Pregame: Illinois vs Northwestern, Wednesday, March 13th, 8:00pm CT, BTN

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Minny, IU and Iowa quickly come to mind. Maryland isn't a stretch IMO. That Frosh-Soph leap is huge and half our team has the opportunity to make it at the same time.
Rutgers, their advantage was inside. Not happening with Kofi around to help Giorgi; Wisconsin, they lose a ton in Happ and Iverson; OSU also very possible, they lose their 2nd leading scorer and by almost double their leader in assists, so they lose a lot more than we do, although currently the have more coming in as well, and they only finished a game up on us in the league.
 
I’d say Nebraska, Northwestern. Though technically we won’t jump them as they fell way back this year. They both lose a lot of seniors.

Minny is possible, they lose Murphy, but return everyone else of consequence.

Can’t see us being better on paper than IU, Iowa, or Maryland.
Gophers lose McBreyer as well. Add in the 7 footer Stockman and it comes to 26.6 points, 15.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists!
 
His first FULL recruiting class would have to cycle through with absolutely no improvement for him to be on the hot seat.

Nope. Two things have to happen:
1. His buyout has to come down to something affordable
2. He has to keep missing the dance

Agreed.
#1 has at least 2 more seasons before #2 comes into play. He negotiated, and Whitman agreed to a very secure contract.

If he retains everyone, I think he'll do fine. Really wondering what the offseason will hold. Defections of key guys will make it harder to get back to the dance.
 
Apparently, tickets are out there for $1 on stubhub? Tay and Carp had a funny bit about it yesterday.

They also brought up something else interesting. There has been a lot of talk about how much better we can/will be next year. They pointed out that the only time in program history that we’ve gone from a record like 11-20 to a record like 20-11 and being a tourney/bubble team the next year was 1999. Those guys all returned and the added Frankie, Marcus Griffin, and Cook.

Even if we return everyone (which is unlikely) and add Kofi and some 5th year guys I can’t see us making a turnaround like that. Maybe we get to .500.
Depends who we get. Difficult to predict until we know who is on the roster. For instance, if the pf from sf austin comes along with kofi...we could be a lot better...if we don't lose important parts from current roster. Lots of variables at this point
 
The way our fresh->soph improved this year I'm skeptical that leap will be "huge". Prove me wrong Illini.
Trent, Ayo and Giorgi just need to put up similar stats from this year. We need Jones, Williams, Griffin or any one we add to to step in for AJ and produce at the SF, along with the major addition of Kofi.
 
Likes: Ratskin
Illini optimist
Charleston
Sure, here's the explanation:

You're projecting based on hope, not history. Recent history is not so good -- lots of turnover, below .500 ball, and struggling to execute overall.

From a basketball standpoint, you can debate back and forth whether each of your suppositions is likely, but most people use history as their guide. Let's start with some facts and stats we can agree on, since they're readily available. Then I'll take on the comments.

Facts/Stats/Analysis
We will not get an at-large bid.
We will not get an auto-bid without a freakin miracle (Odds are 100:1)
Kenpom ranking is 78th, essentially a non-factor in post-season play.
Sagarin's predictor ranking is 83rd, roughtly the same as Kenpom, but a little lower.
NET ranking of 105. Not a fan of this, but the committee uses it. One way to think of these rankings is that you need to pass somewhere between 40 & 50 decent teams to get into the dance. Both of the models have us dead last in conference. Note that (2) teams actually lost more games than us (Neb & NW)
We don't know who we will bring back next year, but the NCAA transfer rate of 40% in the first 2 years means we should brace to lose at least some of our young players.
Importantly, we don't know if Ayo stays, but we do know we lose a starter in AJ. Losing 2 starters is not generally a recipe for being better, btw
Roster turnover since Underwood arrived has been high

Comments
So the first question, is how do you break-even? You're losing a starter for sure in AJ, and you might (I'll guess 25%) lose a stud freshman in Ayo. You're losing a back-up center in ADR. I think with ADR, we're looking at a lot of options, and already have a great freshman center in Giorgi, so I think we're ok there. The back-court depends on Ayo staying. Samba is still raw, but he and Kofi should provide something as viable as ADR. Neither will displace Giorgi --he's special and a great fit. So let's assume optimistically and because prevailing sentiment is that Ayo's borderline NBA, that he stays. Who else do we lose, and how do you overcome that loss? We didn't land any wings (yet anyway) and there are some young guys who didn't get much PT even when we struggled. So you have to look at those guys as vulnerable to transfer. If everyone stays, and that would be contrary to recent history, you're relying on some young wings (I use wings for lack of a better term) to really step up. The reason these guys haven't seen the court, let's be honest, is that they haven't excelled in Coach's mind, enough to trust them over the guys that did play. For sure they will improve, but they still have to understand and execute a demanding offense, as well as demanding defense.

