Step back from the ledge.
An eon ago, in The 12 Seed, I speculated an upcoming five-game losing streak. It felt like a safe bet.
The other day, I suggested a silver lining to Ayo’s unexpected vacation. The committee might look at this east coast swing with even less skepticism than they might have. Losing at Rutgers and Penn State is not a big deal, and there’s no penalty for tourney purposes.
The Illini must beat the remaining crap teams on their schedule. Compiled Quad 1 wins have almost guaranteed some kind of bid.
The next mission for the team and its coaching staff is to figure out how to find uncontested, or at least less contested, shots.
At Rutgers, the boys in blue got open looks from Tevian Jones. Alan Griffin had a pair of clean looks from the outside, and a lot of armpits closer to the hoop.
Kofi was harassed in the paint, and didn’t quite figure out the implication of his abuse: The refs were letting ’em play.
Would Kofi be able to shift gears if he knew he could play rough? Maybe. Maybe not. These skills develop over time.
He didn’t seem as rattled in the second half, but then, he attempted two-thirds fewer shots.
In the first half, Kofi converted 4-of-9 attempts from the floor. In the second half, he launched only three. One of them went in.
The worst shooting performance came from Trent Frazier. Trent didn’t simply miss his shots. It’s not that the rim was unkind (except for that three that spun around and out). Trent’s problem was Rutgers. They were taller than he. They were in his way.
Trent’s shots were terrible, and the results predictable.
Even his high-percentage shots were low-percentage shots. You try to make a lay-up against three taller guys. You’ll see that it affects your percentage.
Trent needs more of the above from his teammates. He’s a great offensive weapon when they keep defenders out of his way.
It might seem insulting to say that Trent can’t create his own shot, but basketball is a team sport. Moreover, Trent can create his own shot. It’s a sudden & unexpected 30-foot jumper. He’s pretty good at it.
With each new game’s worth of video, this team becomes easier to scout. Illinois’ opponents have demonstrated admirable capability & professionalism in their game-planning.
It’s getting hard to score.
Brad & staff recognize this problem. They’ve already taken steps to address it.
You may have noticed that Tevian Jones played real minutes in Piscataway.
These two spread the floor. Their teammates aren’t dreadful at kicking out to them once the defense collapses; they’re merely bad at it.
Both Trent and Andres Feliz know how to drive and kick, but Kofi and Giorgi are still learning when to quit fighting through a double-team.
Both still exhibit space-out moments, what Brad calls “casual.” At Rutgers, Kofi took a half-second to assess the defense.
That was the only half-second Ron Harper needed.
When the parts come together, it looks effortless.
But too much of the time, it looks labored. It’s not always easy to watch a broken play and determine, in real time, how it broke. It’s worse when you can see it break before the players do.
Giorgi’s game at Rutgers, and in general, deserves it’s own column. He seems to have got his groove back. Brad says he wants more offensive opportunities for Giorgi.
Look for that tomorrow.