Homecoming weekend in Champaign is always a recipe for a good time. Sure, the football team has not always been good, and the games are often blowouts with the Illini on the losing end, but being able to see friends and tailgate is always a good time. As with past Homecoming weekends, the basketball team was also putting on a show for a few invited guests, and luckily enough my friend was an invited guest and he invited me to go with him. So while I was subjected to what would become the earliest I ever left an Illinois football game, I was also able to watch a few scrimmages between the Illini basketball team in front of about 300 people at the Ubben Basketball Complex.
Let's start out with the basketball scrimmage because that presents us with much more good news than the football game …
The set up for the scrimmage was much like what you would see in any basketball practice. The team played four games, and in each of them there were different teams, and the defenses were adjusted to give the Illini offenses different looks. There was nothing really special from the scrimmage in terms of how it was run though I think one of the referees really wanted to get his money's worth by calling fouls because I think he blew his whistle on every third run up and down the court.
Since this was just the eighth day the Illini have been allowed to practice together as a team under Bruce Weber's tutelage I was not expecting much, but of course I did leave Ubben on Saturday with some impressions of the team. I will leave them short because I still have not gotten a complete grasp of what this team will be on the floor, but after seeing them during Illini Madness, and now Saturday afternoon I know a little more of what to expect.
James Augustine: I am still hoping we see a more confident James offensively this season, but Saturday he did not show me that he will be that player. He has the ability to take the ten to fifteen foot jump shot, and it is in the Illini offense, he just does not seem to take the shot.
Dee Brown: Dee is Dee. He does what you expect from him, and he is definitely the best player on the floor. At one time, he had Chester Frazier guarding him close to the end of a time period with his team down three points, and he hit a fade-away three pointer over Frazier's extended arms.
Warren Carter: I am going to be honest, Warren is a player that I am the most excited about heading into this season, because I think h has only touched briefly on what he can do on the court. On Saturday he was taking his fifteen to eighteen foot jump shot, and while it was not as accurate as it normally has been, it was still effective. Warren's length and athleticism really help him be a disruptive force on defense, but he still shies away from too much contact on the interior.
Rich McBride: On Saturday, Rich did more than just stand outside and shoot three pointers. He drove to the basket more to either get himself shots, or dish off to a teammate. His outside shot was not there, but he helped his team in other ways. Hopefully, he continues with these other ways in the future.
Marcus Arnold: I did not see anything from Arnold that differentiated him from Shaun Pruitt. Both players right now are fighting to be that first player off the bench in the front court, but right now, no one is standing out.
Brian Randle: If I had to pick a Most Disappointing Player award from Saturday's scrimmage it would have to be the redshirt sophomore small forward. I truly cannot remember Brian doing much either offensively, or defensively in any of the games. The most note worthy thing he did on Saturday was leave the scrimmage with an ankle issue, only to come back and play about ten minutes later (after it was probably re-taped).
Shaun Pruitt: Shaun is fighting with Marcus Arnold to be that first big man off the bench, and right now based on Illini Madness and Saturday's scrimmage, I don't think either player has distinguished themselves from each other. At the end of the scrimmage, Shaun was the big man that finished last in conditioning drills, so he had to run extra ones of them after the scrimmage.
Calvin Brock: Brock was being guarded by Randle for most of the time, so he was a non factor offensively. He still needs to work on the form on his jump shot, and he showed that if he is not more athletic and quicker than the player guarding him, he will be a non-factor offensively. The good news for him is that he will not have to worry much about defenders being more athletic than Brian Randle once the games actually start.
Jamar Smith: If the freshman from Peoria continues to shoot like he did on Saturday, he will be tough to keep off the floor, no matter his defensive liabilities. The one thing Illinois needs this year is a third scoring option, and his sharp shooting off the bench could be just what the doctor ordered. It will be interesting to see how he improves as a defender as he fills into his body.
Chester Frazier: Frazier is still showing why the press has been praising the strides he has taken this summer. He has become a viable back up option for Dee that Illinois needed, but Saturday's scrimmage shows that he still needs to work on his jump shot. When he drives, he needs to know what he is going to do with the ball, because he often gets in the middle with no place to go, and that will create some turnovers that will have him watching the game next to Bruce Weber.
CJ Jackson: At this point, I just see CJ as a red shirt candidate. He probably saw the least time on the floor in the scrimmage, and is the most raw of any of the players. The big difference between Illini Madness and Saturday' scrimmage was that the smile was removed from his face. I guess a week of conditioning drills in practice can wipe the smile off of any one's face.
It has been widely reporter that Eric Gordon was on campus watching the scrimmage Saturday, and he was sitting on the floor with about three of friends looking to enjoy the festivities. The Krush took the opportunity to chat "ERIC GORDON! ERIC GORDON!" a few times as well as "We want Gordon!" so he definitely knew that the fans were there, and knew who he was.
The next item on the itinerary for Saturday was the football game. Umm, yeah.
I admit it, I left the game when it was 35-3 and it was the earliest I have ever left an Illinois football game, topping the record I set during the Michigan State debacle when I left at halftime. I just cannot get mad at Ron Zook because he is implementing a system that he does not have the horses for. While I would love to see some closer games, is it better for the long term future of the program to line up in the I-Formation and kill the clock, yet still lose 31-13 versus 63-10?
I don't know the answer to that, but I know losing 63-10 looks just as bad on the record book as losing 31-13. A loss is a loss, no matter if it is by 53 points or 18 or 1. The one thing that bothered me on Saturday was the two-straight penalties for only having six men on the line of scrimmage on a punt. Now, I do not know if the calls were right, but having it happen three times in the game, and twice in a row shows some inattentiveness in the coaching of the special teams.
While I was at the game, my friend defined a new stat that Illinois leads the nation in: YAAAT. Yards Allowed After Attempted Tackle. This is not a good stat to lead the nation in, and it seemed like every play in the first quarter, and what little I could stomach of the second quarter had 4 YAATs at a minimum.
The preseason talk in college basketball that one team to expect in the Final Four was Villanova. That gasp you heard from Philadelphia this weekend was not Allen Iverson's reaction to the new NBA Dress Code Policy, but 'Nova fans wondering if their season has been derailed before it even started thanks to an injury and the resulting surgery to their starting power forward Curtis Sumpter. It looks like Jason Fraser will be stepping in to replace him in the starting lineup, but that was a huge blow to what was expected to be a very good season for Jay Wright and his team.
Once again, the NCAA is going to continue to look at the expiremental rules in exempted tournaments this season. The NCAA will continue to look at the wider lane and a longer three point shot. I am a big fan of moving the three point line back for college, to at least the International line because I think it is too close of a shot, and it would also open up the floor more for offenses to be run. If you combine it with the widening of the lane, you would be able to see more guards drive the lane and create shots for themselves, or their teammates because the offenses would be forced to have better spacing than they are with the current dimensions of the college court.
The most asinine thing in this article though is that the men's three-point line is being extended to 20'9", while the women's three point line is only being extended to 20'6". Why the discrepancy when both teams play on the same court? It just seems like a dumb decision, but nothing really shocks me in the NCAA any more.
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Brumby's Daily Column: October 24, 2005
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