The Morning After: Illinois

  • 01/14/2008 8:00 am in

bassettillini.jpgAs R’s headline yesterday said — phew. I was hoping for a rout, though I won’t say I expected it; Illinois under Bruce Weber is, if good at anything, good at keeping games close with stifling defense. They did that yesterday and kept the Hoosiers — and Eric Gordon — in for much of the game. Who else was nervous? My palms were as schweaty as they get.

Anyway, the round up of observations about the Hoosiers, the Illini, and everyone’s favorite rival coach, is below:

— Billy Packer was all over this during the game, and loathe as I am to agree with Billy Packer about anything, he was right: Armon Bassett was a huge difference maker in this game. His influence was positive on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Bassett applied great pressure to Illinois’ guards, forcing them to start their offense 30 feet from the hoop and making high rotations easier on the defense as a whole. That kept Illinois from getting as many open looks, and in general created a sense of frustration and difficulty that they didn’t seem to be feeling in the first half.

Offensively, Bassett was not only on-point from the arc, but he directed the Hoosiers in that strangely efficient way he developed last season. He’s not the most athletic guard, and his size is a disadvantage, but Bassett appears to have genuinely improved his court vision. The Hoosiers were a different team with him on the floor Sunday. It’s good to have him back.

This also raises a point about Jordan Crawford. Right now, Crawford is very similar to last year’s Bassett: He’s an offensively talented player who can’t play a lick of defense, and whose offensive talent compensates for his bad decisions with the basketball. (He’s more athletic than Bassett, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.) I love Crawford’s potential, but in slow, hard-fought games each possession marginally becomes more valuable, and Jordan’s bad decisions become marginally more damaging. Thanks to Armon’s return, Crawford’s negatives were even more glaring Sunday. Again: Love his talent; uneasy about his mistakes.

— I know we get into hyperbole about Bruce Weber around here, so let me clear my palette: I think Weber is a great defensive coach who has had some problems recruiting, and that with a little offensive talent (or a lot, i.e. 2003), his teams can be really effective. After all, if your default mode on defense is anywhere from “stifling” to “nearly impenetrable,” a little offense will go a long way.

Until Weber recruits that offensive talent, though, he’d do well to be far less petulant on the sideline. It’s bad enough that he doesn’t shake hands with opposing players after the game — does he do this with any other team? — but his constant demonstration of this face …

weber123.jpg

… makes it impossible to defend him. Really, is there a coach in the country whose histrionics undermine his coaching ability and apparent “nice guy” personality more than Bruce Weber? I can understand the man’s frustration — in timeouts, he looked like he was literally pleading with his team to just hold on — but I can’t imagine acting like a Grade A d-bag does one any good on the recruiting circuit. Nor can it help persuade referees. Someone needs to show Bruce a tape of himself and tell him to just … relax. Take a deep breath. Have a spa day. And stop acting like a moron.

Oh, and one more thing about the hand-shaking, without making too big a deal of this. Assuming Weber does do his little quick-shake-and-walk-away routine for every team, does that make it any better? Just shake people’s hands. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a class thing that most people would expect out of a Division 1 head coach. His assistants do it. His players do it. He should do it too.

— Like I said above, the Illini can play some defense. Weber’s decision to use Calvin Brock on Eric Gordon was a good one; Brock is athletic and solid defensively, and he gave Gordon fits. So did Brian Randle during later possessions, when Illinois tried to leverage Randle’s length on Gordon. Still, Gordon found ways around both defenders. He seemed to wear Brock down with his strength — Brock relaxing on a made Gordon three early in the second half comes to mind. And his quickness in the open court was sometimes too much for Randle too. But in the half court, the Illini held Gordon down, no small feat for any team.

— Speaking of defense (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) there is one obvious area the Hoosiers need to improve: defense. There are still too many inconsistencies in the man-to-man, too many poorly played screens and too many open looks for good shooters. (It helps that Illinois hit everything in sight the first few minutes, of course.) And the zone — which seemed like a good idea going in, given the Illini’s troubles on offense — didn’t last long before it resulted in a dunk and immediate discontinuation.

But the defense wasn’t awful; the story was the offense. Considering that’s basically where Illinois puts all their chips, and considering how poorly IU shot (their effective field goal percentage Sunday, 44.8 percent, was 11 points lower than their season average) this is still a good win, one I’ll gladly take as a precursor to even bigger things in the Big Ten and a rematch with the Illini on Feb. 7.

— Oh, and before I forget, last night commenter Kelin wrote: “D.J. is ‘MAN'”. I think that pretty much sums that up.

As always, your well-considered comments, complaints, and ennui are welcomed below.

Filed to:

  • Stephen

    That was the one thing that Packer got right, about Bassett. Other than that Packer was an absolute idiot and Verne Lunquist was not any better.

    For instance: DeAndre Thomas looks nothing like Eric Gordon, yet he called Gordon, Thomas on one occasion.

    What Else: Oh yeah, Thomas did not stomp on Pruit. In fact, Pruit took a swing at Stemler and Thomas, which I thought was an offense worthy of suspension. Yet somehow Thomas gets a tech as well. Calm me a blind Hoosier fan, but I didn’t see it.

    Ok, I’ll stop whining now….must have been carry over from listening to Illinois fans….My apologies…

    IU needs to step up BIG TIME in a game AT MINNESOTA. Tubby can coach and he has some solid players. I have grossly underestimated this Minnesota team so far. My hope is that this game against Illinois was a nice wake up call.

