Weber: 'It starts with me'

Weber: 'It starts with me'

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CHAMPAIGN – In trying to pinpoint exactly how Illinois missed the NCAA tournament again, for the second time in three seasons, you can look near and far.

There were split-second decisions against Utah in November and Ohio State in March. Utah hit a buzzer beater that served as one of the bad losses on the Illini resume. Ohio State escaped partly because Illinois couldn't get off a last-second shot – in regulation and in overtime – on Saturday.

"That's how close it is," Bruce Weber said Sunday. "But that's just how basketball goes."

Or this slide can be traced back a few years, when Illinois was whiffing on top recruit after top recruit, guys like Evan Turner, who waited for a scholarship offer that came too late. In a double-overtime win against Illinois at the Big Ten tournament, the Ohio State hero ultimately helped to end UI hopes of making the real Dance.

Choose your point of reference – last weekend or a few years ago – but it comes to the same result: Illinois, of the Big Ten, will play a road game at Stony Brook, the champion of the America East, in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPNU).

"I don't think we have anyone to blame except ourselves when it comes down to it. It starts with me," Weber said. "Just getting the guys to be ready early in the season. We let some games slip by that ended up costing us."

Stony Brook (22-9) is making the first postseason appearance in its 11-year Division I history. Illinois (19-14) was hoping for its 29th NCAA tournament appearance but settled for its fourth NIT berth. Though Illinois is seeded No. 1 in the NIT, it couldn't host a first-round game because Cirque du Soleil is performing at the Assembly Hall this week. If it continues to win, Illinois would host a second-round game March 22 and a third-round game March 24.

Weber acknowledged that missing the NCAA tournament in 2008 and 2010 is "a disappointment," particularly because Illinois returned its top three scorers from a team that reached the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed last year.

"We thought we had taken a nice step last year. With Chester (Frazier) going down (with an injury) we didn't get the wins we had thought (in the postseason)," Weber said. "You had three main guys back and added a group of freshmen. I knew we'd go through a growing-up process. I was worried about some things. Again, it's disappointing, some of the games, the Vegas games (losses to Utah and Bradley), that maybe cost us."

Players mourned the "CBS Selection Show" from the team's practice facility. Co-captain Bill Cole, who was nervous enough he couldn't eat the pizza provided, described a scene that sounded like a basketball funeral.

"It's one of the sickest feelings I've had in a while," he said.

There were signs that Illinois was in trouble – and not just when bubble teams Utah State, Florida and Minnesota emerged on the "CBS Selection Show" on Sunday. The trouble started in Las Vegas, with a blown 16-point lead against Utah, and continued through an inexcusable 14-point first half against Minnesota on Feb. 27.

"When it really comes down to it, it really comes down to the Minnesota game at home," Weber said.

"It's tough to say, 'Hey, we're better than that team (Minnesota),' when they beat us at home,' " Cole added.

"It's a huge disappointment," co-captain Demetri McCamey said. "We had big hopes for this season because we wanted to get back to the NCAA tournament."

Perhaps to increase the Illini's odds of slipping in the back door of the NCAA tournament, Weber politicked over the airwaves. He did five interviews with ESPN networks, radio and TV, between the end of a Big Ten tournament loss to Ohio State and the "CBS Selection Show."

"I'm not sure it does any good, but you never know who's listening," he said.

Dan Guerrero, the chair of the NCAA selection committee, said the RPI by itself is not a factor. Still, the lowest RPI to ever earn an at-large berth is 74. Illinois had a 75 RPI.

"You know, they (Illinois) did impress to some degree, obviously in their performance in the Big Ten tournament," Guerrero said Sunday after the bracket was released. "But when you look at the entire body of work in a general sense, they had some situations where they lost to some teams below 100 on the RPI. They were below .500 vs. teams in the top 100. Their conference strength schedule was not the strongest."

The latter point burned Weber, who otherwise was empathetic of the committee's "difficult" job. Weber also emphasized the so-called "eye test," saying the Illini played well during a 10-game stretch that included eight games against teams ranked in the Top 15.

"Then we go double-overtime (against Ohio State) and Minnesota loses by 30 (to Ohio State). So you've got to wonder about that," said Weber, who added that he went to church, like usual, and walked his dogs to calm his Selection Sunday anxieties. "It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But it is what it is."

And it is an NIT berth for an Illinois team that tossed around phrases like "NCAA tournament" and "Sweet 16" before the season. As an assistant and head coach, Weber has been to the NIT four times previously, advancing to the semifinal round and the title game with Purdue in 1981 and 1982. The Final Four of the NIT is March 30 and April 1 in New York City.

