The Morning After: Illinois

  • 02/08/2008 2:22 am in


Come again, Bruce? Something about fisting?

As my victorious, gloating post just demonstrated, I am incredibly happy to have won tonight. At some level, it’s not about winning in a quality way, or looking good while doing it; it’s just about winning games on the road when the wins are possible. Thanks to Illinois’ horrendous shooting and forgiving crunch-time antics, Thursday’s was one such game.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch a whole lot about it. Let’s be frank: IU looked just as disorganized and weak as they have in their past three games, and the fact of the win aside — it could just have easily been a loss, and probably should have been — doesn’t mean we should be satisfied with this performance or this team.

Still, before the complaining commences, let’s just say this: Thank God we won. And that Illinois lost. There are few pleasures so sweet.

And now, onward with the bitching:

— At some point, you have to start to wonder what, exactly, Kelvin Sampson has contributed to this team as a game coach. (We know what he’s contributed as a recruiter, obviously.) The Hoosiers are defensively lazy, offensively isolationist, disorganized, and clumsy. What’s worse, none of those conditions have improved over the year; if anything, they’ve gotten worse. Sampson has totally bungled A.J. Ratliff’s senior season — you’re telling me we couldn’t have used Ratliff last night? And worse, he’s done little or nothing that’s visibly improved Eric Gordon’s glaring weaknesses: turnovers, ballhandling, and the lack of a midrange game.

This is not how I remember Sampson’s teams performing at Oklahoma. I remember them being hard-nosed, physical teams. I remember Sampson’s maximization of junior college and four-year talent, the way he turned guys like Hollis Price into college stars by utilizing them in an intelligent system. I remember the way his teams always seemed to get better as they matured together. At the very least, they fought hard; they mimicked Sampson’s own bulldog-esque charisma. And damnit, they defended!

Where did all that go? This year’s Hoosier team is probably the most talented Sampson has ever coached, but where is the physicality? Where is the intelligence? Where’s the efficiency? Where are the kinds of adjustments you expect any coach, let alone one at Indiana University, to make? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

The season isn’t over or anything; it’s just incredibly frustrating to have such an obvious talent disparity wasted — against Illinois, no less — thanks to a disorganized, sloppy performance.

— Speaking of which, Sampson seemed truly dedicated to his zone tonight, as if giving up on the notion — which would have been advisable the minute Demetri McCamey decided to have the game of his life — was some sort of surrender. Eventually Sampson lightened it up, and three’s were fewer and farther between for Illinois. It was obvious this team isn’t experienced enough to run the zone against a good passing team, but it was good experience nonetheless. Maybe another time.

— I truly enjoy Eric Gordon’s game, and I love when he’s on, but the past three games have exposed serious flaws in his repertoire. As mentioned above, Gordon is not a good ballhandler — hence his high turnover rate, the highest on the team. Gordon is also totally bereft of a midrange game. He either drives all the way to the hoop (where, at this point, he is usually fouled), or he takes a 25-foot three-pointer. On the occasions when he does pull up for a jump shot, he almost looks like a different player. That smooth, robotic perimeter stroke is replaced by a fading, jerky jumper. It looks bad, and it never goes in. Never.

Anyway, Gordon’s not going to stay, so my criticism of him isn’t some sort of double mind-meld that I hope will lend to a consensus that he should return for his sophomore season. He won’t, and he shouldn’t. He should get that money. But pro teams beware: Gordon’s good, but he’s not a slam dunk. Not yet.

Still, Gordon’s game is better than just about any guard’s he plays against, even when he is defended well. Free throws — free throws are his savior. Even when he’s totally off, his free throw shooting saves him from irrelevancy. Thankfully.

— I feel kinda bad for Shaun Pruitt. I know I probably shouldn’t, because he plays for public enemy number Bruce, but I couldn’t find myself truly hating him like I hate, say, Chester Frazier (more on that below). Pruitt seems like a decent kid. Sucks that he lost his proverbial legs at the free throw line like that; you don’t wish that kind of embarrassment on anyone. Except Chester Frazier.

