Brad Underwood season wrap press conference

#51      
So if we came back and won that game, how many people here would be saying “great job by BU and staff for sticking with the game plan!”

My guess? Everybody.

When you do feel like you out-talent a team, and can win individual offensive and defensive matchups, and you’ve seen your guys do it over and over again, you generally won’t deviate too much from what you’ve done. You expect to break through because you’ve done it before. It’s literally what got you there. Hindsight is 20/20.
I’ve been very happy with BU. I think he’s done well in roster construction, developing a good culture and making tactical adjustments year over year.

But to nitpick for a moment, I’d prefer to not rely on simply out-talenting teams game in and game out. I thought we were overly reliant all year on our guards’ ability to fight over the top of screens. Especially since we mostly played with 4 guards and Kofi, I would have liked to see more switching on screens (or hedging if Kofi’s man was the screener). Relying on guards to be able to fight over every screen is being overly reliant on talent in my opinion (as well as exhausting for the players). It almost cost us both of our wins against OSU because we were unable to stop Washington. And Loyola, despite having inferior talent, was able to beat us with good execution. We scored on three straight possessions in the middle of the second half against Loyola but didn’t chip into the lead because we couldn’t get a single stop.

I hope this is an adjustment BU makes for next season. Even if our primary approach to defending is the same, hopefully we have some different wrinkles we can go to depending on matchups. In a single elimination tournament, you have to be able to adjust in-game when Plan A is not working.
 
#52      
My 2 cents.

Like everyone, I'm disappointed with the ending, but also happy with how this team improved over the season, had the most wins in the league, and won the conference tournament. They were fun to watch by the time we got to league play, and finished as one of the most dangerous teams in the field. At the beginning of the season, I thought we were a legit top-15 team, maybe top 10. Didn't see us getting to a #1 seed after the non-conference.

There were a ton of warning signs IMO, that this was going to be an inconsistent team that would have to get through a game like Loyola on a combination of luck, late adjustments, and scrappiness. They were hot and cold for most of the non-conf, having a great game, then seeming to coast or not show up for a half or two. As the season wore on, they got more and more consistent, and their ceiling went way up...but it felt to me like it was still there --the tendency to coast or forget you gotta want it every game, and play like a champ because you personally want to strive for it, and want to be the best. I give everyone of them a ton of credit for how they progressed. Just needed more time.

The team got a lot better over the course of the season. The psychology of motivating players is never formulaic, though. Sometimes you gotta have close games, or games that slip away. We were a little short on experience compared to Gonzaga and Baylor, which both had strong groups of upper-classmen that had been through long tough seasons, and helped them stay sharp, and remind everyone why they were doing this. Baylor IMO epitomized this when they brought their A game to the championship and fought off one of the best teams in recent memory. They defended an elite team as well as I've ever seen it done. And since they were hitting their shots, it was a dominant win.

We had a nice combination of youth and experience, but I think this was a year for veteran teams to shine, and younger teams to struggle. We were in-between but still managed to get in the mix for a FF or NC.

Gonna take some time, but I think fans will see this as a big year for the program, despite the last game.
 
#53      
One thing I'm surprised no one discussed is Brad doesn't seem to think Giorgi graduates this year. He said, "I don't think so, but don't quote me on that".
 
#54      
Urbana, IL
I think the best way I have been able to process that is by comparing to my own life. I am feeling mega burnout in most aspect of my life. The realities of this pandemic have been crushing for basically everyone, and this is no doubt true of the team who hadn't seen their families in months. There are days when I finish work and then wonder what I did to be so unproductive for 8 hours (and the answer is not always simply Loyalty ;)). I wouldn't at all be surprised if the team had lapses like that, too, and moods like that can be contagious.
Yeah same boat with the mega burnout... I'm sure it does affect the team and coaching staff too. I mean how could it not? They've been living in a bubble for so long and it isn't easy to maintain that level of discipline.
 
#55      
North Bethesda, Maryland
Yes, BU had a bad game, but temper the talk that paints him as a lesser coach because of one game, and/or doubt his ability. And before anyone gets defensive, I am not saying it’s not legitimate to criticize his performance in this game, or ever.

I will repeat the references others have made about VA and OSU as high seed teams who shouldn’t have lost, but did, and both have very good to great coaches.

