Jump to content
greg775

The Fighting Illini

Recommended Posts

I was wondering about the Illini football and bball programs the other day. ...

Shouldn't they be powerhouses in theory? You've got Chicago basketball phenoms to recruit. You have Catholic League linemen to recruit and skill players from all over the state, including QBs galore.

My question is ... a.) will the Illini win a Big Ten (and/or NCAA) title in football or bball in the next 10 years? How come U of I sports aren't dominant? It has to be more than questionable coaching hires. Are you hopeful that in the future the Illini start to perform better in the 2 big sports? I mean compare Illini football to Nebraska football. Illinois has homegrown talent. Nebraska has to go all over the place cept for linemen. Doesn't U of I have inherent advantages? My uncle was a standout pitcher at Illinois.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

for starters...their admission standards are ridiculous and they refuse to get in the dirt with the rest of the programs.  BOT has made sure of that.   Closer in basketball than football IMO.  I think the bb program is on the right track.  Nice big man they got a commit from today....and if you saw tonights game...they need all the big men they can get.

I think it started in bb when they hired a safe "rule follower" that they knew wouldn't bolt at the first opportunity when they hired Weber.  For some reason he failed miserably for failing to capitalize on the Final Four team recruitment wise.  He had some really horrible classes.  Funny tho how he's doing better out at KSU tho huh?  What does that tell you?  Illinois doesn't "play ball" in the recruitment area.

plus...Chicago shouldn't even be a consideration.  They are as dirty and corrupt as the day is long.  I'm glad Underwood is going national with his recruiting.  The coaches and AAU people seem like a huge pain in the ass to deal with.   Illinois just needs to start winning in hoops...and I think it's coming.  But people want these instant results...and it's not going to happen the season after Underwood had to purge some dead weight.  If we're having this conversation in two years...then I'll consider it a problem.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Illinois has played dirty in recruiting, to think otherwise is being naive.  They've got outplayed in that area many times.  Our admissions are harder than most P5 schools, but they've made exceptions for the right kind of players as well.  Whitman is starting to change that, he won't be able to change everything with admissions but they've gotten in guys like Verdis Brown when in the past they couldn't.

 

What it comes down to it is really just bad hires and not supporting the programs financially (in the past).  Whitman has given the money to the programs (close to the top of staffing dollars for both bball and football) and is upgrading facilities (sorely needed) so the last piece of the puzzle is hiring the right coaches.  So far, both Lovie and Underwood have underperformed.  They have paths to success but I think fans expected both to coach better and not have such extreme rebuilds. 

 

At this point, fans or non-fans expecting Illinois to be a powerhouse year in and year out is not fair, the rest of the Big Ten has gotten better while we've gotten worse.  We should eventually be able to get back there and we have the fanbase and resources to sustain it similar to Wisconsin/Michigan State, but we are so far away from that brand again that we need to adjust expectations.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Wanne said:

for starters...their admission standards are ridiculous and they refuse to get in the dirt with the rest of the programs.  BOT has made sure of that.  

This is the most Illini post I've ever read.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, bigruss said:

Illinois has played dirty in recruiting, to think otherwise is being naive.  They've got outplayed in that area many times.  Our admissions are harder than most P5 schools, but they've made exceptions for the right kind of players as well.  Whitman is starting to change that, he won't be able to change everything with admissions but they've gotten in guys like Verdis Brown when in the past they couldn't.

 

What it comes down to it is really just bad hires and not supporting the programs financially (in the past).  Whitman has given the money to the programs (close to the top of staffing dollars for both bball and football) and is upgrading facilities (sorely needed) so the last piece of the puzzle is hiring the right coaches.  So far, both Lovie and Underwood have underperformed.  They have paths to success but I think fans expected both to coach better and not have such extreme rebuilds. 

 

At this point, fans or non-fans expecting Illinois to be a powerhouse year in and year out is not fair, the rest of the Big Ten has gotten better while we've gotten worse.  We should eventually be able to get back there and we have the fanbase and resources to sustain it similar to Wisconsin/Michigan State, but we are so far away from that brand again that we need to adjust expectations.

While Izzo really does own michigan recruits, the whole "shut down the border" seems to be so outdated. There aren't many programs you can point to that just live off of nearby talent. You certainly recruit your backyard, but a good basketball program should be recruiting nationally. Probably most helpful is to have a loaded AAU circuit near you, but all of the talent concentrates with those teams and it's relatively easy to scout a bunch of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, bmags said:

While Izzo really does own michigan recruits, the whole "shut down the border" seems to be so outdated. There aren't many programs you can point to that just live off of nearby talent. You certainly recruit your backyard, but a good basketball program should be recruiting nationally. Probably most helpful is to have a loaded AAU circuit near you, but all of the talent concentrates with those teams and it's relatively easy to scout a bunch of them.

