Sunday, December 30, 2007

Game Coverage from Pantagraph with Weber Quotes

After the Tennessee State game in which Weber was clearly outcoached by the Tennessee State coach, Cy Alexander, the quotes are interesting to read. It's also interesting that the guy in charge has no responsibility for the loss, even when its an upset against an inferior team. Quotes are below and a link to the full article.

“We have to come with a whole new attitude and a new focus. We’re humble right now,” Meacham said.

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber admitted the Tigers’ zone defense gave the Illini trouble.

“We didn’t come ready to play at the beginning with the emotion and the intensity,” Weber said. “We let our offense or lack of offense affect our defense.”

Weber also questioned the team’s maturity level and its inability to mentally prepare for a game, even if wasn’t a Big Ten opponent.

“It’s just very disappointing, it’s very tough to swallow,” Weber said. “We have to keep learning lessons, and this is about as tough a lesson. If they can’t figure something out after this, we’re in trouble.”

Illini Scoring Woes

The Illini scoring woes continued today, and were not limited to embarrassingly poor free throw shooting. Shaun Pruitt needs to be sitting on the bench during the last 10 minutes of any close game, period. And he needs to be working on European geography and languages for his professional career starting next year.

The three guard and four guard line-up needs to go, and be brought back in 2008 or 2009. Why? Deron Williams, Luther Head and Dee Brown have left campus for quite some time, and their replacements are not anywhere close to being as efficient as they were. To demonstrate my point, I put together some season to date statistics on the top 10 Illini players, to show how much each scores per 40 minutes, and ranked them accordingly.

Shaun Pruitt 19.9 ppg
Brian Randle 18.1 ppg
Mike Tisdale 16.5 ppg
Trent Meacham 15.7 ppg
Rodney Alexander 15.3 ppg
Bill Cole 15.3 ppg
Calvin Brock 13.1 ppg
Mike Davis 11.8 ppg
Demetri McCamey 9.6 ppg
Chester Frazier 6.3 ppg

We need to play one point guard, not two point guards this year, since neither one has good scoring capability. I realize we can't play both centers all the time, but we need to put some emphasis on having guys on the floor that can put the ball in the cylinder.

Tennessee State Beats Illini 60-58

The Illini hit a new low this season, losing to Tennessee State on Illinois' home court. Tennessee State was, as I predicted, a difficult team to beat, even though they are expected to be in the lower half of the Ohio Valley conference this year.

I think Bruce Weber deserves the heat for this embarrassing defeat:

-Chet Frazier played the entire game and did not shut down the Tennessee State leading scorer, Bruce Price, who had 17 points to lead the Tigers. Frazier had 2 points in the game and took some ridiculous shots. (Bruce Weber, please review the game film and make some changes.)

-The Illini were not ready for the Tiger's zone defense, and struggled to play offense most of the day. Trent Meacham did have a nice day shooting from outside, scoring 24 points the lead the Illini.

-The Illini featured two point guards most of the game, Frazier and McCamey, which reduced any frontcourt advantage you might have expected for the Illini.

-Shaun Pruitt was left in at the end of the game. He was fouled with the game on the line and missed both free throws before being lifted by Weber.

-Down by two points with time for one last play, Weber called timeout and had Mike Tisdale, our freshman center take a long shot from outside to save the game. He missed the shot and the buzzer sounded. Was this the play Weber called?

This kind of home loss is a tournament resume killer. The Illini can look forward to the NIT this year unless they find a way to finish in the top 3 in the Big 10, or win the Big 10 tourney.

At this point, Weber needs to bench Pruitt, Randle and Frazier and let the younger guys get more game experience. And if Rodney Alexander can't get out of the doghouse, he might as well transfer to somewhere he can play basketball. He made a shot going to the hoop today when he was fouled hard, and it was the play of the game for the Illini. He is very talented and athletic, but only played 11 minutes.

Crandall Head was apparently at the game today, and was able to witness how much Illinois needs him at the guard or wing position.

