Last Saturday's blowout loss to Wisconsin left a very bitter taste in the mouth of many Illini fans nation-wide.
As I begin to walk into my patients' room I look at their chart and it says: "The University of Illinois basketball team, with a pre-season ranking anywhere from 10 to 15 in the nation, may be a Final Four contender."
Returning point-guard Dee Brown, is the Big Ten pre-season player of the year candidate (media) and Sophomore James Augustine is the best-unknown player in the conference.
Also if I may add, a new family doctor was added to this staff and his name is Bruce Weber. Even though Weber was new to the staff and many patients didn't know very much about him, it now appears everyone does.
Trying to give my best evaluation of my patients, here's what I've found so far this season that may have caused this coma to begin with:
1. On media day Bruce Weber told us that he was looking for a leader on this team; not someone who could score the most points, but someone who could lead them when times started to get bad. When he said that, Illini Nation blew up because "how dare a new doctor come in and demand such a thing". Say what you will, but this team has no floor leader. All the talk means nothing if you can't get it done on the floor. For patients' confidentiality reasons, I can't use a name here but maybe you can figure this one out. Weber told us that same day that there is one kid here that could be a leader but needed to work on a few things - like becoming more of a consistent 10-15 foot shooter, working on his on the ball defense and on his perimeter shooting.
2. One Saturday afternoon I saw the team run its motion offense to almost perfection, while another the team just goes through the "motions". If for some reason you can sit down to watch the game again (if you taped it), please count how many times the Illinois players never touched anyone when they were suppose to be screening. They have to be one of the worst teams in the nation at doing this. During the first half alone I saw nine possessions where a player would just run to a spot and not so much as touch a jersey, let alone a screen. My medical background leads me to believe that because the Illini don't set picks very well, they don't get open looks. So what you do get are players trying to go one-on-one, or forcing up too many three-pointers because they appear to panic because nothing is working. Many times they let the shot clock get down to 10 seconds and then try to force the issue. Spacing is another concern for this team; spreading the floor with motion is huge, as well as setting good picks for each other. I just don't understand how they can look so good some times and at other times look like they're lost.
3. Where's the beef? James Augustine is having a good year number-wise this season but he's not a five man. He's not strong enough and he's doesn't seem to like to bang with the big boys. Every good team has to have a good low-post presence and one that will do the dirty work and not be afraid to take an elbow or two. Freshman Aaron Spears appears to be in over his head right now, but he's the one kid on the team with the physical tools to be that big, strong man to bang with the "big boys". Junior Jack Ingram would be another wide-body they could use, but he likes to float to the perimeter to shoot jump shots, just like the tallest player in Illinois history - Nick Smith.
My final assessment of this team is that if they don't start to play with fire, compete, play defense and play it hard, shoot free throws consistently, rebound, run the offense the way it's suppose to be run and trust their coach, this coma will last a lot longer than what fans may be willing to wait.
Blaming the coach every time is not the answer. I'm not saying Mr. Weber is not accountable here, but all the things he told us about these guys are coming true whether we like it or not.
This problem is a lot bigger than taking two aspirins and calling me in the morning