— Jordan Crawford is another truly flawed freshman, but for all his faults, grant Jordan this much: He is not afraid. He will chuck under any circumstances, and he’s a good enough shooter to back up his confidence. Without his two three’s in the first overtime last night, IU probably doesn’t make it to the second.

— Chester Frazier, I truly love you. When you decided to shove Eric Gordon in the pre-game handshake — a fair-play gesture supposedly above the frivolous hatreds people bring to sports — you officially confirmed your d-bag status for life. What’s worse, you’re not even the kind of d-bag one can take seriously, or get mad at. You’re the type of d-bag that’s just so silly and ridiculous that all one has to do about you is laugh. You’re the guy at the HPER who wants to fight everybody. Yeah, Chester. You’re that guy. I hope you enjoy yourself; you’ll never not be that guy for the rest of your tiny little life.

Too bad about the ankle, though.

— Chester Frazier Honorary D-Bag of the Week Award: The Illinois genius patrol that threw stuff at Eric Gordon’s family. You disgrace your entire clan, idiots. Congrats: D-bags of the week!

— Hey, did you guys hear Brian Randle fouled out? That never happens!

— I want to like Jay Bilas. I really do. But when he goes on and on about a player having “courage” because that player has tape on his ankle and is still, somehow, defying all the laws of physics and science as we know them and is, is playing … well, Jay, THAT IS NOT COURAGEOUS. THAT IS CALLED PLAYING BASKETBALL. Scrappy? Yes. Hard-nosed? Certainly. Courageous? No Jay. No. A thousand times no.

— All that aside, like I said: It’s a win. And it’s a win over Illinois. Might as well enjoy it, even if it’s impossible to shake off concern for IU’s underlying issues.

As always, your thoughts and further analysis in the comments.

Filed to:

  • kurt

    Two words: Sean May. Four more: People.; glass houses; stones.

    Seeing that we “control” this rivalry 82-78 or something like that I’d say we have no standing to get on our high horses about “excellence.” A troll yesterday noted (to my chagrin) that this decade we haven’t exactly dominated them.

    We are very lucky to have escaped with two wins against the Illini this year. They have virtually nothing but D and yet probably should have beaten us twice. I’ve been in the Hall and seen horrible fan behavior (someone noted the UConn game last month) that when I was a student would have provoked Knight to grab the PA mike and take names. It’s an epidemic and I see a lot of it in the Big Ten at both football and hoops games. Sadly, we’re not above it, though you’re right… we should be.

    I’m not happy. I see KS struggling to get this team in sync. I don’t care that itr’s his second year. Weber of all people took Illinois to the NC game in his second year. I am sick of hearing him say that he just turns EJ loose. EJ isn’t a good enough player yet to be turned loose. And I hate to admit that he isn’t Mike Conley, either.

    WTF? Illinois is at its low point; we’re Top 10 material and nearly choke twice? What about two seasons from now when they are back in form? I’m not liking the program vibe this afternoon. And the next couple weeks aren’t looking too hot, either.

  • kurt

    Two words: Sean May. Four more: People.; glass houses; stones.

    Seeing that we “control” this rivalry 82-78 or something like that I’d say we have no standing to get on our high horses about “excellence.” A troll yesterday noted (to my chagrin) that this decade we haven’t exactly dominated them.

    We are very lucky to have escaped with two wins against the Illini this year. They have virtually nothing but D and yet probably should have beaten us twice. I’ve been in the Hall and seen horrible fan behavior (someone noted the UConn game last month) that when I was a student would have provoked Knight to grab the PA mike and take names. It’s an epidemic and I see a lot of it in the Big Ten at both football and hoops games. Sadly, we’re not above it, though you’re right… we should be.

    I’m not happy. I see KS struggling to get this team in sync. I don’t care that itr’s his second year. Weber of all people took Illinois to the NC game in his second year. I am sick of hearing him say that he just turns EJ loose. EJ isn’t a good enough player yet to be turned loose. And I hate to admit that he isn’t Mike Conley, either.