Tennessee State Preview

Illini fans are probably expecting an easy W today with a home game against Tennessee State. But looking at their games this year against Indiana and Vanderbilt, they are not a team to be overlooked. They stayed within 12 points of both Indiana and Vandy this year on the road, so look for them to give the Illini at least a scare. Tennesse State plays small, but has some high scoring guards in Bruce Price (20.8 ppg) and Gerald Robinson Jr. (17.6 ppg). Basically, this is a game where Chester Frazier and Calvin Brock can earn their minutes by playing tough defense against the Tennessee State guards. We can also expect the Illini to play a smaller lineup to neutralize the scoring of Tennessee State.

Stan Simpson elevating his game

Stan Simpson had an outstanding game against Bloomington recently, with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. Simeon coach Robert Smith likes his development, which was recently aided by a workout with former Simeon star Tim Flowers, who was home on break from Wisconsin Milwaukee. Story

Stan Simpson has committed to Illinois and will enroll in Champaign in the fall of 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crandall Head showing he's a top player from 2010 Class

Crandall Head is having some great games in his sophomore year, playing for Rich South. Here are some quotes from the Southtown Star:

One of the stars of the show was Rich South sophomore Crandall Head, who after a four-point first half exploded for 20 points in the final 16 minutes, highlighted by five spectacular dunks that thrilled the packed gymnasium. He was all alone for a probable sixth slam, but settled for a layup.

"I was too tired," Head said with a smile after a game in which he made 11 of 14 shots from the field. "This was our best second half of the season. We played hard and had a lot of fun. Now we've got to play like this for 32 minutes, instead of 16."
Link to the entire story

Head also had some great dunks against Thornton this past week.

Crandall Head is widely expected to provide Illinois with a verbal commitment in January, and follow in the footsteps of his brother, Luther Head.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Brandon Paul Scores 36 against Shumpert

Illini recruit Brandon Paul went up against Iman Shumpert tonight and scored 36 points against the highly-rated guard from the 2008 class. Shumpert is headed to Georgia Tech after this season. Paul is a fast-rising guard from the 2009 class. The game went into double overtime, and Paul's team Warren prevailed in the contest from the Pontiac tourney. Iman Shumpert scored 34 points and had 9 rebounds.


Brandon Paul's rankings within the 2009 class are rising fast!

Nice Win Against Loyola Maryland

The Illini had a convincing win tonight against Loyola Maryland, 77-43. Box Score

This was a good game to watch because the Illini were home and were able to get back on track in several ways: playing tough defense (held Loyola to 20% FG shooting), scoring better and shooting free throws at 72%. Pruitt had a very solid game with 16 points and 11 rebounds, Randle had an impressive performance with 17 points including 3 or 4 great dunks, and McCamey had one of his best games at guard, with 9 points and 4 assists in 24 minutes. There was also the opportunity to play lots of guys and Davis, Tisdale and Cole all made some nice contributions off the bench.

The Illini offense still needs to get sharper, but this was a truly outstanding defensive effort, holding Loyola to their lowest scoring of the year, and lowest percentage shooting night of the year. The Loyola head coach was really giving them an earful when he called timeouts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Could Jamar Smith return for Big 10 Season?

There is a theory that Jamar Smith may be cleared to rejoin the Illini basketball team for the Big 10 season starting in January or February. Basically, Jamar was given a 1 year suspension, and while the plan was to redshirt him for the season, he has served his time, and the Illini need help at shooting guard. Also, they don't need as much shooting help in 2009 due to the incoming group of freshmen and Alex Legion.

Given the Illini shooting and scoring woes this season, I think this could make sense for the team. And if Jamar has sat out the appointed timeframe, why not? This kind of move would be controversial, but could help the Illini make the NCAAs this year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Illini Fans

Illini fans, Merry Christmas to all of you.

-We have the Rose Bowl coming up on New Years Day.
-Alex Legion announced he is transferring to the Illini this coming semester.
-Crandall Head is expected to provide a verbal commitment to the Illini in January.
-And a rumor just surfaced that Jamar Smith might resume playing for the Illini in January 2008.

Go Illini!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Illini Recruiting Summary through 2010

Congrats to Coach Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard on their recruiting success recently. As we look ahead to the 2008, 2009 and 2010 classes, we have much to be optimistic about, as we build on the Class of 2007.