"(I) still have memories of then. I've been in 800, 900 games, and I do remember playing in Madison Square Garden and (those) NIT games," Weber said. "I hope the kids have that goal. We have a chance to play five games and see if we can win an NIT championship. It probably doesn't mean a whole lot, not as much as NCAA tournament did, but at the same time it would be good for our players, our young guys, for our program to continue on."

Split-second decision
Here are some of the last-second results that might have affected Illinois' chances of making the NCAA tournament prospects:
Utah 60, Illinois 58
Freshman Shawn Glover banked in a breakaway runner as the Illini blew a 16-point lead to lose at the buzzer in Las Vegas.
Minnesota 62, Illinois 60
In the critical loss that doomed Illinois, a last-second jump shot from D.J. Richardson bounced off the rim.
Ohio State 88, Illinois 81 (2OT)
The Illini had the final possession in regulation and overtime but couldn't get off a shot in time.
Ohio State 58, Michigan 56
If Evan Turner doesn't make a 37-foot buzzer beater to beat Michigan, Illinois wouldn't have played the mighty Buckeyes.

Comments

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oandb wrote on March 15, 2010 at 7:03 am

excuses, excuses. that's all we ever hear. this team underachieved all year long and paid the price. the worst recruiting run in school history combined with the MAC players we actually do have spelled disaster. At least Cole and Tisdale will be able to spend more time with their friend Bruce next year on the bench. Hope they go out early in the lame NIT.

TotalIlliniFan wrote on March 15, 2010 at 7:03 am

He needs to say more than that. And do more.

billyh23 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 7:03 am

it really is a simple as losing home games down the stretch.

The loss to minnesota at "home"

really did seal the deal

billyh23 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 8:03 am

7 years ago illinois hired Brooce weber

7 years ago kansas hired bill self

7 years ago ohio state hired thad matta

wow, did we break glass somewhere?

I think in 7 years we will be talking about

another 7 years bad luck!!

oandb wrote on March 15, 2010 at 8:03 am

I would also ask that the players get out of Champaign for the summer and play some quality competition. Sitting around playing the beer league guys hasn't done a thing for the program.

lasmith12 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 8:03 am

Dan Guerro, committee chair has done a horrible job of explaining why some teams were left out. His responses have been contradictory at times, and evasive like a politician all the time.

Past chairmen have come out and clearly explained the decision making. with him as chair, I can see why so many people are perplexed.

All that being said, the team cannot leave their fate in someone else's hands.

walker wrote on March 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

hey billyh23, your comments are always anti UI.

Remember that Bill Self left the program in spite of every effort to keep him. Maybe you would be better of to move to Lawrence where you could just

goo goo over him 24/7's. That's all you ever seem to do. By the way, I suppose Roy W & Jim B are loser coaches in your expert opinion, because they happen to be in the NIT as well ?

walker wrote on March 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

I meant to say UConn's coach & not Jim B in my comment above.

illinitrueblue wrote on March 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

It sure does start with Weber. That's 2 misses in 3 years.

And his out of bounds plays are to the BB team what Zook's specialty teams are to FB.

bluehavana wrote on March 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

walker, poking fun of another persons comment rings pretty hollow when you can't remember the name of a two time ncaa winning coach.

i agree, self left and we should move on. but it is pretty clear he is in a different class recruiting than coach weber. it's amazing with coach weber's background at Purdue, his inability to immediately secure good recruiting classes after our runner up finish in 2005.

tonyjb37 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 9:03 am
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this basketball team is going right down the drain just like the football team did. some coaches have it and some coaches dont. our coaches just dont have it they have showed that over and over again. a magnificant thing to have happen would be if bruce weber and ron zook and ron guenther all stepped down at the same time because they came to the realization that they just plain suck and are doing our athletics programs an injustice by staying around. when lon krueger and bill self were coaches we made the tournament every year and that is because they are great coaches. you hire a coach from southern illinois and this is what happens you miss the tournament 2 times in three years. think about it. we could have kept bill self if we had tried harder. he is the best coach and recruiter in the country head and shoulders above everybody else.

jturner wrote on March 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Always love to see posters and WDWS callers try to compare Bruce's being out of the tournament to Williams and Calhoon. I think if Bruce had multiple national championships and numerous final fours, critics would cut him more slack.

JamesB wrote on March 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

Forget about Bill Self. He wanted to go to Kansas, his "dream job". How do you keep a guy that doesn't want to stay? It makes no sense.