    WTF? Illinois is at its low point; we’re Top 10 material and nearly choke twice? What about two seasons from now when they are back in form? I’m not liking the program vibe this afternoon. And the next couple weeks aren’t looking too hot, either.

  • In the defense of knee-jerk fans like myself, that was our kind of game. When we went down 12 I refused to be excited about any comeback and sat at Kilroy's sullen for most of the second half. When EJ ripped out their heart, I was screaming obscenities at the top of my lungs. When EJ picked up that horrendously stupid 10 second call, I want to throw something. You can't not flip flop during a game like that.

  • td

    I agree with your issues on Sampson’s coaching. Our defense is not good, zone or no zone. We don’t/can’t sustain an in-your-face defensive attitude. We have no one who can simply shut down the other team’s main men and allowing a player averaging less than 7 pt. a game to go for more than 30 is just crazy. As much as I dislike Purdue, I believe it would benefit our players to watch tape of them playing defense in any of their recent games. They’re now rotating 9-10 players and they all play tough-nosed, in your face defense. One thing that holds back our offensive strengths is the lack of defensive pressure on the ball which in turn does not allow for a lot of easy points. Our points are coming too hard with the upgrade in the talent were facing now that the pre-Big-10 season is over. A big problem with all of this is can we play in your face defense without relying on DJ to pick up our man going around us all of the time. Our overall team speed is SLOW!

  • td

    I agree with your issues on Sampson’s coaching. Our defense is not good, zone or no zone. We don’t/can’t sustain an in-your-face defensive attitude. We have no one who can simply shut down the other team’s main men and allowing a player averaging less than 7 pt. a game to go for more than 30 is just crazy. As much as I dislike Purdue, I believe it would benefit our players to watch tape of them playing defense in any of their recent games. They’re now rotating 9-10 players and they all play tough-nosed, in your face defense. One thing that holds back our offensive strengths is the lack of defensive pressure on the ball which in turn does not allow for a lot of easy points. Our points are coming too hard with the upgrade in the talent were facing now that the pre-Big-10 season is over. A big problem with all of this is can we play in your face defense without relying on DJ to pick up our man going around us all of the time. Our overall team speed is SLOW!

  • MLOVE

    The reason for AJ was Family based that was straight from his uncle… Dont know if i believe it but that is what was said and he should be in Columbus for Sunday

  • dabig

    I've said before that, too often of late, it looked to me like the players didn't even know what they were supposed to be doing. That has to do with coaching. It looked less like that last night on offense, but it still seemed like that while they were in the zone on defense. They haven't had very good defensive rebounding or rotation on man to man all season, either. That's coaching, too. Plus, a different coach would have given Crawford a good “talking to” during a time out followed by pine time after a couple of the birdbrained plays he pulled last night. If that happened, I didn't see it. Crawford's getting pretty far along to be showboating like he's in a pick up game.
    Maybe I'm just too old. I see a lot of North Carolina and Duke where I live, and they often seem as undisciplined as IU, only with better players.

  • Tony

    Fair enough. To expand on #3 ,though, regarding defense:

    No, I don’t think the D is up to snuff. I just refuted you on where the blame lies. I think we can agree that DJ’s defense is probably improved over last year. Therefore, the drop-off must be on the wing defense. No big surprise due to the fact that we lost our two best wing defenders from last year in Wilmont and Calloway (plus AJ’s absence).

    Defense can be taught, but it will take longer for some (Crawford, Ellis, DeAndre, Jamarcus) to GET than others (EJ).

  • Tony

    Fair enough. To expand on #3 ,though, regarding defense:

    No, I don’t think the D is up to snuff. I just refuted you on where the blame lies. I think we can agree that DJ’s defense is probably improved over last year. Therefore, the drop-off must be on the wing defense. No big surprise due to the fact that we lost our two best wing defenders from last year in Wilmont and Calloway (plus AJ’s absence).

    Defense can be taught, but it will take longer for some (Crawford, Ellis, DeAndre, Jamarcus) to GET than others (EJ).

  • Kevin

    Very happy we won last night, even though our play was still a little shaky.

