So much for the vaunted Braggin’ Rights streak. Probably should’ve known better than to gloat before the game…
Talking to my brother and other fellow fans after the game, the consensus goes something like this: The Illini aren’t very good. They lack toughness, rebounding, and continuously get beat off the dribble. They rely too much on jump-shooting on offense and lack poise. At this point, it’s a dog-fight to reach the NCAA tournament, and I don’t really see it happening. Adjust your expectations on this team: they have a long way to go.
Your Pentagram thoughts on the game:
- Illinois in no way played well enough to win and Mizzou did. That said, the refs were horrible, and a series of bad calls midway through the second half helped prevent the Illini from breaking the 6-7 point margin. The other problem during that stretch, Illinois could not grab a damned rebound. Where have you gone, Roger Powell, Victor Chukwudebe, Robert Bennett, even Earvin Small? Without Chester Frazier bulldogging loose balls, this may be the worst rebounding Illinois team I’ve seen.
- On defense, we seemed to have the uncanny knack of getting beat off the dribble at practically every position. This is a big problem. Then we overcompensate by collapsing and leaving guys open for 3s. Repeatedly. Here’s a novel thought: if your man hits a few outside shots, how about you stick with him and make someone else beat you. Another novel thought – more zone defense, Coach. It may actually give this team a chance. Blah-blah-blah Purdue man-to-man giving into the players blah. I don’t care. Do what you have to do to win.
- On offense, it would be nice to throw it inside once in awhile. Sure Tisdale misses dunks and Davis was MIA, but at least you draw some fouls and open up some driving lanes. This ongoing criticism of the Weber-motion offense remains: too reliant on the jump-shot. Don’t think it’s likely to change (just like I doubt we see more zone defense).
- Why didn’t Keller play more in the 2nd half? Mike Davis looked overwhelmed and unhappy those mean Mizzou guys kept running into him and pushing him around. Keller has some toughness and energy and couldn’t have been worse. For that matter, if we keep getting man-handled, find away to get your bigger bodies (Semrau and Simpson) on the floor.
- Looking at the schedule, you can see somewhere between 9-11 more regular season wins barring a major collapse. This assumes Bruce can address some of the toughness/intensity problems we’ve seen the past two games. 11 wins gets you to 19-12 heading into the Big 10 Tournament, which probably isn’t good enough for the NCAAs unless you go on a run and make the championship game that final weekend. This team has a lot of work to do.