I believe, again as others have pointed out, he can learn too...we have seen it already in the style of play. Right now, BU should be judged on where we were when he was hired and where we are now.
 
#57      
Would have been nice if he tried "processing" what was wrong at halftime.

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#58      
Issue One: Coach Underwood and the North Side school game plan and execution. He’s been at this coaching thing a long time. For whatever reason, he chose to go with (and stay with) the approach he did. Something in his past experience must have motivated that. The good news is that he seems willing to change and learn from this (and other) experiences going forward. There would be a bigger problem if he seemed inflexible.

Issue Two: The Team coming out so flat. Human behavior rears its head again. Nobody’s been able to figure that one out yet. But there were warning signs during the season that this might happen. Some games The Beloved just didn’t show up. Or ended up lucky to pull it out at the end. But they looked so good at other times that we wanted to dismiss those flat performances as not being a threat when the Dance came along. Everybody always gets up for the Dance, right?

Motivation can sometimes be applied from the outside but the best motivator of all always comes from within. Did anyone ever have to tell Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson or guys at that level to “get motivated”. Those guys always hit the floor with fire in their eyes and energy pouring out of their fingers and toes. Ayo seems to have that streak in him. His occasional off-game didn’t seem to come from lack of effort.

If Coach Underwood or anybody else can figure out how to trigger that inside motivation switch-thing in a person then he’ll change the world on top of winning a whole lot of basketball games.
 
#59      
I’m just thankful that BU has taken the job and built the program back to relevancy.

We finished almost at the top of the B1G and won the BTT Championship.

We had stars and positive national exposure. Ayo and Kofi, and another emerging in Curbelo. Beat Duke, Iowa and rolled over Michigan in a highly watched game.

Much better than rallying late as a bubble team only to have it burst losing to last place Rutgers (at the time) on the road. If we’d made the tournament that year, and the Pickett-Tilmon-Mark Smith class had arrived in CU, it‘s not clear things would have fared better long term.

Thanks to all the players for this season as well. Won‘t name the whole roster here but Trent is one of my favorite Illini. Would love to see him one more year in the O&B. It was clear the offense was going to be built around Ayo this year but I’d love to see Trent get his shot at a scoring lead guard role like we saw a few glimpses of earlier in BU’s tenure.
 
#60      
I’ve been very happy with BU. I think he’s done well in roster construction, developing a good culture and making tactical adjustments year over year.

But to nitpick for a moment, I’d prefer to not rely on simply out-talenting teams game in and game out. I thought we were overly reliant all year on our guards’ ability to fight over the top of screens. Especially since we mostly played with 4 guards and Kofi, I would have liked to see more switching on screens (or hedging if Kofi’s man was the screener). Relying on guards to be able to fight over every screen is being overly reliant on talent in my opinion (as well as exhausting for the players). It almost cost us both of our wins against OSU because we were unable to stop Washington. And Loyola, despite having inferior talent, was able to beat us with good execution. We scored on three straight possessions in the middle of the second half against Loyola but didn’t chip into the lead because we couldn’t get a single stop.

I hope this is an adjustment BU makes for next season. Even if our primary approach to defending is the same, hopefully we have some different wrinkles we can go to depending on matchups. In a single elimination tournament, you have to be able to adjust in-game when Plan A is not working.

Out talenting teams is generally how you win more games against other teams. It’s less of a factor in a one off tournament, but generally why the best teams advance in a best of x series.
 
#61      
Of course there is plenty of time, but not doing it right away is more indicative of someone more likely to chalk it up as mostly an “off game” rather than something that could have been overcome with in-game adjustments and learned from.

The shorter the time frame between review and the game means he can better recall his thoughts/emotions during the game that lead to the decisions made. And the errors, imo, were mainly in the in-game adjustments which I view as distinct from normal game planning because you have to rely on reaction (“thinking fast” for my Kahneman heads). The further away you are from the event, the harder it is to assess your emotional state and thought process. We all naturally let our own psychology rewrite the story of our feelings and for BU the tape becomes less useful going forward. Reviewing it quickly to close the book on the season could also potentially inform how you approach rebuild your roster although I wouldn’t make my argument based on that aspect alone.