    I can’t believe Pruitt missed all of those free throws, though I did think those fouls were a little cheap.

    I guess as Rasheed Wallace would say, “The ball doesn’t lie!”

  • Hart

    Given your body of work on this site, I would not stand on one foot waiting.

  • Hart

    Given your body of work on this site, I would not stand on one foot waiting.

  • Trav

    Great work on this post! This is, overall, the best analysis I have seen on this site.

    I am with you on the crazy pills. The bench coaching baffles me. There seems to be very little passion or teaching by Coach Sampson. However, my hats off to D.J. White in this regard. He has been a cheerleader, a peacemaker and chewed some ass from time to time.

  • Dale

    “Weber of all people took Illinois to the NC game in his second year.”

    Excellent point kurt…you are right on, we should definitely bring back davis.

  • Dale

    “Weber of all people took Illinois to the NC game in his second year.”

    Excellent point kurt…you are right on, we should definitely bring back davis.

  • Dale

    “Weber of all people took Illinois to the NC game in his second year.”

    Excellent point kurt…you are right on, we should definitely bring back davis.

  • ALH_00

    “There’s more to the game than shooting…there’s fundamentals and defense”

    DEFENSE:
    Help from the 4 on drives has not been great…we seem to be out of position frequently. On the ball defense was improving (see EJ and Basset…not Crawford, obviously), but that improvement was neutralized by our lazy zone last night.

    FUNDAMENTALS:
    I was going to say something about rebounding, because I feel like we could do a better job with positioning and blocking out, but “by the numbers” this is a good rebounding team. Am I crazy thinking that we could do even better?

    Assist/Turnover Ratio: 1/1 basically. Simply not good enough. Although, we are not turing the ball over any more than our opponents (just about even in Big 10 play…still not good enough), I don’t think we take care of the basketball as well as a top 15 team should. I also don’t think that we distribute the basketball well.

    Finally, we are getting out-hustled for loose balls. And hitting the ground seven times during a game doesn’t count for anything unless you’re actually coming up with the loose balls.

    Consequently, we are missing opportunities to make simple, but important plays. Consequently, we are not dominating with the talent disparity that seems apparent.

    So, I agree with E that a large portion of the blame lies with KS, because it is his job to drill fundamentals and effort, rewarding those who play sound basketball and give great effort. “You play like you practice”. I would bet big money that we aren’t practicing very good right now…and that lies squarely within the purview of KS.

  • ALH_00

    “There’s more to the game than shooting…there’s fundamentals and defense”

    DEFENSE:
    Help from the 4 on drives has not been great…we seem to be out of position frequently. On the ball defense was improving (see EJ and Basset…not Crawford, obviously), but that improvement was neutralized by our lazy zone last night.

    FUNDAMENTALS:
    I was going to say something about rebounding, because I feel like we could do a better job with positioning and blocking out, but “by the numbers” this is a good rebounding team. Am I crazy thinking that we could do even better?

    Assist/Turnover Ratio: 1/1 basically. Simply not good enough. Although, we are not turing the ball over any more than our opponents (just about even in Big 10 play…still not good enough), I don’t think we take care of the basketball as well as a top 15 team should. I also don’t think that we distribute the basketball well.

    Finally, we are getting out-hustled for loose balls. And hitting the ground seven times during a game doesn’t count for anything unless you’re actually coming up with the loose balls.

    Consequently, we are missing opportunities to make simple, but important plays. Consequently, we are not dominating with the talent disparity that seems apparent.

    So, I agree with E that a large portion of the blame lies with KS, because it is his job to drill fundamentals and effort, rewarding those who play sound basketball and give great effort. “You play like you practice”. I would bet big money that we aren’t practicing very good right now…and that lies squarely within the purview of KS.

  • ALH_00

    “There’s more to the game than shooting…there’s fundamentals and defense”

    DEFENSE:
    Help from the 4 on drives has not been great…we seem to be out of position frequently. On the ball defense was improving (see EJ and Basset…not Crawford, obviously), but that improvement was neutralized by our lazy zone last night.