So let's assume for the sake of argument that key guys in the freshman class, Ayo, Jones, Kane, Griffin, all stay, and one of those last 3 improves enough to jump ahead of AJ's contribution (I think it's unlikely, but within the realm of possibility). You still need a lot of improvement to get to tournament level. It's hard to put into perspective how big the gap there is between us in a tourney team. At our best, we were clearly performing at a tournament level, so I can see why some posters project it. However, from a metrics standpoint, we're averaging +5 ppg away. That might not sound like much, but look at it this way: over 30 games, you need 150 more points after losing at least 1 starter. Take out our good/great nights where we won, and you're realistically looking at getting 150 points over 20 games. It's possible, but it's a big ask.

So sure, project all kinds of improvement --optimism keeps us going as fans. If guys step up, and we're consistent, I think we're dancing next year, maybe even dangerous. I think outsiders however, will go with modest improvement if Ayo stays, stepping back if he's gone, and something closer to where we are if other key freshman leave.

Make sense?
Well, I would add a little more improvement out of freshmen. “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”

So, I see quite a bit of optimism. Unless we lose a few to transfer, I think we will be at least 8 games better, and punching our dance card.
 
IIRC Maryland has a younger team than us. They should also benefit from that Fr-->So leap...
Their leading player was a junior though, in Cowan, unless you think it's Bruno and he may be leaving for the NBA. Lots of talk he's a 1st rounder at this point. All of our leaders are underclassmen.
 
Also, for the sake of argument. How many of us predicted Giorgi to have a near all-freshman level season? I think Jones and Kane got the most hype out of all of them, and they both saw less minutes than Giorgi and Griffin. Who’s to say Higgs doesn’t provide anything next year? Or January? Why can’t Kofi have a similar year to Giorgi? I’d say it’s more likely a kid who’s a top-40 ranked player (like Ayo) who’s 6”11 280 with ELITE strength and good skill can put up similar/better numbers than a 6”9 Hofstra recruit, or a MAC player coming off a torn ACL. Then you got guys like Jones and Griffin who showed pretty good flashes of high-level play this year. If just one of them can turn that corner and provide something similar to what AJ brought, I think we are still at a net positive. Then you have guys like Ayo who imo based on work ethic, natural talent, desire to be in the NBA etc. will make a pretty big leap to possible All-Big-Ten level play next year, he’s had games where he’s been the best player on the court against good competition. Then you have a guy in Trent who’s a 2x All-Big-Ten honorable mention, he’ll be an all-conference candidate as well. Then you think about the improvement Giorgi can make, IMO if he can average similar numbers to this season, he’ll be an all-conference honorable mention as well. Kofi has a great chance of being FOY or make the team. That’s literally 4 starters who you can make an argument that’ll be on some type of post-season award list. That’s a solid team right there. Obviously you look at our record and it’s easy to be pessimistic, but if we can keep these guys around, than there will be no question we have the talent level to compete with and beat anyone in our conference. And that’s without mentioning Feliz, Williams, Kane, January, Nichols etc...I think finally returning 10+ players in this system is a major advantage as well..I think a lot of people on here are underestimating the set backs that we had last offseason. We started the season 4-12, and finished the season 7-8. That’s solid improvement regardless of the last 6 games. Let’s win a few this week and see how this board is acting.
 
I agree with this. It's so hard to talk/think about how we will improve relative to other teams next year, but I think we can have lots to think about in what the potential for our team is on its own.

Right now, I'm thinking about: a) how our individual players might improve (which, barring injury, they will) and b) how the sum of next year's players will or won't be a strong team. I think individual player improvement has some linearity to it (is easier to talk about), while the question of whether our team as a whole will be better than the sum of its parts next year is harder to get arms around.

