Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Illinois game.

Illinois fighting Illini
Current record: 13-2 (1-1)
Current RPI: 21
Current Sagarin: 17
Current Pomeroy: 24
2007-08 record: 16-19 (5-13)
2007-08 RPI: 99
2007-08 Sagarin: 73
2007-08 Pomeroy: 40
Series: IU leads 82-78
Last IU win: 2/7/2008 (83-79 in Champaign, double OT)
Last Illinois win: 3/9/2007 (58-54 in Chicago, Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, OT)
Last Illinois win in Champaign: 1/23/2007 (51-53)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 3pm Saturday, BTN
No longer "one player away," the Illini, like Michigan, like Iowa, and like just about everyone else, are on the list of vastly improved Big Ten teams. The Illini lost at Michigan, but also have the Big Ten's most impressive conference win to date, at preseason favorite Purdue. Last year, the contentiousness between Illinois coach Bruce Weber and Kelvin Sampson and Eric Gordon boiled over, and I expect that Weber and his team will be out for blood. I've said just about all I'm going to say about last year's despicable, coach-and-administration-approved atmosphere at the other Assembly Hall. I thought that Joe from Paint the Town Orange had a very reasonable perspective on the whole affair, although I'm sure we would disagree on some of the particulars. I was shocked when I heard earlier in the week that the Big Ten Network showed it as one of the Big Ten's greatest games. Give me a break. IU should be embarrassed that it ever hired Kelvin Sampson, and Illinois (and I hold the administration and Squeaky responsible much more than the fans) should be ashamed of that toxic atmosphere that they encouraged. I really don't want to think about that game, let alone see it again. Still, I couldn't help but think of it when Michigan's Laval Lucas-Perry bounced in that three pointer to force overtime. It was the third time in IU' last 13 Big Ten games that a fluky three pointer has played a huge outcome: the banked-in Gordon three that sent the Illinois game to overtime, the banked-in game-winner by Wisconsin's Brian Butch last season, and the Michigan game.
As for this year's Illinois team, they are excellent in basically every aspect of the game except rebounding and getting to the free throw line. They shoot well, take care of the ball, force lots of turnovers on defense, and play strong field goal defense. Unlike IU's recent opponents, Illinois is not a perimeter-oriented team. Only 25 percent of their field goal attempts are three pointers, #303 of 344 D-I teams. The Illini have a very balanced attack, with four players averaging between 11.7 and 12 points per game. Those four are Demetri McCamey, the unfortunately named Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, and Trent Meacham. Chest-bumpin' Chester Frazier starts and leads the team with over 6 assists per game, but doesn't score much. Illinois had its worst defensive performance of the year against Michigan, and allowed 11-27 three point shooting. Devan Dumes and Matt Roth probably are IU's only hope.
This will be a very difficult task for IU, and I don't hold out much hope for a win. Still, IU has played better than expected in both Big Ten games this season, and we can hope that trend will continue.


Toki Wartooth (Joe) said...

Thanks for the link on your blog, I'll be sure to do the same over at mine.

I love Bruce as a coach, but I think that in some ways the Sampson Gordon affair did affect the teams performance last year, but not because we didnt have him playing for the Illini. Bruce took the decommitment personally, and let it affect his coaching. He saw a prized recruit go to a coach with a history of rules violations and thought that he had been wronged personally.

Everyone got the feeling last year that everything would be ok if they could just beat the coach and player they thought had been the cause of the problem. But the fans and team never got their revenge. He should never have allowed this one issue to define the season, especially when so much was clearly emotionally riding on beating one team.

In the long run it might be better to have not beaten IU last year. I hope that Bruce, with his team and job security in a much better situation than last year has gotten over the whole thing. The bad guy got his karma and the kid cant hurt him anymore. Its better for everyone to move on. Trust me I don't disagree with you that Bruce handled this badly. I still believe he is one of the top 3 coaches in this conference though.

John M said...

As I said, I think your view is pretty reasonable. I agree that as a teacher and a technician, Weber seems to be one of the best. I don't think it's a coincidence that Keady's Purdue program went over a cliff when he left. Whether he will be one of the best as a long-term leader of a program still remains to be seen, I think.