Trayce Jackson-Davis is a great ambassador for college basketball. I’m happy that he’ll finally play in the NCAA Tournament. That it took an Illinois loss to get him there? That doesn’t bother me either.
The Illini need a weekend off. You got the feeling that they were willing to win another B1G Tourney if that’s how the chips fell. But they made it clear that their sights are scoping a different tourney.
Their ability to win six in a row hasn’t changed because of Friday’s umpteenth consecutive uncomfortable performance. They still have the defense & rebounding. It’s much more likely that non-B1G opponents won’t have sussed Plummer, won’t comprehend — even after watching a boatload of videos — the intensity and (sorry to say) violence required to stymie Kofi in the low-post.
Brad Underwood was funny, but not joking, when he said he’s tired of playing this league. He should be. Giving Micah Shrewberry a three-month head start on scouting Illinois demonstrated just how effective B1G scouting can be.
So how great is it, from an Illini fan’s perspective, that if Illinois had to lose a game during this stretch, that it wasn’t one of the next six, nor one of the last three? Beating Michigan, Penn State and Iowa damn near killed you, so aggravating and trying were those games. But in the end, you got a shiny trophy. Win the next six, you get another trophy.
Lose Friday, and you get a weekend off to heal. Even the guys not recovering from a sprained shoulder will benefit.
We all wish Andre Curbelo were 100%, and that a 100% Belo will someday launch the type of unexpected 8-foot floaters that won him B1GS1Xth last year. He’s still launching unexpected floaters, and they still catch defenses offguard. But because they travel only 6 feet beefore landing, defenses aren’t as bothered.
The 100% Belo probably won’t emerge this year. And maybe not during his time at Illinois. But it feels too soon to say, given that we’re still just weeks from his hibernation. With every practice and game, he gets closer to his groove.
Thing is, Belo cares. If you think he’s just enjoying the circus, don’t.
After his game-winning drive that didn’t, Belo collapsed in horror, hands to cheeks, and crouched in disbelief on the baseline.
Nobody noticed. The camera pulled away to follow live action. If he hadn’t sat there in my lap for a solid 30 seconds, I mightn’t have noticed either.
#ISupportBelo remains an important concept because, as the young man recovers from an unexpectedly serious neurological problem, he’s also trying to figure out whether he can still basketball, and why all his tricks are broken.
Basketball got him off the island, and holds the potential for enormous riches. But if he can’t trust muscle memory and well-honed instincts to function at crunch time, his past stops being prologue. He’s just a kid who payed basketball when he was younger. Like us.
Coleman Hawkins got out of his Coleman Hawkins funk, so we know it can be done. And the fact that last Sunday happened, that all the stars aligned, shows that it can happen to Illinois (despite what seems like a Goat-shaped curse).
You’ll probably root for Illinois in the tourney, andyou’ll probably invest some amount of your emotional health in their performance.
It’s just possible that this team has all the tools. So aren’t you glad that they took this loss, and can now focus on the goal?