Illini basketball


Jim Harbaugh guy does not give a shit

It was Wear Khakis to Crisler Day in Ann Harbaughr, formerly known as Ann Abhor, or – among frat boys who’ve ironically failed to embrace the felicity of a kindly virtue they’d prefer to establish via Rohypnol and booze – Ann Arbwhore.

Tracy Abrams wore khakis to the game. He didn’t learn about the fashion rally ‘til it was too late.

Nobody’s likely to confuse Tracy with a Michigan fan. On the other hand, Tracy was hardly recognizable as Tracy Abrams. Both eyes and the bridge of his nose were swollen.

“Yeah, I’m sick,” he noted.

It looked conjunctival. I’ll guess we’ll know Saturday, if the entire team shows up in Columbus with pink-eye.

Abrams’s vision was unaffected. “Shit!” he screamed when Zak Irvin fielded an inbound pass, all alone, at the top of the key.

From my perspective, it was like that all day. It seemed as though Michigan’s lanky wings got their looks without much – if any – defensive resistance.

I’m not reporting, here. I’m just wondering.

My seat on the opposite baseline may have been the worst view in the world, given cable HD’s reach & prowess. So maybe someone can help me out: Was there a hand in the face on any of those fourth-quarter threes?

The sad part is that nobody at Crisler gave a shit. Michigan fans were barely paying attention to the game through the first two hours (real time).

It was all Harbaugh Fever.

Eventually, the crowd began to groan as UM shot after UM shot rolled off the rim.  You’ll be surprised to know that Zak Irvin made only three of his ten attempts from the arc.

Yep. Ten.

Even worse, Caris LeVert was a lousy 1-for-5 from long. (Read on, there’s an observation coming about Michigan’s win not being arc-oriented. It’s a mere paragraph from . . . now.)

Maybe none (or not enough) of the Illini cared, either.  Some of the passes, some of the shot attempts evinced a well, gotta do somethin’ attitude. As in hey, why not throw the ball directly upward at the bottom of the rim, gotta do somethin’!

I hope it’s not true. I’m pretty sure hte players care. I think Ray wants to play in the tournament.

The most emotion I saw from “the team” came from Jason Marry. He’s one of those guys that makes the TNT videos. (In my eyes, he’s certainly a part of the team.) Jason punched the Crisler floor when Illinois’s final stoopid turnover sealed the win for Michigan.

Even John Groce seemed dispassionate about the loss.

But wait. Why did I employ “even” in that paragraph? John Groce’s pasions have nothing to do with winning and losing.

Yes, if you haven’t figured it out by now: John Groce is not obsessed with winning individual games. This point became obvious early on, when Groce chose against stifling his players’ bad tendencies.

You should be reminded of Bruce Weber’s most notorious speech, in which he (poorly) communicated the goal of building a culture, rather than “playing not to lose.”

Groce is not the same person as Weber. For one, he doesn’t blame other people for his mistakes.

If this game is remembered – UM fans won’t, they don’t care. Illini fans might not: They’ll block it out like a childhood fondling – it will be remembered for Aubrey Dawkins’s 6-for-7 marksmanship from deep. Maybe some Rayvontagonists will recall it as Ray’s personal failure of leadership.

That’s too bad, because neither is true. The thing that beat Illinois was the inside game. Either team’s. Take your pick.

Michigan (football school) plays two bigs with ten thumbs apiece. Illinois has not established an inside game in 2014-15.

Nnanna Egwu’s fouling tendencies made him a target for John Beilein. Beilein knows Egwu’s strengths and weaknesses, and the abilities of Egwu’s back-ups.

As Egwu reached the four-foul stage, while Maverick Morgan missed chip-shots, Beilein ran pick n’ rolls that forced Egwu to confront his greatest dilemma. Hedge or man? Double-team or fill gap? And thus, cumbersome Right Tackle Ricky Doyle was able to drop the ball through the metal ring five times out of six – hands notwithstanding – without tripping over anyone.

Had Aubrey Dawkins dropped all four of his 2nd half threes, but Doyle been denied  those easy lay-ins …

Well, you do the math.  My reckoning holds that Illinois’s 13 point lead will never be overtaken by Dawkins’s 12 points.

Morgan looked good on his first opportunity. He calmly buried a jumper from the short corner, one of Ray’s six assists. But soon thereafter, he missed the same shot. And then he missed his chippie. It’s become a habit for Mav: the botched one-footer.

Why? you ask.

Maverick Morgan rushes his shot. Especially when he’s under the basket, he tries to release the ball before defenders have an opportunity at contact.

Contrast Malcolm Hill, whose offensive prowess comes from the torpor with which he meanders toward the basket.

Malcolm, like Jereme Richmond four years ago, has mastered the art of the Slowhand. He waits, and doesn’t mind waiting. Once his defenders have panicked, Malcolm asserts himself.

Too bad Maverick couldn’t help more on Saturday. Michigan’s twin oafs (Doyle’s relief is the even more ham-fisted Mark Donnal) seemed an obvious point of attack for the Illini offense. Instead, that crafty John Beilein exploited Illini low-post vulnerabilities.

Here’s what Beilein said about his latest, hugely effective, Illini beating strategy.

Q: “Can you talk about exploiting Egwu’s fouls troubles with Doyle in the low-post?”

A: “Yeah, I mean … that’s something we try to work on when we see a guy who does get into foul trouble.” says Beilein. “ We’ve been playing against him for – it seems like ten years. So it was really good to try and get him outta there. You know, they only have one freshman (Leron Black) that’s out in that line-up, and he’s a really good player – he was great in the first half – but it’s important if you can that other big guy out of there, because he does protect the rim better than anybody that they have.

The news that’s becoming not news: Jaylon Tate is now Illinois’ #1 point guard. He finished the game in Ann Arbor, playing a total of 25 minutes to Ahmad Starks’s 20. Tate was on the floor for the final possession of regulation, when Illinois had the opportunity to win.

The Aaron Cosby news was mixed. He made bad decisions with the ball. But he also made good decisions with the ball.

Kendrick Nunn was also a mixed bag. But overall, it was an off day for KNunn.

The odd thing is that Kendrick’s execution is failing him. It’s not that he has bad floor vision, or risky ideas. He’s just not getting the ball to the spot.

That’s not weird for most players, even at the Division I level. But it’s weird for KNunn.