Ask Marcus Jackson if Illinois can finish in the upper division of the rugged Big Ten. Our beat writer will be talking all things Illini before he heads to Mackey Arena for the UI's opener Wednesday night. Submit questions any time.
Good afternoon, thanks for stopping by for another chat. I'm going to apologize in advance, but this will be a short one. Got to get some things together before heading on the road today for the game at Purdue tonight.
If there's something pressing that I can't get to here, you can always email me at email@example.com.
MJ, Happy New Year!
Will the Illini project as a six seed if they finish with a B1G record of .500? Will they finish above .500 in the conference?
Happy New Year to you, too. A six seed is a possibility with a .500 record in Big Ten play with the league considered to be head and shoulders better than the rest of the country. But, Purdue went 10-8 last year and got a 10 seed, so a lot depends on who the Illini beat en route to going with this projection of 9-9.
Just taking a quick glance at the schedule, I see nine games that Illinois should win and there's always the possibility for some upsets, so .500 is a solid target. That gets you to 22 wins entering the Big Tentournament.
When will Joe Bertrand start? Or, why is DJ still starting? Yes, when he gets hot he's a force but Bertrand's shooting better, driving -- don't we need him to take more than 3 shots a game?
Also, instead of just a "shoot around" does the team do longer practices in the Hall? If not, why not? They are shooting worse at home....Does anyone keep stats on how well they shoot in the practice facility versus the Hall? Could it be the lighting? Shouldn't they shoot more in the Hall?
I don't forsee any changes in the starting lineup in the near future. D.J. has struggled with his shot of late, but the coaches are happy with what he'sdoing in other areas, particularly defensively. He will start to make shots again.
They like what Joe brings off the bench and who starts isn't necessarily as important to them as what roles guys play. Joe is at his best, in the coaches' opinion, when he comes off the bench and provides a spark. He only got three shots up in the Auburn game. He was also fightinging through an illness and Tracy Abrams was on fire, so he and Brandon Paul took the bulk of the shots.
The team typically conducts a full practice at the Assembly Hall the day before a home game. The only time they didn't this season was prior to the Norfolk State game, I believe, because there was a concert at the Assembly Hall the night before.
They'd like to get over there as often as possible, but the building isn't always available with conflicts such as concerts, women's basketball, etc.
Marcus - what can ILL do about the rebounding struggles? What do coaches do to get this better if anything? Seems to me like Henry and Langford are pretty good rebounders, but i know ILL can't play them just for that reason.
Find out if James Augustine and Mike Davis have any eligibility left.
They do drill after drill on rebounding, but it's different than going after them in games. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way, sometimes, the other guys are just bigger and stronger.
Illinois isn't going to out-size many opponents in the Big Ten, so they've got to doa better job of getting bodies on guys in the paint, that'sone thing, but it's got to be an effort from all the guys on the floor, something Groce addressed yesterday.
“It’s got to be a mindset and it’s got to be important to our guys,” Groce said. “We’ve got to do it a little differently than some teams. Some nights where we don’t quite have the girth as some other teams, we’ve got to go get it as a group of five. We need our guards to rebound for us. And they've done a good job."
Myke Henry seems to always find the ball off the backboard. When he's on the floor, they're a better rebounding team. Devin is long and he can really jump. I think Nnanna Egwu is continuing to get better, but it's going to be one of those things that Illinois is going to deal with all year.
Hey Marcus, thanks for the chat. Good to see Devin Langford getting some minutes against his home state team, is he back in the mix for good? I'd think he might be able to help out with the rebouding woes.
I think he played well enough in his eight minutes Saturday to warrant some more time. The play that stood out to me what penetrating through the Auburn defense and skipping a pass crosscourt to Tracy Abrams for a three.
Not sure if he's in the mix for good. It depends on how consistent he is when he's in there. He and some of the other guys on the bench will get every opportunity to earn minutes. His length and athleticism will help on the boards. When he goes up for a rebound, his bounce is really impressive.
Now that Illinois suffered it's first defeat, I'd like to get your opinion on the resolve of this group. I'm throughly impressed with how this club has come out and battled each game but as we enter the Big Ten and will get beaten around a bit on the boards and in general, I'm curious of your opinion of the leaders of this team. After watching basically these same guys give up last year and stop playing; I have concern of their mental make up. Thoughts?
You still playing ball?
I understand the concern, but I don't think it will be an issue like it has in the past. One, if you've ever been around John Groce, he won't let that happen. He's too positive and too demanding of these guys to let them waste away their talent and opportunties.
Two, the seniors recognize this as an opportunity to leave a legacy at Illinois. They're a good group of guys and the thing I've noticed most in spending more time around them this season is how focused they are. They're playing for each other and have confidence in one another. They want to win. Asked Tracy Abrams about being named Big Ten Player of the Week and he didn't care about it one bit. Didn't even smile when it came up. All he wants to do is win.
Time will tell if that holds up, but through 14 games, that's what I see.
Thanks again, I've got to wrap this up. I'm traveling with Loren today, so I need to prepare myself for this treat.
Looking forward to the environment tonight at Mackey. Hope you all enjoy the game.