2007 Class
McCamey, Pt Guard
Davis, Forward
Cole, Forward
Tisdale, Center
Add: Legion, Shooting Guard via transfer

2008 Class
Simpson, Center

2009 Class
Richardson, Guard
Bertrand, Guard/Wing
Paul, Guard/Wing

2010 Class
Richmond, Wing/Forward
Head, Wing (expected to commit in January)

The Illini will start taking on a new look next season, with Jamar Smith back at shooting guard along with Alex Legion becoming eligible in the second half of the season.

The Illini will be loaded in 2009, with three freshman guards joining Smith and Legion.

The Illini will be particularly dangerous in 2010, since they will have the 2007 class, the guards of 2009, along with Richmond and Head, assuming no one is leaving college early.

Basically, Illini fans need some patience, since 2008 will be another rebuilding year, followed by expected improvement in 2009 and 2010, when Illinois can be expected to be a national powerhouse once again.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quinton Watkins enrolling at San Diego State

It's good to see Quinton Watkins is planning to play college basketball after all, and in Southern California. He is planning to play at San Diego State, and will be eligible to play next season. Good luck, Quinton.

Update: Aztec fans want to know the source of the story, and it is, look at the bottom of the page for the story. By the way, we could have used help at the guard position this year, but doubt Watkins would have been enough. Now we have lots of help coming in 2009 and 2010, so Illini fans need patience.

Illini Win a Wild "Bragging Rights" Game 59-58

The Illini pulled out a close one tonight against Mizzou, with Pruitt scoring near the end, and Missouri turning the ball over when they tried to score. Pruitt and Meacham played really well, and Randle did OK when he was in there. Frazier's troubles continued, with low production of assists and too many turnovers. Demetri McCamey actually looked quicker and more capable at running the motion offense compared to Frazier. Mike Davis looked good out there tonight, and he does add some scoring to the line up. Meacham did a nice job as well, despite some turnover issues. It was a physical game, and Illinois could have been better at the boards, but in the end they won an ugly game with their defense holding down the Missouri scoring. The pressing defense of Mizzou also did not give them too much of an advantage, since the turnovers were fairly even. Box Score

Not sure if the Illini are back on track, but it feels great to get a win against a tough opponent.

Mizzou Game at Halftime

The Illini look OK at halftime, hanging with Mizzou. Weber has gone more athletic, playing Alexander, Davis and Pruitt on the frontline, and McCamey and Meacham at guard. We need to stay athletic and aggressive, and leave Frazier on the bench.

Having Randle in foul trouble looks like a blessing right now. Frazier is not looking good in the offense again this game. Meacham and Pruitt are the leading scorers for the Illini at halftime.

Not sure if we can finish in the second half or not, but this will be an interesting test for this offensively-challenged team.

Yes, Alex Legion Transferring to Illinois

Well, we can honestly say we need help at the guard position after recent games this season. Now it seems certain that Alex Legion plans to transfer from Kentucky to Illinois this coming semester, and he would be eligible to play at Illinois during the second half of next season. Fox Sports

Chicago Tribune

Kudos to Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard on this recruitment via transfer. Apparently Alex Legion likes the guard-oriented motion offense and is very comfortable with Illinois now that Jerrance Howard is an assistant there.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ugly, Is this really basketball?

I brought myself to watching the entire Miami of Ohio game tonight, including the bonus overtime footage. I'm surprised the Illini made it to overtime with their struggles to score and must have set records in futility for field goal and free throw shooting. The announcers were raving about Pruitt and I just wanted him to sit down every time he went to the free throw line.

Chet Frazier must be the worst point guard in the Big 10 this year and should not be allowed to shoot the ball. He should not be able to dribble the ball either, because his turnovers at the end of the game kill all team momentum. Meacham looks sick again, and it must be his ankle. McCamey seems redundant when he is paired with Frazier. For that matter, Meacham looks redundant when paired with Frazier or McCamey. Why so many point guards who cannot create anything?

I think the entire team needs to learn the motion offense all over again, because the only scoring took place when someone would throw the ball to Pruitt, or make an individual move. The offense is not creating any opportunities.