    FUNDAMENTALS:
    I was going to say something about rebounding, because I feel like we could do a better job with positioning and blocking out, but “by the numbers” this is a good rebounding team. Am I crazy thinking that we could do even better?

    Assist/Turnover Ratio: 1/1 basically. Simply not good enough. Although, we are not turing the ball over any more than our opponents (just about even in Big 10 play…still not good enough), I don’t think we take care of the basketball as well as a top 15 team should. I also don’t think that we distribute the basketball well.

    Finally, we are getting out-hustled for loose balls. And hitting the ground seven times during a game doesn’t count for anything unless you’re actually coming up with the loose balls.

    Consequently, we are missing opportunities to make simple, but important plays. Consequently, we are not dominating with the talent disparity that seems apparent.

    So, I agree with E that a large portion of the blame lies with KS, because it is his job to drill fundamentals and effort, rewarding those who play sound basketball and give great effort. “You play like you practice”. I would bet big money that we aren’t practicing very good right now…and that lies squarely within the purview of KS.

  • Jerry

    KS has been interviewed a number of times recently and has in fact made every point made on this website PLUS identified himself as responsible. I am critical of the team’s play and would deploy players differently but I no longer share the negative feelings that the coach is the problem. Last I looked he does not play in the game and as such we give the players a pass when we blame their on court play on him.

    I sense a gap between the coaching and some players’ execution of the coaching. Maybe a behind the back dribble that gets stolen, one dish to Bassett on a drive in 50 minutes of action, and an unguarded 10 sec call tell us alot about our team’s execution intensity.

    Was that really Bootsie White posting on the game thread ? Wish he were back at the point

  • Jerry

    KS has been interviewed a number of times recently and has in fact made every point made on this website PLUS identified himself as responsible. I am critical of the team’s play and would deploy players differently but I no longer share the negative feelings that the coach is the problem. Last I looked he does not play in the game and as such we give the players a pass when we blame their on court play on him.

    I sense a gap between the coaching and some players’ execution of the coaching. Maybe a behind the back dribble that gets stolen, one dish to Bassett on a drive in 50 minutes of action, and an unguarded 10 sec call tell us alot about our team’s execution intensity.

    Was that really Bootsie White posting on the game thread ? Wish he were back at the point

  • Jerry

    KS has been interviewed a number of times recently and has in fact made every point made on this website PLUS identified himself as responsible. I am critical of the team’s play and would deploy players differently but I no longer share the negative feelings that the coach is the problem. Last I looked he does not play in the game and as such we give the players a pass when we blame their on court play on him.

    I sense a gap between the coaching and some players’ execution of the coaching. Maybe a behind the back dribble that gets stolen, one dish to Bassett on a drive in 50 minutes of action, and an unguarded 10 sec call tell us alot about our team’s execution intensity.

    Was that really Bootsie White posting on the game thread ? Wish he were back at the point

  • chimoose

    2 items to note today . . . it bugged me to no end that Ellis didn't sit out towards the end of the game. His dead legs were surely the reason that he missed 2 layups and 2 free throws down the stretch.
    Second, I am surprised that nobody mentioned the foul that Pruitt laid on DJ White at the end of the first OT . . . shouldn't he have gone to the line to shoot 3 free throws?

  • BobKnightFan

    Did anyone else hear Kelvin's comment AFTER the game? He was asked what he said to EJ at halftime to produce such a huge 2nd half. Kelvin gave his lil shit-eatin grin and said…”I told him to shoot it everytime you get it…” I thought Mike Davis resigned and moved to UAB…I thought Bracey moved on to the NBDL or Europe or Siberian Basketball…AT WHAT POINT IN THE PAST 120 YEARS DID BASKETBALL BECOME A 1 VS 5 GAME? It is sad to see a program that has such a RICH tradition of teamwork and basketball history has come to this. The Kelvin era has taking an eerily similar road to that of his predecessor…great recruiter but SHITTY game coach. Perhaps…and I'm just living in a DREAM world here…just maybe Bobby left TTU to make a final run at #4 with his beloved Hoosiers???? Hey…if you're gonna dream…dream BIG!