I tend to think in general:
  • There are two (non-Cinderella ways) to be a final-four-type team:
    • be Kentucky/Duke, etc. -
      • loaded with top individual talent,
      • plus a little bit of chemistry
      • with non-damaging coaching/system
    • be a 1989 or 2005 ILLINI team -
      • 3 high level talents (Anderson/Gill/Battle vs. Brown/Williams/Head) who play at high level while on the floor at the same time
      • with strong, complementary role players (Hamilton/Bardo vs. Augustine/Powell)
      • a great deal of chemistry (produced by fit between high level players, support players and system of play)
  • There are several ways to be very good (meaning team should reach Sweet 16 or better in tourney): the two ways described above for final-four-level, along with (among other approaches) the way it was done by 1985 or 2000-2002 ILLINI teams:
    • 2 high level talents (Douglas/Winters vs. Williams/Cook) who play play at high level while on the floor at the same time
    • with strong complementary role players (Welch/Altenberger/Montgomery vs. Bradford/Griffin/McClain)
    • decent chemistry/good coaching
  • There are probably lots of ways to be good (good being NCAA tourney team or top 25 in polls), and I think the 2019-20 ILLINI could do it like this:
    • Ayo playing high level night-in/night-out (I expect this to happen) with Giorgi and/or Trent doing the same while on the floor at the same time with Ayo (not as sure about this)
    • The remainder of Giorgi/Trent (whichever of them that might not quite make it to consistent high performer status), plus two of Feliz/AG/TJ becoming strong complementary players who play well on the floor at the same time as the two higher level performers
    • one of Kofi/January/Kane becoming a middle presence when Giorgi is off the floor (seems reasonable to expect)
    • Team/coach figuring out how to create good on-the-floor chemistry (locker room and social seems very good, including coach-player relations)
      • I don't think we had consistently good on-the-floor chemistry this year. Not that often that at least 3 out 5 players on the floor were playing their best at the same time
      • Some of the chemistry or same-time-performance problems can be chalked up to freshman mental/skills (Frosh are becoming Sophs, so ... there's reason for confidence there)
      • Some of the chemistry problems seemed to come from system of play (system not going to change; but height/length/quickness/strength/maturity improvements should make system more effective)
      • some from lineup choices (ADLR and Tyler Underwood playing time has to mean that BU didn't see less potentially damaging choices); hopefully Kofi/January arrivals, the ability to move Giorgi to 4 at times and to have AG/TJ/DMW+incoming transfer to cover minutes at 3/4 positions will mean that we don't have to see lineup choices like we saw this year. If Kipper were to stay, I think he might really do us some good at the 3 position (I think it fits his height/quickness/shot strengths better than 4/5).
I think Ayo/Trent/Feliz/Giorgi are committed-to-improve guys who have the physical raw material and coordination to be high performers or strong role players next year. I'm betting all of them will step up from where they are now in terms of physicality and will add to their skills and BBIQ. The question for me with these guys is consistency and, for the guards in particular, whether they can play well at the same time.

For us to be NCAA bound, I think Giorgi has to be a starter and stay on the floor for 25 minutes per game, and we should only have two of Ayo/Trent/Feliz on the floor at the same time. Both guards on the floor at any time need to be ready/green-lit-by-coach to shoot or drive when half court flow dictates (hasn't seemed to be the case this year). I think Ayo needs to be the point and Trent needs to be the 2. Trent/Feliz can bring the ball up, but if we are getting into half court offense, then I want to see the ball start in Ayo's hands. [Not sure what I think about end of shot clock situations. Right now, it looks like Trent is most capable of creating a shot; Ayo or Trent can be good spot up shooters (Feliz, too?), but Trent seems limited in ability to drive, Ayo has trouble creating his own shot (because of how he shoots) and Feliz tends to pass up shots and seems to prefer driving.]

So, ... that's a lot of thoughts on the table. Boiled down, I think returning players make considerable improvements next year. I think size and skills joining the team next year will be enough to put our match-ups into alignment and allow players to do what they do best. I think we become a good team/NCAA team, and it makes less difference to the success of our year how much other B1G teams do/do not improve. If we are good, then we will make the NCAA, and we will be top half of B1G.
Well, I would add a little more improvement out of freshmen. “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”

So, I see quite a bit of optimism. Unless we lose a few to transfer, I think we will be at least 8 games better, and punching our dance card.
 
Likes: Ratskin
An article, last week(?), stated he has epilepsy. Not expected to play BB, ever. :( if true.
I saw in a News-Gazette article the other day that he has epilepsy, and had not seen that before. However, I can't believe that epilepsy stops you from playing basketball, does it??
 
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