Randle made some nice shots, but is still not that useful in there. Brock is OK, but not really an offensive threat. Rodney Alexander is the only talented player on offense, but he must still be in Weber's doghouse. Mike Davis can score, so why is he on the bench?

The team needs a psychologist on staff, to help them improve at the free throw line. I can't believe a college team is this embarrassingly bad at shooting free throws. Even Kenny Battle can tell why Pruitt misses, he takes a different type of shot each time.

I think this season is on a steep decline now, and Weber needs to start developing the freshmen. The Pruitt, Randle and Frazier show is not something I can watch much longer, other than for comedy hour.

Western Carolina Game

I have resisted posting any comments on this game, because I Tivo'd the game, watched the first half and it was so ugly I could not bring myself to watch the second half. Maybe sometime soon I will be brave enough. My main comment from the first half is the Illini basketball team makes me think basketball will someday move to offensive and defensive teams, rather than having five guys playing both ways. When they change the game, this team was ahead of its time, because our starters should all be playing on defense. It's almost a miracle when someone scores a basket.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Illini Recruits at Assembly Hall

This weekend there was some big time high school basketball at the Assembly Hall in Champaign, and several Illini recruits showed their stuff: D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul, Jereme Richmond and Bertrand. The biggest scorer was Crandall Head, who put on a scoring show, and later explained that he will announce he is going to Illinois in January to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Luther Head. This must have been an awesome weekend to watch basketball in Champaign, and Illini fans have a lot to be excited about in the next 2-3 years. Link

Supinie takes us through the games as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Legion coming to visit Illinois on Tuesday

Alex Legion is supposed to be visiting the Illinois campus on Tuesday, and meeting with coach Bruce Weber during the visit. Link

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Alex Legion Talk

Herb Gould of the Sun-Times has a source who claims the Illini are looking at Alex Legion now as a potential transfer to Illinois who could help them next season potentially.......

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Alex Legion could transfer to Illinois

According to Marc Maggard, a guy that follows Kentucky basketball closely, Alex Legion might be looking at Illinois as he plans to transfer to another school this year. Marc has been posting on Illinois Loyalty on this topic, and it makes for interesting speculation, if nothing else. Apparently, Jerrance Howard spent the summer with Alex Legion at Kentucky and knows him well. Link

Bruce needs to reconfigure Illini for Offense

I took a few days off after the Arizona loss to collect my thoughts rather than lash out at the team or their fine head coach, Bruce Weber. After all, it's just another loss in a season that should have low expectations. I don't want to rehash the game, but rather comment on the rest of the season, and what Weber should do with this team.

Bruce Weber knows the team needs scoring at the end of the game, and players who can create offense. I can't think of anyone better at this than Rodney Alexander, yet he is in Weber's doghouse and hardly playing these days. Bruce, please wake up and put Rodney Alexander in the game again.

A bright spot within the freshmen this year is Mike Davis, who was expected to redshirt this season at earlier points in the year. Davis can leap, dunk and has a nice jump shot, so he needs to get more minutes at the expense of Randle or someone else.

Bill Cole has a great looking three point shot, and shows lots of hustle when he has had an opportunity to play. But for some reason (I know, a freshman), he has spent lots of time on the bench. Cole needs to play and be allowed to take some shots. Better him shooting than Frazier dribbling the ball.

Demetri McCamey looks like he will be a nice point guard for the Illini. He needs to be given the ball more minutes each week, so that he is playing point guard at least half the game by the Big 10 season. Sorry, Bruce. Frazier is too limited on the offensive side of the court.

At the end of the game, we need a team that can score and shoot free throws, maybe a lineup like this:

Trent Meacham
Demetri McCamey
Rodney Alexander
Mike Davis
Mike Tisdale

Come to think of it, that lineup would be nice at the start of the game, as well.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Arizona Game with Peets Coffee at 9am Pac/11am Central

I might be drinking my Peets coffee tomorrow morning when the Illini tip off against the Wildcats of Arizona. For some reason, I am looking forward to this game, thinking positively about the speculation that Pruitt won't play due to his ankle injury. Bruce Weber was quoted as saying that Pru's jumping has been impacted by the injury and some are posting on boards that he actually gets lower to the ground now when he jumps. Said differently, Pruitt can't jump when he's healthy. This has not been Shaun's year, and I don't think we need him in the line-up to match up with Arizona.

