans for the next year's team? Thanks.
We always welcome volleyball questions here, too. This can be a hybrid chat, with women's basketball and volleyball both addressed.
Sorry, currently no plans for a season review, but not because it's not a good idea. Our staffing numbers in the sports department currently are low, with the departure of one writer, the absence of another who is on medical leave, and a hiring freeze. Between women's basketball and frequent shifts helping on the copy desk, haven't had time for an Illini volleyball look-back.
We'll get to that at some point, hopefully. One thing that has caught my eye regarding volleyball is that six Big Ten teams advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. Remarkable feat for the conference. It kind of puts into perspective what a powerful conference this was in 2012. It's always among the best, but this might be the deepest in terms of top-tier quality that we've ever seen in Big Ten volleyball.
It puts into perspective what Illinois had to contend with this season, besides needing to replace two All-American outside hitters. In another conference -- especially considering all of those close five-set matches the Illini lost in the Big Ten -- perhaps Kevin Hambly's team makes it into the NCAA field.
As I've written before, I think the top priorities during Illinois' training period this spring are to bring freshman Alexis Viliunas up to speed as the No. 1 setter and to continue to examine whether it's best to continue to use Liz McMahon at outside hitter or return her to the right side. Hambly is extremely high on incoming freshman outside hitter Michelle Strizak of Cincinnati. If she is ready to be a starting outside hitter in 2013, teaming up with Jocelynn Birks, that would free McMahon to return to the right side. However, McMahon really took to her new role on the left side late last season. It might be difficult for Hambly not to continue with her in that position.
Have Red Raiders in the extended family, and it is always nice to see the ILIINI come down and do well in Texas. Though knew it would be tough winning in Lubbock and that team.
Looking at the Tech box stats, the turnovers, fouls and players having to sit, and proving the cliche, you lose if you live by the 3's is so paradoxical to his past coaching style, it must be the players, he inherited?
Is it that he would prefer a style of few TO's, fouls, play great defense, take the high percentage shot, and a blue collar mentality. But he has a cast with a street ball mentality, undisciplined, chuck up the 3 race horses? Maybe that is too harsh, but after 8 games that appears to be their MO. Bottom line, he doesn't have his recruits for his system?
Your insight on this team to at this point in the season? Thanks.
Matt Bollant is attempting to play to the strengths of his new team, which include a level of athleticism that he rarely had at Wisconsin-Green Bay. This team is at its best offensively when it pushes the ball and gets into transition. It also has shown it's capable of hurting opponents from long-distance. Of course, three-point shooting can come and go on any given night. Against Texas Tech, obviously, it wasn't working, although I don't think Illinois abused that part of their attack. Illinois took 14 three-point attempts, which certainly isn't a large number in today's game.
Where Bollant has been frustrated is with the defense -- in particular the intensity and effort that he seeks from his players. Earlier this season, Illinois got away with outscoring opponents. When the Illini face teams the caliber of Iowa State and Texas Tech, however, that's rarely going to work. When Illinois faces teams that play high-caliber defense, it is going to need to match or exceed that level to win.
The turnovers also are an issue. In an up-tempo attack, turnovers are going to happen, but the Illini are throwing the ball away far too often, and it's hurting them against the better teams. When you are up in the 20s with turnovers, as Illinois has been four times this season, it's a lot to overcome -- both offensively and defensively.
If Bollant had a deeper roster, he could make his point by withholding playing time, but right now he's limited by the personnel hand he was dealt.
Freshmen Piper had a great start to the season, and fun to watch. Lots of potential there. Heard she has been battling sickness ....when can we expect her to be back full strength? Is Goldbold going to be back before the break? This team going through some growing pains, but lots to look forward to. Go Illini! Thanks Jeff.
Piper was under the weather last Saturday, and that's why she played only six minutes against Colorado.
Early this week, Bollant indicated that Piper was feeling better. Her limited playing time against Texas Tech (nine minutes) had more to do with her performance. She struggled, but Piper certainly wasn't alone that night. None of the three reserves in Bollant's primary eight-player rotation scored. Nia Oden had three fouls that limited her to 12 minutes, and Taylor Tuck had three turnovers in 17 minutes. Tough night for the bench.
Adrienne GodBold is expected to be eligible to play during the second semester. She is academically ineligible for the first semester. That should be welcome news for Illinois since the senior guard can be a high-impact player, as her Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year award for last season attests. GodBold is expected to return for the Dec. 28 game against Georgia, but Bollant has said the UI is looking into the possibility that she could be cleared in time for the Dec. 21 game against Illinois State.
Looks like we've run out of questions/comments so we'll wrap up the chat now.
As always, thanks for your interest. We'll talk to you next week.