    Hopefully Armon can start and play plenty… Crawford can give us a few sporadically good minutes as needed.

  • steve

    If I was BW I would be very upset at my players. The simple fact is if they had played this way all season they would probably have only a couple of losses thus far. They played a great game. I thought we played well in spurts. I also think EG played well for being harrassed on D like he was. The illini played with passion and with a sense of urgency.

  • steve

    If I was BW I would be very upset at my players. The simple fact is if they had played this way all season they would probably have only a couple of losses thus far. They played a great game. I thought we played well in spurts. I also think EG played well for being harrassed on D like he was. The illini played with passion and with a sense of urgency.

  • Casey

    I also thought the fans sucked at this game. There were a couple times when you couldn’t hear yourself speak, but other than that I was very dissapointed. After all we are IU. Blame it on the placement of the fans in the hall if ya want. Whatever it is we are the best team in the big ten we should act like it.

  • Casey

    I also thought the fans sucked at this game. There were a couple times when you couldn’t hear yourself speak, but other than that I was very dissapointed. After all we are IU. Blame it on the placement of the fans in the hall if ya want. Whatever it is we are the best team in the big ten we should act like it.

  • illini fan

    KS has been busted twice by NCAA for breaking the rules – its only a matter of time before there is an NCAA recruiting violation with his antics, and Indiana will get what it deserves- sanctions from the NCAA. Weber is a stand up guy and has principles. Maybe the Hoosier State could take note…

  • illini fan

    KS has been busted twice by NCAA for breaking the rules – its only a matter of time before there is an NCAA recruiting violation with his antics, and Indiana will get what it deserves- sanctions from the NCAA. Weber is a stand up guy and has principles. Maybe the Hoosier State could take note…

  • MSU fan

    Sampson is hated by all Big Ten coaches for his recuriting methods. Weber and Illini will get their revenge in Assembly Hall in Champaign.

  • MSU fan

    Sampson is hated by all Big Ten coaches for his recuriting methods. Weber and Illini will get their revenge in Assembly Hall in Champaign.

  • Anonymous

    Normally i don’t read daily herald articles since the daily herald is a crap of a newspaper (Go Tribune!), but this one caught my eye…
    http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=112544&src=289
    Some highlights:

    “But since Sampson promises at his introductory conference to try to keep Indiana players in Indiana, he follows through and speaks briefly with Gordon. E.J. politely rejects his overtures.

    So Sampson hires Eric Gordon Sr.’s college coach to be his assistant. Junior doesn’t budge.

    So Sampson hires someone Gordon has known since middle school to be Indiana’s video coordinator. E.J. sends a congratulatory text message but no sign of interest.

    This forces Sampson to go nuclear. He hires Eric Gordon Sr. to be his co-coach.”

    “If you’re violating NCAA probation by making this call, please press 1 now.”

    “and a bridal gown-wearing Gordon”

    These guys are just idiots, you didn’t get Gordon, worse things have happened to your program, and no, i’m not talking about losing the chief

  • Tim

    Normally i don’t read daily herald articles since the daily herald is a crap of a newspaper (Go Tribune!), but this one caught my eye…
    http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=112544&src=289
    Some highlights:

    “But since Sampson promises at his introductory conference to try to keep Indiana players in Indiana, he follows through and speaks briefly with Gordon. E.J. politely rejects his overtures.

    So Sampson hires Eric Gordon Sr.’s college coach to be his assistant. Junior doesn’t budge.

    So Sampson hires someone Gordon has known since middle school to be Indiana’s video coordinator. E.J. sends a congratulatory text message but no sign of interest.

    This forces Sampson to go nuclear. He hires Eric Gordon Sr. to be his co-coach.”

    “If you’re violating NCAA probation by making this call, please press 1 now.”

    “and a bridal gown-wearing Gordon”

    These guys are just idiots, you didn’t get Gordon, worse things have happened to your program, and no, i’m not talking about losing the chief

  • MKM from Indy

    @ZAPPATISTA: You are giving away clues to your identity! I love it….Big Boyyyyyyeeeee! I will put money on it that Crawford would leave if he doesn’t get minutes versus Bassett. Crawford’s play may lose us a Big Ten Title down the road if not careful…mainly bc Crawford is careless. They winning in spite of his minutes. His lack of maturity shows no more than when he tries to make a move and is not aggressive with it. He thinks that he is still in high school where he was the top talent and can make any move he wants. What separates him from Gordon is that EJ is such a better player at this point that his freshman mistakes aren’t that magnified. Crawford can’t shoot like Gordon, can’t muscle as well as Gordon and isn’t as poised as Gordon! I would love for Crawford to stick around, but I’m worried that both will be gone by next season.

  • MKM from Indy

    @ZAPPATISTA: You are giving away clues to your identity! I love it….Big Boyyyyyyeeeee! I will put money on it that Crawford would leave if he doesn’t get minutes versus Bassett. Crawford’s play may lose us a Big Ten Title down the road if not careful…mainly bc Crawford is careless. They winning in spite of his minutes. His lack of maturity shows no more than when he tries to make a move and is not aggressive with it. He thinks that he is still in high school where he was the top talent and can make any move he wants. What separates him from Gordon is that EJ is such a better player at this point that his freshman mistakes aren’t that magnified. Crawford can’t shoot like Gordon, can’t muscle as well as Gordon and isn’t as poised as Gordon! I would love for Crawford to stick around, but I’m worried that both will be gone by next season.