We would like to watch the games. Is that too much to ask? This would mean, quit switching to another game a minute before the next TV timeout so you can play yet more commercials. Quit switching randomly to games we don’t care about. Here’s a hint: Illinois is Big 10 Country – we don’t give two craps for a game with a Big East and Atlantic 10 matchup when Purdue is locked in a close one. I don’t like ESPN much, but at least if they were running this show we’d get more options. Keep this up and we’ll be pulling for CBS to lose the contract next time…
Scott in Illinois
Seriously! What was it, five or six times yesterday CBS switched to another game just in time for the under 12:00 or under 8:00 commercial (after just coming out of a break for the game we were watching). Talk about blatant programming greed. They’ve been bad before in the first weekend, but this year CBS seemed even worse.
All the basketball watched in my basement this weekend confirmed a few bits of conventional wisdom and offered up a few newish trends. Here are a few…
- Talent and Execution. Seems like there’s probably 40+ teams with the talent to make it past the first weekend into the Sweet 16, which is a deeper pool than ever. You could even include your “last four teams” out in that equation. With 5 mid-majors still alive and a bunch more winning their first games, this is a positive. But execution is the big separator between the Sweet 16 and the also-rans. You better be able to do more than get hot from 3-land. You better not turn it over. You better play some defense. Ask Bill Self and all those Big East teams and they’ll tell you…
- Conference Call. After much early crowing, popular opinion went against the Big 10 as the eastern media slobbered over the Big East. And yet there we have Hummel-less Purdue, Lucas-less Michigan State, and Ohio State surviving. The Big East has two of their ridiculous eight teams remaining, to tie them with the SEC, Big 12, and ACC. And as we have often stated right here, you underestimate the Missouri Valley at your peril (right, Bill?)
- Playmaking. You need multiple ball-handling playmakers to win. Doesn’t matter if this is a point guard and small forward, sixth man, whatever. Defenses are just too good at taking away jumpshots and post play, and an offense reliant on one guy and the pick-and-pop doesn’t have enough options (hear that, Bruce?). Also, you want to guard the Middle Eastern guy, as Bill Self will tell you.
- IHSA observations. Jereme Richmond is really, really good. If his team had any offensive discipline at all, they would have won. Still, Richmond is the kind of player we haven’t seen at Illinois in many moons. And you know what else? He has a mean streak to him, he has some attitude. That’s fine with me. Nick Anderson had a mean streak. So did Robert Archibald, Roger Powell, and Steve Bardo. Jereme plays some horrible defense, though, and we all know Bruce won’t put up with that. Thomas Hamilton Jr. looked very tough for a freshman, and Simeon also had some good-looking young players. Go get ’em, Jerrance.
- Orange and Blue prospects. As we prepare for more NIT fun, a couple of points to consider for the Illini. The talent level will finally be there again next year; the key will be how much time the freshmen and sophomores can earn. They are the better athletes and playmakers, but guys like Cole and Davis will not surrender minutes easily. Also, we really should add a zone defense to our repertoire. When four of your five top players continuously get beat off the dribble, it’s time to make an adjustment – even if it’s for five minute stretches here and there. Illinois still won’t have a power forward next year, but they will add some shot-blocking and speed. Most importantly, Coach Weber will need to take a hard look at his overall strategy and make some adaptations. If this means lengthening the rotation, zone, more set plays, etc., just do it. See Lon Kruger at UNLV. See Northern Iowa and Ohio State. And don’t forget the example of our old pal, Bill Self.