No team will ever own Chicago either, we absolutely should do better with Central/southern Illinois kids in both sports.  We lost like 4-5 lineman over the last 2 years to other P5 schools from the central illinois area, all with Illinois offers.  Just terrible recruiting there.

In terms of basketball, I have no problem going out of state for talent.  Heck it seems our reputation plays better out of state for both programs anyways.  But the model of Wisconsin and Michigan St is what I was more referring to, the coaches found a way to build programs and then the schools invested to keep those programs at those levels.  They funded new arenas, paid the coaches, built practice facilities, etc.  Illinois under Geunther did shit to stay current with facilities for players, Mike Thomas got the ball rolling at least and Whitman is taking it a step further. 

 

But facilities don't mean jack if you aren't hiring the right coaches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did forget Illinois did make the NCAA title game under Weber, but time is flying by. That was 2005.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reality is it's incredibly difficult to be a consistent top 15 winning program nowadays without big shoe companies and the ncaa sweeping clear violations exposed by fbi investigations under the rug for your program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, bigruss said:

So far, both Lovie and Underwood have underperformed.  They have paths to success but I think fans expected both to coach better and not have such extreme rebuilds.

How in the hell can you say Underwood has underperformed?  He's had one season with a pretty meh roster.  His class this year is actually pretty good...and they've played two games this year.   Everybody b****ed and moaned about the talent level and came in and purged dead weight...but since he didn't replace it with a Duke-like class...people b****.  If people didn't watch that game last night and see that the arrow is pointing up...not sure what to tell ya.

Add a pretty damn good big man committed yesterday too. 

I agree about the bad hires.....thank Mike Thomas for that hot mess.  Weber was kept on too long...and so was Groce.  Beckman never should have been hired.   As for Underwood...I'm excited what he brings to the table.  This is going to be a very fun team to watch this year.  Frustrating as hell sometimes....but fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, bigruss said:

In terms of basketball, I have no problem going out of state for talent.  Heck it seems our reputation plays better out of state for both programs anyways.  But the model of Wisconsin and Michigan St is what I was more referring to, the coaches found a way to build programs and then the schools invested to keep those programs at those levels.  They funded new arenas, paid the coaches, built practice facilities, etc.  Illinois under Geunther did shit to stay current with facilities for players, Mike Thomas got the ball rolling at least and Whitman is taking it a step further. 

 

But facilities don't mean jack if you aren't hiring the right coaches.

btw....anybody know the status of the Ubben upgrade?  Last I heard it was in the BOT hands...and it's been sitting there ever since.  No word when the upgrades were going to start or anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Wanne said:

How in the hell can you say Underwood has underperformed?  He's had one season with a pretty meh roster.  His class this year is actually pretty good...and they've played two games this year.   Everybody b****ed and moaned about the talent level and came in and purged dead weight...but since he didn't replace it with a Duke-like class...people b****.  If people didn't watch that game last night and see that the arrow is pointing up...not sure what to tell ya.

Add a pretty damn good big man committed yesterday too. 

I agree about the bad hires.....thank Mike Thomas for that hot mess.  Weber was kept on too long...and so was Groce.  Beckman never should have been hired.   As for Underwood...I'm excited what he brings to the table.  This is going to be a very fun team to watch this year.  Frustrating as hell sometimes....but fun.

14 wins last year, Underwood was brought in to make an immediate difference and that team blew.  He increased by 10ish wins at OSU, he decreased wins at Illinois.  If that isn’t underperforming than our standards really suck.  

Talk about talent, talk about culture, whatever, Underwood was hired to win and win right away.  He wasn’t hired because he’s a proven rebuilder or he’ll even a builder of programs.  He was hired on the resume of immediate success, and he didn’t do that.  Now he has to prove that he can build a program, again something he’s never done.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was a good consistent basketball program that got derailed by two bad coaches, and the third one is questionable at the moment.

The football program was never that good, in part because Chicago does not have good high school football.  The talent is dwarfed by nearby states.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, bigruss said:

14 wins last year, Underwood was brought in to make an immediate difference and that team blew.  He increased by 10ish wins at OSU, he decreased wins at Illinois.  If that isn’t underperforming than our standards really suck.  

Talk about talent, talk about culture, whatever, Underwood was hired to win and win right away.  He wasn’t hired because he’s a proven rebuilder or he’ll even a builder of programs.  He was hired on the resume of immediate success, and he didn’t do that.  Now he has to prove that he can build a program, again something he’s never done.  

