Categories
COVID-19 Illini Basketball

The Coach Who Cried Wolf

Greg Gard prefaced his complaint by saying “I didn’t see the replay.” He added that his view was blocked. For these reasons, we must remember that Gard knows not of what he speaks. He’s not the best witness for the defense.

But because Gard ended his post-Iowa Zoom by demanding an apology from the Big Ten, and simultaneously divulged that he’d already demanded and received an apologies from an ESPN producer and Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale; you’d have a much better argument that he’s not a witness at all, but a co-conspirator. He told you, right there, that he’s made a formal application to silence criticism of his program.

Brad Davison knows how to keep his arms up.

Maybe it’s the current political environment in Wisconsin, where witness intimidation is still popular.

Gard is a quietly funny man, and an intense if non-showy bench coach. Middle-aged white men from the Midwest understand him.

But yesterday, his team lost a basketball game because he’s failed to address a problem within his program. The problem is not that people perceive Brad Davison to be dirty. The problem is not that people poke fun at Brad Davison for being dirty. The problem is that Brad Davison is dirty.

A simple “Brad needs to stop punching people in the balls, and we’re going to take care of that internally” would have done wonders to ameliorate the perception problem. But Gard actually needs to actually stop Davison from actually punching people in the actual balls.

Has Gard considered that maybe, just maybe, continual complaints about Brad Davison might indicate a problem with Brad Davison?

Consider his jeremiad toward the B1G, in the back half of this video. He says players can get a review any time they point at an opponent, and it’s ruining the game. Any time they urge referees to check the monitor, referees check the monitor. And it’s ruining the game.

Was Gard’s view blocked when Davison pointed at his opponent, and urged referees to check the monitor?

This column neither holds nor professes a Good Guys Wear White Hats viewpoint. Brad Davison is undoubtedly a good guy in practice and while sitting for interviews. And he definitely punches people in the nuts.

His teammate D’Mitrik Trice is a model citizen in those former examples, and he pushed-off on Jordan Bohannon at a crucial moment in the Iowa game.

Next time you pass a moving object, see if you’re arm doesn’t instinctively draw closer to your body. Conversely, if you frequently bruise your shoulder on door jambs, it might be time to visit a neurologist.

Trice can be an earnest student and get whistled for trying to throw an opponent off-balance while rising for a jumpshot. It’s not a good versus evil value judgment. Similarly, fans can laud his mother for not aborting him and kick her out of the building for annoying an entire network TV audience.

Bo Ryan can be a world-class coach and romance a woman who isn’t his wife.

The Wisconsin program is the epitome of class and humanity in its response to Howard Moore’s tragedy. Howard Moore himself is graciousness personified. Thus, we can rest assured that good people exist and good things happen within the Badger community.

And every time Brad Davison’s arm extends toward a player from a different team, and every time Brad Davison’s arm clamps another player and pulls him downward as happened to Keegan Murray, no matter what Gard thinks; Bo Boroski and the entire B1G officiating contingent should check the monitor.

Repeat offenders draw scrutiny. Or, as Wisconsin’s favorite witness intimidator would say “you knew he was a snake.”

Categories
Illini basketball

Glenn Mayborg Finds His Whistle

The Big Ten never penalized Pat Chambers for criticizing the officiating in Penn State’s loss at East Lansing on January 22. Maybe that encouraged Chambers to complain some more.

He hated Glenn Mayborg’s game-changing whistle, which came with 33 seconds remaining  in a tied game, which took the ball (and the win) from Penn State, which handed the ball (and the win) to Illinois.

Chambers said the game should be decided by the players, not the refs.

But that’s unfair to the Illini. The truth is that Glenn Mayborg (and Earl Walton and Rob Riley) had been deciding the game for all of the first 39 and a half minutes, too.

Mayborg and Riley were especially responsible for allowing Penn State’s bigs to wrestle and batter the Illini on the interior. Chambers should be thanking them effusively for keeping his team in the game. It certainly abetted The Nittany style of play.

On the other hand, Mayborg et al decided early on that every ticky-tack touch was a foul.

And this choice also benefited the Nittany Lions. e.g. not only did Nnanna Egwu spend 12 minutes on the pine (especially after his 4th “foul” with 12:29 to play) but when Austin Colbert checked in to spell Egwu; Donovon Jack, Julian Moore and Jordan Dickerson were given carte blanche to toss Colbert around the lane like a rubber chicken. (That said, Colbert stood his ground pretty well.)

I have not seen a more brutal game, perhaps ever.

The good (frankly fantastic) news abut Austin Colbert is that John Groce, spurred by the Mother of Invention, has figured out how to use him. Groce thinks Colbert is too weak to hold his own in the pivot. (Colbert is a lithe and lengthy small forward, but he’s been asked to play center for some reason.)

When Bruce Weber had Mike Tisdale and Richard Semrau on the roster, he never played them together. It could have been a great combination, but only if Weber could use zone defense effectively, to hide Tisdale’s slowness as a small forward. Groce figured it out. He used Colbert in combination with both Egwu and Maverick Morgan, hiding Austin in the zone.

Mike Basgier loves to talk about Austin Colbert, and point out that Austin works out more often than the rest of the team.

