March Malaise

I don’t have a bracket this year.  Just don’t have the inclination.  This is what those awful final three games of the Illini season have done.  No tourney analysis, no matchups that can’t be missed.  Bah.

chief_logo_upsideHow does this happen?  A question for the coaching staff and all fellow suffering Illini.  How do we wake up today and it’s been 10 years since our last deep tourney run.  How do you not show up for half the game against Purdue and the entire game against Michigan, when all you need is one win to get in?  And as far as that NIT game – let’s all do ourselves a favor and try to forget that one…

We’ve known for some time this team was flawed, capable of bad stretches, offensively challenged at times.  But this ending collapse revealed flaws in the whole system – the recruiting, the offensive and defensive systems, the bench coaching…  And now we’re all asking ourselves if John Groce can be the guy.  Because nearly everyone wants him to be the guy:  he works hard, he says the right things, he’s a Midwest and Big 10 type of coach…  Really don’t want to head into this off-season with these kinds of questions about him.

One of the worst things on Sunday was tuning in and watching Louisville play, where they just moved their freshman guard Quentin Snider into the starting lineup.  Because he’s a better facilitator.  Then switching over to watch Notre Dame for a minute, where Demetrius Jackson is a starter, a double-digit scorer, and 50% shooter from the guard position.  We were down to the final two schools for both these players (Snider actually committed, then de-commited).  We were down to the final two for a couple of very high profile high school seniors this season.  Groce has been so close to those top players who would make a difference, but of course that doesn’t matter in March.

So instead, we can watch these other schools and lament our current place in the college basketball scene.  For people like me, who grew up with Lou’s teams, the idea of missing the tournament two years in a row is foreign.  That’s not Illini basketball…  Except, now it is.

Can’t even really think about next year.  It’s such a pivotal year…  Just keep coming back to the same thought:  Come on, Coach Groce be that guy that brings us back.

One thought on “March Malaise

  1. The Rube is afraid Coach Groce may indeed NOT be the guy. Listen, he’s a fantastic guy, The Rube has met him and had several conversations with him about basketball, children, etc. However, his x’s and o’s are terribly lacking. WHY is it do you think that we got pants by PU in the 2nd half of that game? Its because Painter made adjustments and Groce wasn’t able to or his players weren’t able to execute. Either way, that’s on Groce. His recruiting isn’t as good as everyone believes either. Sure we had Snyder here, Jackson, we were in his final two as we were with Cliff Alexander and on and on and on…but always being a bridesmaid and never a bride is the same as never being a bridesmaid in the end. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand granades.

    The bottom line is Coach Groce is a PR expert. He always says the right things, he interviews well, he NEVER throws the kids under the bus like Weber did. But, that doesn’t win games, that doesn’t get you into the tourney. What remains to be seen is if Mike Thomas’ ego is still too big to allow him to fire Groce when we don’t make the tourney next year. And yes I realize I said WHEN we don’t make the tourney next year.

    What will improve enough to make the difference? Tracy Abrams is Ray Rice lite….problem is Ray Rice’s style doesn’t really lend itself to a lite version. Abrams, if you remember drives in, just like Rice, but UNLIKE Rice he doesn’t finish at the rim very well and almost NEVER gets his own rebound when he does miss. Additionally, Abrams’ 27% career 3 point shooting is a far cry from whatever it was Rice shot this year. However, TA will still drive to the basket, turn the ball over, but he’ll make up for all that by NOT being able to stop dribble penetration, just wait, there are lots of 3-14 shooting games on the horizon for TA next season! No, TA will be the “alpha dog,” we’ve seen what that does to Kendrick Nunn…well that and taking away his left hand. He’ll wuss out and go back into his shell like he did when Rice was on the floor. Hill will improve, probably be all B1G 2nd team or honorable mention, but still won’t be able to guard anyone. Black will spend more time on the bench in foul trouble than he will playing and I’ll predict at least a one game suspension from the B1G office for a flagrant at some point next season. Whether he deserves it or not, he has a reputation now. Colbert/Finke/Paul/Morgan could all play at the same time and not be as good defensively as Egwu, so our interior defense is going to be MUCH softer. Sure Colbert showed flashes offensively and rebounding, but he’s too thin to guard a big. I don’t know what Finke will do, other than be fundamentally very sound, but how will that translate??? Morgan needs to go, he’s a MAC all conference guy, but not even a backup on a real B1G team. Paul has become a 3 man at JUCO in Texas. He will NOT be the back to the basket strong enforcer type we were hoping for. He chucked more 3’s this season than some of our starting guards did. Jaylon Tate needs to transfer. There is NO excuse for a kid to play ball as long as he has at the position he has played and only make 2 three pointers over the course of 2 full seasons….there just isn’t. His passing and “moxy” aren’t enough to make up for his lack of offensive abilities. No division 1 player who isn’t over 7 foot tall should be that bad of a shooter from outside. Will the freshman have to be relied upon to be the difference? Lets be honest here. Jordan is Jamar Smith the 2nd. He’ll stand around and chuck 3’s from the perimeter, and that’s literally about all you can expect from him. The kid from Simeon, DJ Williams, averaged something like 8 points and 4 rebounds a game his senior year. Sure he’s 6’7″ and can handle the ball and pass, but you remember the last overhyped kid from Chicago that came to Illinois that had stats like that his Sr. year….Mike Shaw is playing where now? Jalen Coleman…the first kid out of Indiana in a long time will be here next year….I’d almost bet donuts to dollars he won’t be here after next season, why toil here with mediocre talent? We still don’t have a real PG next year and while we did lose a 5 that is as bad offensively as we’ve seen here since maybe Uwe Blab, or Olaf, whichever one we had here, his defense at least made us competitive from time to time. You will miss Egwu next year…just wait.

    My final point is this. When Mid-Major Mike Thomas came to this University as AD he made 3 big hires. Tim Beckman, Matt Bollant and John Groce. Groce has now missed the tourney 2 years in a row, Bollant has had 2 straight losing seasons and Tim Beckman….ahhhh Timmy. I’d have give you 1000-1 odds 3 years ago that Beckman would be gone before Groce?!?!? Now what kind of odds would you give me?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s