Immediate difference?!?!?   geezus.  Illini fans are part of the problem...UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.  People need to get a grip and understand what's going on with this basketball program and the personnel they have/had.   If you really think he was brought in to win immediately...lol...that's actually comical.  This program needed to be rebuilt...as evidence having to purge a number of dead weight people that didn't fit what Underwood wanted to do.  He's been here ONE YEAR...and this is his second game in YEAR TWO.   Your expectations are idiotic honestly.  Not sure where you're getting this "he was hired to win right away" is coming from.  Good lord.  Right away?  Like with the roster he had?!?! lol...

Let's revisit this in another year.  Claiming Underwood a failure right now is laughable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was underwhelmed by Underwood's first year. I expected better. Talent wasn't championship-level, but it was better-than-.500 level. Finke, Leron Black, Trent, Mark Smith, Da'Monte, etc. Those are 4 star, top 100 guys. Yeah, some maybe didn't fit the system, two were young, etc. etc. but I still came down to pretty shitty execution, especially on the offensive end. 

The default is always to blame the "culture" and the roster. We went through this with Groce too. Groce would still be the coach if Snyder didn't de-commit on signing day. I'm convinced that would have created at least 2-3 years of consistent top-half-of-the-league results. instead Groce was forced to use a SG as a PG (Abrams) and rely on a true PG (Tate) that didn't deserve a D1 scholarship. 

Underwood has a couple of good pieces. He needs to pick up a few more. IMO you give him this year to show improvement and then next year is tourney and good conference finish or bust. Start over at that point and let the next guy have a couple of good pieces to work with while the 3rd rebuild begins. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, bigruss said:

Who said failure?  I said he underperformed...

Seriously.  And at this point last year, everything was sunshine and roses in the basketball program.  Mark Smith had just dropped 21 on DePaul.  The bigs were experienced and could score.  And Tejon Lucas was a solid starting PG.  By the end of the season, Smith was leaving for Mizzou, Black to Europe, Finke to Grand Canyon, and Lucas to Milwaukee.  BU underperformed expectations last year.  He remade the roster this offseason.  I don't think he gets to remake the roster again.  The group that is in the building now needs to be able to play, and needs to stick around.  I'm generally optimistic here - and I think the expectation this year should be 16-15 and an NIT berth, with a tournament berth in 2019 (this roster is too young, and too short on bigs to be anything better than that this year).

To Greg's question, the why is important here, and Russ largely hit the nail on the head.  When Lon Kruger took over IL basketball from Henson in late-90s, the program was DOA in Chicago.  A talent-rich half decade downstate (Griffin, McClain and Frank Williams from Peoria, and Brian Cook from Lincoln) formed the nucleus for a strong roster.  And when Kruger left for the NBA, Self was able to sell a strong basketball program both locally and nationally.  Bruce Weber wasn't a good enough recruiter for the job, and Groce wasn't a good enough coach for the job.  Best case scenario with Underwood is that he's IL's Beilein - he shows that he can win with largely lower ranked recruits, and then winning leads to better recruits, which leads to winning at a higher level.  

On the football side, part of it is a lack of investment in the program (as Russ noted, that's changed).  Part of it is that they don't have a reliable base of talent to recruit from - the best kids in the suburbs tend to go elsewhere.  Part of it right now is that the Tim Beckman hire was so staggeringly bad that it set the program back by years.  There's a window where Lovie Smith gets the program on solid, sustainable footing.  I think he has - generally - elevated the talent in the program, so if wins don't come in '19 - and the kids in the program stay - maybe hypothetical new coach has greater early success...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been such a pathetic downfall. I was literally pacing around my house that entire Georgetown game. An unranked, middle of the pack team in a not nearly as strong as it used to be Big East. That's a team that from 1996-2006 we would have beat by 15+ (especially at home). 

And it's so f'n easy to make the tournament these days. .500 in the Big Ten. That's basically all it takes. 7th or 8th place. And it's been 5 years now. Only 3 out of the last 10. So bad.

Edited by Jenksismyhero

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Jenksismyhero said:

It's been such a pathetic downfall. I was literally pacing around my house that entire Georgetown game. An unranked, middle of the pack team in a not nearly as strong as it used to be Big East. That's a team that from 1996-2006 we would have beat by 15+ (especially at home). 

And it's so f'n easy to make the tournament these days. .500 in the Big Ten. That's basically all it takes. 7th or 8th place. And it's been 5 years now. Only 3 out of the last 10. So bad.

This. I will say at least that Dosunmu looks legit and might be that player to carry Illinois at least back to the NCAA Tournament.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, maggsmaggs said:

This. I will say at least that Dosunmu looks legit and might be that player to carry Illinois at least back to the NCAA Tournament.