My Keys to the Game for Illinois:

1. This is a home game for Illinois, not a neutral court game. We should come out pressing full-court, try to create turnovers and easy fast break hoops to get the crowd in the game. We need a hostile environment.

2. Lock-down defense. Obviously Randle is our lock-down guy, and he will take Chase, but we shouldn't obsess over Randle's fouls. Weber should have 3-4 players take turns guarding Budinger during the game. We are deep, and I could see Cole coming in and taking him, as well as Brock and Alexander. Guys defend better when they aren't worried about fouls. At point guard, Frazier needs to slow down Bayless, Arizona's highly-touted freshman point guard.

3. Use the bench, Bruce. Arizona is not a deep team this year, and the Illinois bench can probably outscore the starters in points/minute. If we go deep in the bench, maybe we can wear down the Wildcats tomorrow.

4. Need to keep scoring. Weber needs to rotate guys to keep scorers in the ballgame. We lost the Maryland game at the end, because we kept waiting for Pruitt, Randle and Frazier to contribute, and kept Rodney on the bench. We have decent guys on the bench, and we need to use them. Rodney Alexander, Bill Cole and Mike Davis can play on the offensive end, so we need to have shooters in each rotation to avoid going cold.

If we execute these keys well, we won't need to worry about making free throws or the calls by the refs, or profanity-laced tirades from disgusting Kevin O'Neill.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pasadena for the Rose Bowl

This is the first year for the Illini football team to make the Rose Bowl, since I migrated west, from Illinois to California. Now it is a reasonably drivable distance to get to Pasadena. I guess it would be a great way to cap off the year, having been to the Hall Of Fame Invitational, Masters, and Maui Classic this past year. It does sound like a nice idea..........

Indiana Southern Illinois Game

OK, this blog is supposed to be all about the Illini bballers, but I watched the Hoosiers play Weber's former school and Gordon is scary good. Definitely ready to make the move to the NBA.

I'm not sure if the Illini can beat the Hoosiers this year, the way Gordon played at Carbondale. His scoring was down slightly against the great defense of SIU, but the rest of his game was still awesome. Gordon drives on the fast break by himself, even one on two, and has the moves to finish at the rim. Gordon's touch on his NBA 3 pointers is silky smooth, like free throws for a good shooter. The most impressive part of Gordon's performance was his defense. I had seen him block shots in high school near the hoop, but against SIU, he would play his guy tight on the perimeter, anticipate when a 3 pointer was coming, and quickly jump and deflect the shot. I credit Gordon with getting in the heads of the SIU shooters, who struggled the entire game from outside. The announcers seemed confused why SIU shots kept getting blocked, but it was mainly the athletic ability of Gordon, from my view.

I'm sure Chris Lowery and Bruce Weber will compare notes on the IU team prior to the Big 10 contests for Illini against Gordon. My take: you need to use several different guys on Gordon, to take him out of position, if that's possible. You also can try some hard fouls like SIU did to get in his head. But he is definitely ready for the big time, and this is just a quick peek at one fantastic NBA player.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Weber State Recap

This was generally a nice game to recover from the Maryland disaster. Weber played everyone except Jamar Smith (out for year) and Brian Carlwell (out injured knee), due to the huge lead that was built on solid defense and Meacham's shooting. Trent Meacham had a career high with 26 points on 11-15 shooting. Box Score

-Something is still wrong with Shaun Pruitt, probably a hip problem. He missed two dunks early and seemed out of sync. I would rest him if his injury is affecting his play.
-Randle played some good defense, but scored only 2 points on 1-5 shooting.
-Frazier played well, made some shots and ran the offense when in there.
-Tisdale had more minutes today and looked really good against this kind of competition. He had some nice shots and a dunk.
-Davis played really well, had a back door dunk and a tip dunk of a miss, and nice jumper. He continues to show huge potential, and now everyone should know why he wasn't redshirted. I can see him contributing in the Big Ten season.
-Rodney Alexander did not get many minutes today. He seems to be in the doghouse from the Maryland game.
-Jordan got some playing time and did not play that well.

