Weber's Xs and Os the Difference?

All the hype this season has been going to the guards that play for the Illini. We know that James Augustine and Roger Powell can provide just enough to keep the Illini in the hunt every game and at Number #1 for another week. After last night though, the MVP of the Wisconsin game goes to Coach Bruce Weber and his staff.

When Bruce Weber was hired as the Illinois men's basketball coach, most fans (that are honest with themselves) were not overly excited. We all knew his success at SIU and how his teams went to the NCAA tournament, but I bet people didn't really know how good of a coach the Illini were getting.

People can argue everyday if Illinois is the best team in college basketball (even though the polls show it). "Duke" Vitale can't complete a college basketball game without giving his "favorite" team some love; but the fact is that Weber and his team take it all in stride and just play the game. Bruce Weber has not gotten credit for getting his team to buy into his system. Dick Vitale - when you talk about coach of the year, Weber should make your list along with Mike Krzyzewski, who seems to make your list every year. Good coaches find a way to win even when their shots aren't falling (see the Iowa-Illinois game on January 19th when people thought Weber and his crew were going to lose).

Now on to why Weber is the MVP of this terrific 20-0 start. How many times have you sat there in your living room and said this coach would be great, but they can't make game adjustments? Here's a guy making $1 million per year and can't adjust during a game. During the pre-game radio show Weber said, "The plan is to start Roger Powell on Mike Wilkinson." Powell has made a lot of strides this year on the defensive end of the floor, but Wilkinson was too much for the undersized forward Wednesday night. What Weber and his staff did was recognize that offensively, the Illini were fine. It was their post defense that was causing them problems. With 3:39 to go Weber decided to make a change, allowing senior Jack Ingram to play post defense. Wisconsin reserve big man Andreas Helmigk missed a short post move 5 feet from the basket. Ingram, being a much taller defender than Powell, put more pressure on Helmigk's shot, which came up short. Ingram then grabbed the defensive rebound and was fouled by Helmigk. Ingram went to the other end to make both free throws to give Illinois the lead for the rest of the night. That one little late game adjustment kept the Illini winning streak at 20 games.

"I'm so proud of senior Jack Ingram. He was probably the difference in the game," said Weber. Coach Weber has said from day one that to win you have to have guys step up when other guys are having an off night. "When you can do that, that's the sign of a great team," said Weber. That's what Ingram did Wednesday night.

Weber loves and trusts his motion offense. "You can't defend it. It's tough to scout and it keeps everyone on their toes at all times." Last night Weber did a masterful job of keeping the Badgers off balance. The entire game they ran straight motion with a few special plays coming from the timeouts. However, at crunch time when the Badgers may have been tired and vulnerable, Weber ran special sets off motion for junior forward James Augustine for dunks that the Badgers had not seen the entire game. Guards Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head were great decoys and did their jobs getting the ball to Augustine for those easy baskets. In addition to Weber's game adjustments, Wisconsin's Coach Bo Ryan tried to press Illinois late in the game. It was then that a 3-point game turned into a 10-point game. With three point guards, Illinois is a team you really can not press.

Last year I attended one of Weber's basketball workshops and he talked about having special sets off motion and having "special" times to use them in every game. Last night Weber did a great job of getting the most out of his system.

Right now Illini fans are living a dream season and their coach is proving to all the doubters that he's one of the best teachers in the game today. The players on this team are good, but it's time for the teacher to get his due for providing his class with the tools to be successful.


Illini Inquirer Top Stories