Weber is fine. I like him, he's honest and good for the program. Looks to have some good recruits coming in. Hopefully he'll be a good coach for a long time here.

chrs3084 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

NCAA selection is over. Instead of crying in our beers/sodas, why don't we just accept it, move on, and take the NIT for what it's worth: a chance to play multiple games instead of 1, 2 max in the NCAA tourney. We have three freshman who could benefit greatly from any kind of tournament experience, especially if they get to play more than one game.

bluehavana: he did get a great recruit. his name was Eric Gordon. And since Gordon verbally committed so early, they didn't have a scholarship available for Turner (a late bloomer), or anybody else, and since he decommitted so late, it wouldn't have mattered.

tonyjb37: and who would you bring in to replace Weber?

you can lead a Horse to water, but you can't make him defend it.

chrs3084 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

tonyjb73: you're also very delusional if you think Illinois could have done anything to prevent Self from jumping ship.

Rocket wrote on March 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

I think as long as the U.ofI. wants to ride with Weber, thats what you are going to get, mediocracy. When you have nine seconds to get a shot off, and don't, what does that tell you?

milobri wrote on March 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

Whatever the reason, Weber cannot gain respect from his players and that will continue the downfall of the program. If we had put Keller in against Ohio State when Tis fouled out, we MIGHT have been able to contain Turner driving to the basket, but Keller couldn't play 'cause he hurt Weber's feelings. Grow UP, Weber!

walerius4 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

Grow up Weber??!!! How about grow up Keller?! To sit there pouting because he got taken out of the game and Weber trying to TEACH him why he was taken out and to ignore the coach? Yeah, I hope Keller goes bye bye, maybe to Indiana state?? Is'nt that where the immature go??

Weber is the Coach not the babysitter. Get a clue milo.

And for all of you naysayers, if you don't like Illini basketball, go root for someone else ....

billyh23 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm

keller is a senior

lets talk about the double standard

keller never sees the court again, but DMC

goes right back in.

both players were wrong, but the one with talent gets to play again

way to go broooce

jmcillini wrote on March 15, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Everytime we lose, everyone blames Bruce. Did anybody stop to think that maybe the players just don't listen or don't have the talent? And as for recruiting, look who jumped ship and/or "drunked" out.. we lost shooters and that cost us. We have one of the best recruiting clases in the nation coming in next year and a great one the year after and yes, BRUCE got them! No one likes losing, but being a little more positive might help.

OrangeBlewAndU wrote on March 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

It was only fitting that Evan Turner drove the dagger through the Illini's heart. Although I'm aware there were complicating factors, he got a scholarship offer as an afterthought and probably felt, or feels, dissed. Consequently, he probably enjoys turning the knife in the team's - and coaching staff's collective - belly every time he has the chance. We can take consolation that this lottery pick - who could have been ours - will no longer be around to rub our nose in it anymore.

jjohnson wrote on March 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Keller might have been able to contain Turner? The play after which he was pulled was where someone had blown by him. As for double-standard, consider that the previous week probably led to Bruce's making it clear what the rules are. The quality of these postings has taken a really downward trend in both quality and civility as the season has progressed (or distressed; it has been a disappointment for sure). I suspect the News-Gazette should drop this feature.

Wenalway wrote on March 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I like how the N-G tries to blame the polls for overrating the Illini at the start of the year. The reality is that every year, Illinois pounds some team like Alabama Peninsula State at home to start the season, and then the N-G writers start waving the banners and proclaiming the Illini as world-beaters.

Every team the Illini will play in the NIT will have the coaching and no-Keller advantages.

stophatin wrote on March 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I am putting a rest to this illini basketball hating going on....

1. Bruce took mediocre SIU to two sweet sixteens and almost beat illinois in vegas at the invitational when the almighty bill self was coaching (sarcasm)

2. Took a four star recruit in Deron Williams and made him into a NBA all star, self certainly didnt have that kind of impact.

3. Last year we finished second in the big ten and had a five seed should have one but didnt because a three star pg was out now if thats not coaching i dont know what is.

4. the year before we had so many bad incidents with drinking and car crashes the kids prolly didnt care or were to worried about there team mates.

5. and for the recruiting bill self already had sherron collins, sherron just liked bill self, along with brandon rush they liked self for one reason or another. and maybe shire actually did like duke his whole life where else can a white boy look like a NBA star. And for Rose and Gordon, and hummel and turner it is gordons fault for one because we were so hell bent on getting him we forgot about these other players we thought we didnt need but once the kid changed his mind due to phone calls he left town and the rest of the players fell by the way side and rose obviously didnt have the grades to get into U of I and callipari is a dirty coach so there is how they got rose so yeah stop hating we got a good two good classes maybe a third so stop hating a bw

CecilColeman wrote on March 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm

That list of split-second decisions leaves out the end of the Gonzaga game. Zags scored with 10.4 seconds to go in OT and - - with 1 time out remaining - - Bruce stood and watched as the "play" broke down and a lousy shot ended the game. The first thing Bruce says on the post game interview was "I probably shoulda taken the time out!!"

Gee, no kidding. Woulda been a nice quality win.