In the post game interview, Weber was very candid about how he doesn't know which guys to put in the game. He has a lot of guys and some of the reserves look better than the starters, but the starters are the best defenders and rebounders generally speaking.

After watching this game, I think Tisdale, Davis and McCamey could see a lot of playing time this year. And if Meacham can shoot like this, he should be a starter the rest of the year.

Tyler Griffey, Class of 2009

I just stumbled onto the personal website of Tyler Griffey, which has lots of great information about this highly recruited player from the class of 2009. I'm not sure why other kids don't do a better job of marketing themselves like Tyler did with this website. I'm not sure if Tyler had someone build this for him, or if he did it by himself, but it looks good. Link

Carlwell rumored to be out for 4-6 weeks

I have not seen anything official on this yet, but some of the boards are saying Brian Carlwell sprained a knee in practice this week, and will be out for 4-6 weeks. They probably don't need to rush him back, since he has played very little this year.

Weber's in Town on Monday

For my Chicago readers, this is a "heads up" to get over to Joe's Bar to see Coach Weber do his weekly radio show there. If I lived in the Chicago area, I would be there. But I don't, and just saw the coach in Maui around a week ago. But this sounds like a nice event.

Nice Story about Quinn Buckner

My friend Legal Pub has an exclusive story about Quinn Buckner and Bob Knight over at LegalPub. I just wish we could keep those talented Illinois kids on our side of the border.........

Maybe they need to hire Buckner to replace Coach Sampson.

Shaun Pruitt's Troubles this Season

Mark Tupper has some feedback from Coach Weber on Shaun Pruitt's troubles scoring this year, in this article. It's good to know they are talking about it, but it seems to me Pruitt needs to do one of two things when he has the ball on the block: dunk it or pass it to someone who can dunk it. If Pruitt keeps shooting 25% from 6 feet and closer, he needs to sit on the bench.

Weber State Preview

Weber State should not be underestimated by the Illini, even though they have themselves back at the friendly Assembly Hall for a game. Weber State made the NCAA tourney last year and are coached by highly respected Randy Rahe. Weber State has a bunch of new players this year, after losing two starters, David Patten and Dan Henry. Juan Pablo Silveira is a highly rated guard, who averaged 11 points per game last season and shot 45 percent from three point range (better shooter than any Illini). Weber State's leading scorer thus far has been Arturas Valeika, a 6-9 forward from Lithuania. Valeika has been averaging 14.8 points per game this season for the Wildcats.

The Illini will need good perimeter pressure today. Three of the Wildcats are shooting better than 50% from three point range this season: Billings, Valeika and Van Brocklin are all hot from outside in the early season.

Illinois represents one of three key non-conference games this year for the Wildcats in building their tourney resume. Other games are with BYU and New Mexico.

The Sporting News rates the Weber State Wildcats as the number three team in the Big Sky conference this year. The Wildcats are coming off a blowout at the hands of Utah, 72-52.

For the Illini, they need to get Randle, Pruitt and Frazier back on track, and continue the strong play of Brock and Alexander. If they go deep in their rotation, it would be good to see more of Tisdale, Cole and Davis.

Calvin Brock Coverage in the Tribune

Calvin Brock is becoming a leader on this year's basketball squad. According to Weber:

-Randle struggled in the Maryland game due to his injury the prior game.
-Pruitt has been hurting due to a hip pointer.

Tribune Article Link

Rich Semrau cleared for extra season and won't transfer

Some news out about Semrau. He qualified for the medical redshirt last year, so his last season with the Illini will be 2010-2011. This allows him to play a senior year with Jereme Richmond when he is a freshman. Semrau does not plan to transfer, but intends to build up his game so that he can play. After watching him in Maui, I think he looks like he has the body to play 4 or even 5 in the next year or so. He is much stronger looking than Tisdale, Cole, Davis, etc. Article