Ayo looks good.  Trent is definitely good.  Feliz looks like he can play.  I feel like this roster is a rim protector, and a 3 and D wing (Jordan isn't that guy; Kipper Nichols might get there if he wasn't so inconsistent) away from being a tournament team now.  But the absence of the rim protector is massive.  Georgetown was something like 20-21 at the rim on Tuesday.  You can't win games where the other team shoots 95% at the rim.

Mediocre team this year with a tough non-conference schedule.  Next year is the line in the sand year for BU...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It really feels kinda impossible to build just a steady top 25 program nowadays. There's the blue bloods, and then everyone else just seems to rely on finding and holding onto extraordinary coaches, which then get stolen away.

I'm sure if you break it down there will be exceptions. But it just feels like you shift around hoping to find your Mark Few or Jay Wright or Bo Ryan

(actually wisconsin is probably a good example of just a good basketball program since they had bennett before ryan). But even michigan and ohio state and texas, all have had these huge ebbs in basketball in ways that seem less common in football (I know i'll get texas snorts).

Like, yeah you need good facilities. And yeah you need boosters. But there always seems to be a richer school than you, with better recruiting base than you, that will poach whatever short term success you just enjoyed.

And everyone just searching for someone that views that school as a dream job and is a good coach. It's like a lottery ticket.

Like as a mizzou fan I don't even need to be kansas, I just wish we were purdue again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, bmags said:

It really feels kinda impossible to build just a steady top 25 program nowadays. There's the blue bloods, and then everyone else just seems to rely on finding and holding onto extraordinary coaches, which then get stolen away.

I'm sure if you break it down there will be exceptions. But it just feels like you shift around hoping to find your Mark Few or Jay Wright or Bo Ryan

(actually wisconsin is probably a good example of just a good basketball program since they had bennett before ryan). But even michigan and ohio state and texas, all have had these huge ebbs in basketball in ways that seem less common in football (I know i'll get texas snorts).

Like, yeah you need good facilities. And yeah you need boosters. But there always seems to be a richer school than you, with better recruiting base than you, that will poach whatever short term success you just enjoyed.

And everyone just searching for someone that views that school as a dream job and is a good coach. It's like a lottery ticket.

Like as a mizzou fan I don't even need to be kansas, I just wish we were purdue again.

No doubt.  If you aren't a blue blood (and even them - see Doherty, Matt), you are looking for one of those unicorn coaches that develops under recruited talent, or recruits at such a high level that the coaching side doesn't matter.  Those guys don't grow on trees.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, LittleHurt05 said:

It was a good consistent basketball program that got derailed by two bad coaches, and the third one is questionable at the moment.

The football program was never that good, in part because Chicago does not have good high school football.  The talent is dwarfed by nearby states.

That might be right. I haven't lived there in a while, but hasn't the Catholic League shipped many a lineman to other schools? And haven't there been plenty of skilled positions guys all over the state that Illinois could have signed and thrived with? Didn't Northern Illinois do a pretty fine job for years with Illinois athletes? And Northwestern as well?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What both teams need is a belief in a system and time to build it.  Lovie came in late his first year, so his first class of recruits is going to be upperclassmen next year.  This is when they should start improving.  They are still young, but the classes are starting to stack. If he doesn't get to a bowl game next year, it's going to be tough to keep him on, especially if the losses are of the 63-0 variety.

As for basketball, I think most people have already commented.  It was left in shambles, just like football.

What I like about Whitman is he is willing to give the coaches time to rebuild.  I hope he stays with the process barring any missteps.
That being said, look at the non-revenue sports...Volleyball, tennis, golf, wrestling, baseball...all much better.  I know those don't bring in the money, but its still important.  And just you wait until they start men's and women's hockey.  They SHOULD be powerhouses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/3/2018 at 5:14 PM, CanOfCorn said:

 

As for basketball, I think most people have already commented.  It was left in shambles, just like football.

 

Nah, they were not alike at all. That's revisionist history there based on how bad Illinois basketball has been. First off Illini basketball simply has inherent advantages over football. Also Football inherently as a sport flat out needs more time to rebuild. Underwood took over a 20 win team, not some dumpster fire. Obviously what carried that team to 20 wins (Malcolm Hill) was gone but Groce had a great class committed to Illinois to try and bridge that gap. There was not some player abuse scandal like on the football side either. Recruiting has been very poor so it's not like there's much hope on the horizon. Basketball is now staring down a single digit win season while other coaches who took programs the same year as Underwood have seen much greater success. Hopefully Underwood turns it around but theres a lot of work to be done. He's done a bad job so far.

Lovie deserves at least another year. And if the recruiting rumors are true, than perhaps more. He took over a truly unwinnable situation. Basketball was never in that boat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×