  • Jerry

    Right on ! Since many teams run their offense off the bounce ( ie Duke ) it can look sloppy thus your last sentence should be a clue that the coach( ie coach K ) may not be the problem .

    So many guys on these posts seem to give Gordon a pass. Personally I think Gordon is a major offensive problem becasue he does engage the other players such that other players elevate THEIR game. We stand around waiting to get him the ball and then when he gets it , we stand around some more because he does not dish . We are thus stuck with 2 options instead of 4 or 5.

    Again you are right about PLAYERS. A PLAYER is different than a guy with skills. Gordon right now is a guy with great skills, but not yet a PLAYER

  • Jerry

    Sorry but I think you are dreaming about time travel. Knight is a historically great coach but should have been fired , like Tubby, for losing too much in an elite program………..not for his antics. I would rather win with Sampson than lose with Knight

  • and I would rather win the right way with Knight than win the wrong way with Sampson.

    all those criticisms are accurate. as great of a job that KS did last year, he's done an equally bad job this year. it's weird to say it but at 19-3 this team has actually underachieved.

  • Snipper

    I agree with everything you said except your overly high regard for IU's talent level and Sampson's recruiting ability. It seems obvious that , except for Gordon, the 2007 recruiting class was over-rated. After Gordon, Ellis is the best of the group, but he's a mediocre shooter and makes poor decisions with the ball. Crawford has raw ability but makes more bad plays than good ones. Thomas is awful. McGee? Is he so bad he can't contribute at all, even when depth is a problem? Yes, Holman is injured, but he looked awful when he saw very limited action before he was hurt. Minus DJ and Gordon, the Hoosiers will be in serious trouble next season.

  • Fozan

    Agree, even my 11 year old kid (which becamce a hoosier fanatic by defualt) made comments about CKS abilities!! imagine that. It's watching 5 individual players playing basketball, that's how I see the hoosiers. CKS stayed with the zone defense even after Illinois broke it so many times. Well, if something is not working, chang it!!. No set plays on the offensive front, nothing.

  • james

    chester frazier may not be the best point guard , he may not even be a decent point guard at all. but being able to guard one of the best guards in college basketball gets my attention. this kid is tough and for anyone to say for one minute that he posesses no skill at all is stupid. it was very unnecessary for him to bump gordon , but i can remember when basketball was played with toughness and was competitive. we shouldnt always pay attention to the things we can see but what we can not. i play basketball and things happen ten times worse on the court that you dont even know about. i think gordon handled it with class , and chester was just trying to intimidate him. i have a lot of respect for the 2. eric gordon is a great basketball player who seems to handle adversity very well. its no doubt he will be a superstar. p.s. this is chester frazier's big brother

  • Jerry

    I donot think we are in bad shape but the next games will tell.

    It appears that the key to our winning will be to outscore the other team by having a lethal offense.

    Our dribble drive, kick and pop offense is run by DUKE, NC alot of very good teams so though I donot like it myself it can be successful even though it looks unorganized

    But we have 3 weaknesses in this offense

    1. Gordon does not kick to anyone until too late for the pop
    2. DJ does not play as well facing the basket or on dribble drives so he stops the flow
    3. Intensity to keep the flow moving if the first drive does not yield a good shot

    I am looking for signs that we can fix #1,#3 and then DJ can do what he does best , pop or backem down

  • Jerry

    I donot think we are in bad shape but the next games will tell.

    It appears that the key to our winning will be to outscore the other team by having a lethal offense.

    Our dribble drive, kick and pop offense is run by DUKE, NC alot of very good teams so though I donot like it myself it can be successful even though it looks unorganized

    But we have 3 weaknesses in this offense

    1. Gordon does not kick to anyone until too late for the pop
    2. DJ does not play as well facing the basket or on dribble drives so he stops the flow
    3. Intensity to keep the flow moving if the first drive does not yield a good shot

    I am looking for signs that we can fix #1,#3 and then DJ can do what he does best , pop or backem down