Illini Basketball

2020 Vision

It all begins tomorrow.

Illini Report gets as much traffic as you’d expect for a website that intermittently offers extraneous observations about an irrelevant sports program.

People don’t want to read about losing. It’s a waste of four hours to compile a thousand words for a dozen people who’d rather read 280 characters.

Besides, a picture already says a thousand words

So beginning in 2020, let’s try a change in format. More random thoughts, still unpredictably published. But more often, and shorter. That way, you can hope to check for, find and finish a new article during your most important window of available reading time: when you’re both at work and on the toilet.

I decided not to publish the words I wrote in the window nook at Forget Me Not Bed & Breakfast, Saint Louis, while Heather slept. I was feeling a lot less pessimistic than everyone else, and I thought it might be the sherry. Furthermore, the title I’d conceived while sitting in my spot on the Enterprise Center baseline (“Out-Toughed”) had already been used by every single other reporter, and most fans, in the outpouring of online outrage.

I figured I oughta find something original to say.

The fact is, I feel a lot better about the direction of the Illini basketball program than I have since Charlie Villanueva verballed. I like that Illinois has a coach who changes direction in midstream. I’m enjoying the Kofi Cotillion. I’m optimistic that recruiting keeps improving.

People tell me Andre Curbelo is The Real Deal. I want Orlando Antigua to see a significant salary bump, and maybe even a cleverly worded employment contract (rare for assistants).

I feel a lot better about Giorgi Bezhanishvili, and his scoreless (but not pointless) performance, than Idiots with Internet Access.

I feel as if Andres Feliz & Kipper Nichols have both corrected some of the problematic tendencies that limited their effectiveness in the past.

I think the 2020 Illini can beat any team in the country. I haven’t felt that way about an Illini team in 30 years. I agreed with Dick Vitale’s assessment in 2005, and North Carolina proved him right in the end. The Bill Self teams never seemed capable of eliminating Top 5 competition. Lon Kruger’s ’98 squad was terrific fun, but we all knew they were overachievers.

This Illini team might not compete favorably against those squads, but they don’t need to. The remarkable fact about 2020 is that everyone seems vulnerable. They might have to play out of their minds to beat top opponents (kind of like Missouri did in Saint Louis). But that’s well within the realm of plausibility. We saw what happened against Michigan and Maryland.

Can these Illini put together a string of consistent performances? Can they learn to reverse the ball, as Brad Underwood promised, to the “third” side? Will their defensive “identity” gel? What about that stupid weave?

Frankly, I’m enjoying the suspense. Where Illini teams were stiflingly predictable under Bruce Weber and John Groce; the Current Occupant keeps us guessing.

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