Loren Tate: Postseason run doesn't guarantee success

Loren Tate: Postseason run doesn't guarantee success

NIT or CBI, there are no drawbacks to the Illini playing additional basketball games.

Bring ’em on. The more the merrier. It’s always advantageous to finish the season in an upbeat manner ... because, as a former coach once noted, you want the fans to chew on positives (and not you) for the next six months.

But, in reality, the ending of one season usually has little impact on the next. I wouldn’t call it inconsequential exactly, but as one example: Iowa won four NIT games last year before falling in the finale to Baylor (not to mention 10 games in Europe), yet neither Iowa nor Baylor is jumping up and down about this season.

The 2011 Illini whacked UNLV 73-62 in the NCAA tourney before losing to Kansas and didn’t go anywhere in 2012.

That team fell deep into the doldrums, losing 12 of its last 14. Yet even after Meyers Leonard turned pro, John Groce’s first UI squad defeated USC, Butler, Georgia Tech and Gonzaga in a 12-0 start in 2013.

After a midseason slump, the Illini closed last season on the upswing. But it isn’t clear that there was much carryover. Too many solid players graduated.

If this UI team receives a postseason bid, five members of next season’s squad won’t be available. Furthermore, the importance of winning will influence Groce to sub in his customary manner, which means that several of the freshmen will receive the same minimal minutes they usually get.

But, yes, it’s good to play more games. It is, after all, a 12-month business.

NOTE: Both of Groce’s incoming recruits ended on a sour note, Centennial’s Michael Finke scoring a sub-par nine points in Friday’s regional loss to Central, and White Station’s Leron Black getting six and 10 points in season-ending losses to Hamilton and Arlington in the Tennessee tournament. With Plainfield East and Aaron Jordan falling to Geneva on Wednesday, the only future Illini still alive is 6-foot-7 junior D.J. Williams, who cashed 18 in Simeon’s 47-45 defeat of Stagg. That sets up Wednesday’s sectional showdown against heavily favored Whitney Young at Marist.

Warming to the task

Has spring sprung? March Madness is in the air. We get an extra hour of early-evening sunlight this weekend. It’s supposed to hit 60 degrees Monday.

Hallelujah! It’s been a chilling winter. And Illini basketball teams and wrestlers didn’t exactly warm us up.

But if we can clear away the clouds, Illini spring sports appear highly promising. Dan Hartleb can lean on quality pitching, and Terri Sullivan has some hitters. Brad Dancer has his tennis team on the rise. And while we may not see them, both track teams have individual Big Ten champs, and Mike Small’s golf operation is the envy of the Midwest.

A few winners would be welcome around here.

Issues of the day

NBA trades are happening, bringing up a controversial question: Is it appropriate to give up victories now in order to build for the future?

The answer, of course, is “yes.” Everybody does it. It might be a GM clearing cap space, or trading a star (Luol Deng) to drop below the luxury tax line ... or simply weakening a lineup in hopes of moving higher in the draft.

That’s how the pros go about it. But there are no advantages to losing at the college level. The only way to acquire players is to attract them. Taking transfers might not be a long-term solution, but you’ve seen Groce and Tim Beckman favor that approach in an effort to make the team attractive for annual recruiting showdowns. It’s a tough way to go.

On that subject, Beckman has roughly 16 juniors visiting this weekend. The Illini have been extremely active in their attempts to be first at the doorstep. Running backs and linemen are first priority.

More questions

— News flash! Johnny Manziel won’t be taken No. 1 in the NFL draft, and he won’t be the next Russell Wilson.

And that’s not simply because an astute Ron Jaworski doubts the Texas A&M quarterback.

Houston has the No. 1 pick, and new Texans coach Bill O’Brien demonstrated at New England, and again with Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg at Penn State, that he prefers a controlled aerial game. He doesn’t want a flamboyant, unpredictable Nike salesman darting around in spontaneous bursts.

Seattle had the NFL’s best defense (14.4 points and 273 yards) and needed a conservative QB who avoided mistakes and let defense win the game. Wilson was a perfect fit for the Seahawks. Furthermore, his modest pay as a third-rounder provided the Seahawks with financial mobility to strengthen other positions.

Johnny Football isn’t likely to play on a team with that kind of talent. The Browns and Jaguars were 4-12.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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IlliniMike05 wrote on March 08, 2014 at 11:03 pm

"An astute Ron Jaworski" We must be thinking of different Ron Jaworskis. 

arch73 wrote on March 08, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Personally, I think Iowa is a very poor example of what Tate is claiming.  Iowa HAS been jumping up and down about a very successful season that has them in the Top 25 (at least until tomorrow).

hoyt wrote on March 09, 2014 at 10:03 am

"But, in reality, the ending of one season usually has little impact on the next."


Wait, you mean there's no such thing as season-to-season momentum?!?! What will 95% of sports commentators talk about now?  :/

DaisyJ wrote on March 09, 2014 at 11:03 am

I agree with Loren on the success for next year having little to do with this yr. Look at any successful high school team, when they finally end the season we all go, wow, how will we replace these kids, and then we do...think about it. When you add a year of maturity, experience, and hard work by the kids, things can happen even for the better

Moonpie wrote on March 09, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Sir Tate Legend, like the Tea Party, believes the nonsense they spew. Of course ending with a win and a chance in any tourney is good for momentum for next year. Legend is just wanking because he has gotten to the point where he thinks any of his utterances are profound. And if he's so dead set against Manziel, I now believe Manziel will become a star. Tate's calendar perpetually says 1920.

walker wrote on March 10, 2014 at 11:03 am

regardless of whether it carries over into next year or not (I believe that it will in our case) it is nice to end the season playing your best b ball. There are an abundance of historical examples that go both ways and so I don't really see how Tate can say definitively that it does or doesn't.  Sounds like he just drummed up a thought and then tried to editorialize about it.