Wenalway wrote on March 15, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Nice try, stophatin, but:

1. Irrelevant. No one cares what Weber did at SIU. He thinks he is still recruiting at that level.

2. Careers after college don't matter much, either. That was a good recruit by Self.

3. Should have "one" means nothing. Illinois should have "one" against Va. Tech in the first round in 2007. That didn't happen, either.

4. Drinking and car crashes -- we certainly cannot question the program when those things happen. And actually, that was in 2007, not "the year before." You can't go with incorrect time references off the top of your head unless you're a sportswriter, you know.

5. I have no absolutely no idea what you are trying to say here. Next time, try some capital letters and some punctuation. Try to end sentences before they are 200 words long.

The only thing you have "put a rest to" with that post was any credibility you might have had. Put away the Bruce Weber action figure and do your homework.

CHIEF4EVER wrote on March 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

What Weber has done with this bunch of spoiled, over-rated, over hyped, tantrum throwing group of players has been nothing short of amazing.

I give Coach Weber all the respect in the world to sit there and take the heat. There is no doubt in my mind Coach Weber is one of the top 2-3 game day coaches in the Big Ten.

I am very happy to have a coach who I know has high morals and ethics as opposed to a coach who takes us to 2-3 final fours then find out he did it by cheating or by playing dirty. Coach Weber is a great role model for our area youth.

GO WEBER!!

I-L-L

I-N-I

chrs3084 wrote on March 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Wenalway: obviously nothing anyone says is doing to make you change your opinion.

since you are the know-all, be-all of illini basketball, who should the University hire to replace that horrible coach Weber?

p.s. get over yourself

ChiefIlliniwek4 wrote on March 16, 2010 at 2:03 am

Z- You were calling for Weber to be fired in another post...

illiniphil85 wrote on March 16, 2010 at 7:03 am

No more excuse on Weber being a great coach. He better get this turned around, and I mean in a hurry.

stophatin wrote on March 16, 2010 at 7:03 am

shaun pruitt and brain randle were self recruits just to let ya know

troybergy wrote on March 16, 2010 at 9:03 am

Weber replaced Self prior to the 2004 season shaun pruitt was a freshman in 04. I think you are right about Randle. Self was able to win with players like Sergio McClain, Corey Bradford and Lucas Johnson. I would not question their heart but have no more talent than the group Weber has today. I feel the program is failing and we need a change.

http://illinois.scout.com/a.z?s=169&p=9&c=4&cfg=bb&yr=2004

CHIEF4EVER wrote on March 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm

So all these Illini "fans" as they call themseves who are calling on Coach Weber to be fired I have one question......How many of you have ever been a Head Coach of an NCAA basketball program?????

Yeah, thats what I thought....NOONE! So before you go around yelling and screaming from the rooftops for someone to be fired why dont you actually support this team like REAL fans will do.

If you honestly feel you could do a better job then I suggest you prove it and apply for the opening at Iowa. There are sure a few people on here who think they know more then Coach Weber and if thats the case they shouldnt have any problem getting hired and turning that program into a final four team. What better way to make your point then to beat Coach Weber then maybe you have the right to talk crap.

GO WEBER!!!!

I-L-L

I-N-I

RPeterE wrote on March 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

All the arguments and debate don't matter squat. Bottom Line: Illinois has failed to get into NCAA tournament twice in the past two years and sucked even when they made it last year. It's good Bruce says that failure starts with him as it does. Upperclassmen lacksadaiscal play (admitted to by Davis and McCamey among others on the team), espceially early in the season against teams with RPI over 100 really proved how lazy the Illini were in many games. Then other games they were dynamic and impressive. They just didn't have the drive, desire or heart in too many games and the teams that wanted it more won. Simple as that. I hope this season acts as a springboard into next season and success will be back then boobirds will be silenced.

Wenalway wrote on March 16, 2010 at 7:03 pm

CHIEF4EVER, none of that means anything. It is the most worthless "argument" ever. If your "logic" dictated what people did, then nothing would ever change. No wonder you support a deposed mascot that is never coming back.

CHIEF4EVER wrote on March 16, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Wenalway-

Im not sure what is so hard to understand. To dumb it down for you.....I think "fans" who call for a coach to be fired (esp. before the season is even over) is wrong. Unless you are an Athletic Dir at a NCAA Univ. or Head Coach you have not the slightest idea how to evaluate the talent or non-talent of a Head Coach period. If you really think all that matters is the W-L record then you really have a lot to learn.

Now if it comes to evaluating the bagger at the grocery store...well now that it is right up your ally.

GO WEBER!!

I-L-L

I-N-I

FearTheChief wrote on March 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Weber will destroy any talent that Howard can recruit.....its officially time for him to go !!!!!!!!!! We have all seen enough !!!!!!!