Basgier likes to point out that Austin is near the top of the charts in certain statistical categories (behind Rayvonte Rice).  Yet the concern for Groce & staff is Colbert’s strength in the post. Squats and bench-press equal keeping a B1G big off the glass.

AHMAD STARKS ON FIRE

Heather went to dinner & movie with a girlfirend while I stayed home editing pictures and audio. She reports that Ahmad Starks was at Savoy 16 “surrounded by girls.”

Good for him.

Starks shot 3-of-4 3FGs against PSU. He grabbed two rebounds, one of which dropped in his lap when Kendrick Nunn boxed every mofo who dared charge the lane. Starks also boxed mofos on behalf of his teammates.

ABOUT GLENN MAYBORG

A cursory search told me that I’ve written about him twice before. Once was an article about great officiating (which Jim Schipper really liked.) The other praises Mayborg for his patience.

Glenn Mayborg’s baseline activity is unlike any official I’ve seen. He moves constantly, which is frustrating for photographers, who all sit along the baseline. But it means he’s trying to get the best angle on every aspect of every movement.

In this day and age, plenty of digital recording renders each B1G basketball game as a searchable document. The data may prove me and 14,597 fans wrong. But we all thought there was something weird, incongruent, disjointed about the officiating.

Pat Chambers should be Nittany Lionized not only for his game plan, but for his manipulation of the conference and the media. He’s doing everything he can to maximize the potential of his team. Good for him. And great for Illinois that he didn’t get away with it.

A WEEK OFF

At least two of the lads used their free time to obtain a haircut. Leron Black opted for a fade, now resembling Kid n’ Play circa 1991. Kendrick Nunn got it all chopped off, now resembling Kendrick Nunn circa 2013.

DJ RICHARDSON RETURNS

Dietrich Richardson says he had a great time playing pro-ball in Finland.  He learned about the jet stream: It wasn’t as cold there, despite being way farther north. He also learned about jet lag. The flight home threw him for a loop, especially because he’s been living on three hours of sunlight per day.

D.J.’s agent advised him to get back to the states last week, because the folks in Finland were having a hard time finding their wallet. It’s a familiar story with pro-ball overseas.

He’s not sure where he’ll be balling next, but added that he should find out within ten days to two weeks.

ZACH NORVELL OFFERED

John Groce takes longer in getting to his postgame presser than any major conference coach I’ve observed in seven years of covering college basketball.  A week ago in Minneapolis, Groce’s dilatory attitude to media seemed to be the story among the twin cities’ beat writers.

What is he doing? we all wonder. We see the locker room speeches via the TNT series on YouTube. We hear his radio interview with Brian & Jerry (which today didn’t start until Penn State was practically on board its return flight). Neither of those postgame duties accounts for a full ten minutes. So when 40 minutes have passed,  we become curious.

Saturday afternoon, we got one inkling of Groce’s postgame, behind-the-scenes.

I tried to interview Zach Norvell during a media timeout, early in the second half. He was sitting with Saieed Ivey, about four feet behind me. Plenty easy to access.

Way too close to the pep band.

I could hear him fine, but it’s not good for microphones. I knew the sound quality would be terrible if I pressed “record.” One thing that I did hear him say clearly is that he did not have a scholarship offer from Illinois.

That seemed strange to me. Yes, the Illini team is composed purely of wings, and Zach is a wing; but Norvell seemed like an Illini target, not just a plan B.

Well,  it turns out that John Groce spends his post-locker room, pre-media room time offering scholarships to Simeon standouts. By the time Groce showed up for his postgame session, Zach Norvell was the proud recipient of an official offer.

By the time Groce finished his press conference, Norvell was still in the building only because his Simeon assistant coach Melvin Nunn is media savvy.  A pair of pleading texts kept the Simeon contingent around for the duration.


There are many reasons that Simeon’s coaching staff finds scholarships for all their guys. One of them is knowing how to play the game.  Another is knowing how to play the games.

“You owe me one,” said Melvin.

But it’s not true. I owe him many.

As for Saieed Ivey, he’s currently a freshman playing point guard at Governors State University in Will County.

BRENDA COLBERT ATTENDS

I was worried that I’d seen the last of the Colbert family. It had been long enough since I’d seen their son, who was once upon a time a basketball player at the University of Illinois.

But Saturday, Brenda Colbert showed up for the first time in ages. And Austin played meaningful minutes for the first time in ages. “Did you get a tip that he might be getting some real PT?” I asked at halftime.

“Nope. I just came on faith,” she replied.

Austin Colbert is a personal favorite of mine.  I freely admit I’m biased in his favor.  He’s simply a very warm, positive, funny and smart guy.

SUSPENDING TWO GUYS WHO WEREN’T GOING TO PLAY ANYWAY

Let’s just bookmark this moment. It’s brilliant, or it’s idiotic, or it reflects an actual moment of marijuana smoking.

Why would John Groce suspend two guys who can’t play? Did he do it from a sense of justice & rightness? Is he playing mind games with opposing coaching staves?

For purposes of the PSU game, it doesn’t matter. Neither of those two dudes would have played.

Is it an insult to the players themselves? Yes, it is. That’s why Groce didn’t elaborate on their purported malfeasance.

Is it all a farce? Probably not, but that would certainly be the coolest purpose for the suspensions.