Fresh off another disappointing loss, this time to a Penn State team that’s been troublesome in recent years, my brother AKA the Rube checks in with a short missive about expectations here in Illini Country. Some good points to be made here. A couple of points about last night’s game: you don’t deserve ti win when you sleepwalk through the first 15 minutes of the game, and you just don’t win when four of your five players are clinched up and frightened in the last five minutes of the game…
So….The Rube along with several other like-minded Illini fans have been more than a bit disappointed by this year’s hoops team. There are the obvious problems, like losing to Misery and ……gulp…..UIC….However, The Rube among other famous prognosticators saw this coming dating back to the game vs. Oakland and it continued vs. Northern Colorado. The team looked lethargic, slow and lacked the usually desired attitude to win at rock, paper, scissors, much less Division 1 basketball.
So how about a little investigatory work/review into our Sr. laden starting group. It was decided that this should be done without the Orange and Blue sunglasses. This year’s ballclub (in my best Lou Henson voice), had some fairly lofty expectations put upon them at the onset of the season. Right or wrong most expected this team to be in the top division of the Big Ten and to make the NCAA tourney maybe even get past the first week-end of the tourney! Here’s where The Rube thinks the rubber meets the road. The Expectations!?!?!? Are they too high for this group? Below is an exhaustive search of what The Rube could find about our Sr.’s on this year’s collective. You can of course draw your own conclusions at the end of this, but The Rube’s is right so……
Demetri McCamey: Coming out of High School was a tough, strong PG from Chicago. He needed to improve his outside jumper, defense and shooting off the dribble. He was a 4 star recruit and ranked as the #10 PG in his class that year. Other than Illinois he had offers reported from, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Michigan, Boston College, Depaul, Virginia, Miami (FL) and Wake Forest. He was the only PG we offered that year. Other PG’s in DMac’s general vacinity were Kalin Lucas #5 MSU, Chris Wright #9 Georgetown, Jamelle McMillan #15 Arizona State. Of course everyone knows about OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose.
DMac has lived up to the hype and then some. He’s quite obviously improved his outside jumper and shooting off the dribble. He’s an offensive weapon either shooting or passing. His defense is still poor most of the time, but we’ve seen it improve dramatically on certain possessions in certain games against certain players. Overall I’d say DMac was as advertised and has actually improved vs. his peers.
Mike Tisdale: Mike was a gangly shell of a man when he got here and that continued right up until…..well…..he does eat 6000 calories a day….Oddly enough coming out of High School Mike was considered a very good defender and at 6’11”, 195#’s was considered good size for his position. Who knew it would take 4 years to get up to 250#’s? It didn’t take The Rube that long to pack on that amount of weight percentage wise! But I digress….It was also stated that Mike needed to work on his Strength (well duh…) and his inside scoring. Mike was a 4 star kid as well and ranked as the 24th best Center in the country. In his neighborhood was Dallas Lauderdale #18 tOSU, Jeremy Price #20 at Georgia. Not overall a very strong year for bigs, JJ Hickson of NC State fame was the #3 guy in the country. Mike had an offer from…..well, nobody really as everyone knew he was ours…Purdue still offered, but that was it.
Mike has improved in the areas identified as he’s made himself into one of the deftest jump shooting 7’1″ guys in the world I’d wager to guess. The problem is his other thing…you remember….that strength thing…that hasn’t quite come along….but who knew that Tiz would have the caloric burning capacity of that Squirrel in Over the Hedge! Tiz hasn’t really cut it now has he? Sure he’s a likeable kid. He’s got a beautiful jumper the likes of which cause one to be surprised when it doesn’t go in. He’s developed a decent hook shot as well. But again, the defense and the strength just aren’t getting it done.
Mike Davis: Not a lot to say about Mike when he came here. Mike wasn’t ranked….at all….for anything….He had no offers from anyone other than prep schools who wanted him to come sit on the bench for them to be a practice dummy for the next year’s big thing! Out of High School Mike was considered a great athlete and had a good nose for the ball, but needed to work on strength and defense. OK so Mike was thin….or is thin…..Mike needed to work on defense….or still needs to work on defense….Mike needed to work on strength or Mike still needs to work on Strength. You get the picture. Onion Rings (shout out to the Beastie Boys), took lots of folks by surprise as a Sophomore and that continued a bit for his Jr. year as well. Now that he’s a Sr. and isn’t much stronger people have learned if you bang him a few times and he misses a shot….HE GONE…..I’ll share the other PF’s in the country with the next entry.
Bill Cole: 3 star PF out of Peoria. Billy Co’s strength out of High School were his outside shot and his upside/potential…meaning Scout.com needed something to fill in another box and that works as good as anything. He needed to work on…..wait for it…..Strength and Defense! Are we now seeing a pattern….anyone….anyone…..Bueller???? Billy was ranked as the 35th best PF in the country his Sr. year. Folks in his neck of the woods were huge names like Marshall Moses #34 at Oklahoma St., Troy Gillenwater #33 with New Mexico St., The big names at the PF position were everyone say it with me now, Kosta Kofus and Blake Griffin, were the pillars of the Center Community, both in the NBA now, with Griffin a nightly feature on ESPN’s top 10. Bill had offers from Purdue, Notre Dame, Bradley, Depaul, Illinois State.
Bill has improved his defense by leaps and bounds. He’s good as long as his guy isn’t too quick, or too strong, or too much of an athlete or……what, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard! His strength has improved, but maybe he should’ve been on Tiz’s 6000 calorie diet along with Davis!
So what did we really get back in 2007?!?!? The Rube’s glad you asked….we got an above average point guard who has turned himself begrudgingly into one of the best in college basketball, we got a Center and PF who were and continue to be finesse players and another PF converted to a SF who tries as hard as anyone in the country, but is just a half step slow or a cheese burger too light. Ranks??? 2, 4 stars, 1, 3 star and a not even on the radar guy. Have each of them lived up to the guys around their ranking coming out of High School, maybe, maybe not. But, The Rube will give you this little nugget to chew on. Some folks expected this team to compete for a Big Ten title, possibly even an elite 8 or…..go ahead and say it final four berth. The Rube just doesn’t think that’s realistic given the amount of talent in the Sr. class. The Rube just doesn’t think that Tisdale will ever be Kareem, Davis will never be Karl Malone and Bill Cole won’t ever….ever be Larry Bird….DMac…maybe he could be Deron some day….but it isn’t now and it isn’t with this team, more likely he ends up like Frank Williams with a popcorn fart of an NBA career and then it just gets too tough for him and he’ll go play Europe with the rest of the Illini…..Meachum, Randle, Pruitt, Archibald, (instert name of Illini player here).
The bottom line is….let’s be realistic folks. This team was advertised as “only as good as the Seniors,” well that’s not real good….it’s not real bad don’t get me wrong, it’s just….well slightly above average….The Rubes prediction 22-10 or maybe 21-11, slide into the NCAA with a first week-end exit and these Seniors finally getting the credit (and expectations) they deserve…that of a mediocre group of really nice kids who tried hard…sometimes.