I am fully a BU believer, for the record - I just feel that deferring the tape and takeaways from it is not optimal. Learn fast from failure and put that information to work asap if you want to get to the top and stay there.
Love the Kahneman reference, great book, great thinker, but
I think you could make a case for both immediate analysis and later the ubiquitous 30,000 ft perspective for the more general takeaways.
 
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#62      
The "good" thing about a loss like the Loyola game is that it stings so, so bad - BU will work his arse off to make sure something like that doesn't happen again.
I hope it stings as bad to the staff 9 months from now as it does today. Paint the score on the wall of the dressing room, sew it into the inside of the jerseys. It was a lost opportunity.
 
#64      
Simple fact is that Underwood has won at every single stop he's been at. I'm not gonna question his coaching ability after one game in a single elimination tournament.
People were so quick to praise Underwood after the Michigan game. You'd think he was below .500 this year based on these comments. Not to say he's above criticism, but surprised how much people have analyzed this game.
 
#65      
Out talenting teams is generally how you win more games against other teams. It’s less of a factor in a one off tournament, but generally why the best teams advance in a best of x series.
I don’t disagree. The point I was trying to make is that our defensive system seemed to rely on the ability of Trent and other guards to fight over the top of screens with minimal help. I don’t like using that approach exclusively because (a) I think it wears down our players and (b) teams that run well executed screening action can get good shots no matter how talented of defenders you have. Even if that approach works most games (as it did this season), I’d prefer to have a secondary approach to defending that we can go to in any single game where we need to adjust.

I acknowledge that if BU abandoned our identity at half and it did not work, he’d be open to criticism in that scenario. But this was not a typical upset where we were clearly the superior team in this game but not getting the breaks. We were getting dismantled. In a single elimination tournament under those circumstances, I want a coach who will adjust to what is happening on the court.

I also appreciate that BU has made great adjustments season over season since arriving, and I expect him to learn from the loss to Loyola. This one game does not change my belief that BU has been a great coach for this program.
 
#66      
Geneseo, IL
Underwood has done a great job turning the ship around; He'll have to build rosters with more size and athleticism to contend for a championship.
 
#67      
Underwood has done a great job turning the ship around; He'll have to build rosters with more size and athleticism to contend for a championship.
I see where you are coming from, but....
we had the best point guard in college basketball, a center who was All American, the BigTen 6th man of the year who was also on the all BIG freshman team, a proven 3 PT shooter in TF and we won 3 games in 3 days to win the conference tournament in what was OVERALL the toughest in the country.
granted, we were weak after you get past those 4 players, but wow, who laid the biggest egg in the tournament?
 
#68      
Valid points. I chalk it off as a bad day coupled with the opponent throwing us off. But we'll see where we go from here.
I like the last sentence. I think everyone agrees we underperformed in the NCAA. Let’s see what happens next time we are a 4 or lower seed and BU is our coach. I think the staff will feel a little more pressure at that point than they felt this year, as counter intuitive as that may sound.
 
#69      
Geneseo, IL
I see where you are coming from, but....
we had the best point guard in college basketball, a center who was All American, the BigTen 6th man of the year who was also on the all BIG freshman team, a proven 3 PT shooter in TF and we won 3 games in 3 days to win the conference tournament in what was OVERALL the toughest in the country.
granted, we were weak after you get past those 4 players, but wow, who laid the biggest egg in the tournament?
In particular at the guard position, when you look at what Baylor could do with their size and length defensively along with their quickness. I do think Ayo and Curbelo are athletic, but compare Baylor's guards physically with Ayo, Curbelo, and Frazier. Your comment also begs another question that has been bothering me, will Underwood ever have a more talented roster at Illinois than he did this season.
 
#70      
Cary, IL
In particular at the guard position, when you look at what Baylor could do with their size and length defensively along with their quickness. I do think Ayo and Curbelo are athletic, but compare Baylor's guards physically with Ayo, Curbelo, and Frazier. Your comment also begs another question that has been bothering me, will Underwood ever have a more talented roster at Illinois than he did this season.
Yes! (I hope)
 
#71      
I was mad at everybody after that game: Brad, the assistants, most of the players, Sister Jean....

One thing that stuck out afterwards was Trent and Da'Monte shooting a combined 8% from the floor. They attempted 32 points and scored two. Sister Jean might have had a role in that, but I'm not too sure the coaches did.

I love those guys, they were huge contributors this past season, but stuff happens; and it happened at a really bad time.