Bruce Weber's teams have always played hard, and fought until the end. But the bottom line today is they don't have enough offensive firepower and enough playmakers on this team to win the close ones. After Saturday's loss to the Michigan Wolverines, 49-43, it seems a lot of air was let of out the balloon. Illinois has been searching for a leader the entire season, looking for somebody that could take charge of the defense, or make the big shot on offense, or be a vocal and keeping his teammates focused on the court. But it seems nobody has risen to the challenge on a consistent basis. "I said to them we need a leader, we're struggling. I told Demetri, you may not get the ball screens all the time. Chester is a junior, he needs to be talking out there to help with things," said Weber.
McCamey's game last Saturday wasn't flowing the way it had been and he seemed very frustrated. "They switched everything. We didn't read that very well. We tried ball screens with Demetri but couldn't get things going," Weber added.
Weber feels his troops aren't playing hard enough at times. "We still got beat on the played hard chart. Some of it is enthusiasm [or lack of it]. If you're not going to play hard for yourself, do it for the Orange Krush. They were here today supporting the team," stated Weber.
There's no secret, the players are stressed and I'm sure the staff is too. Weber has tried every motivational angle possible with this group and nothing has really worked. Playing each game like it's your last should be the way the game is played. They owe that level of effort to themselves, the school, their parents, the fans, and the alumni. When the players are telling the media how frustrated they are that's never a good sign. From a report in the Herald and Review, Frazier told reporter Mark Tupper this: "People are not excited to play basketball anymore like we should. I think it hurts everyone to even come to the gym sometimes. It looks like people aren't excited to play basketball. It's a lack of energy. We don't cut hard, we don't screen, we don't move hard. It's the story of the year. "
There is time left in this season to show some signs of life. The Illini have a week off before playing the Iowa Hawkeyes. Hopefully the team can get to work and show some improvement and get better (and have better results) before the Big Ten Tournament starts. The tourney is basically a new season and provides a glimmer of hope for every team. One factor that I think always plays a key role in the tournament is that it's played on a neutral court, so that means anything can happen and upsets could take place.
We all know the great job Weber has done recently on the recruiting trail, giving us hope for the future. But let's be fair to the players that are playing for our beloved right now, hopefully working hard everyday to turn things around. Knowing how hard Weber works, I'm confident that they will find something to get this turned around.