Friday, December 29, 2006

Another Poor ILLINI Showing - We Were Musketeered...

I'm hoping this was just another holiday aberration. After all, it's only 4 days after Christmas, and who in their right mind would want to travel to Ohio for a basketball game this time of year? Obviously, one answer is my team from Champaign - going down tonight on the road to the Musketeers from XAVIER 65-59. Yuck, another 'chance' which slipped away during our non-conference schedule. We had the 26-25 lead at the break. I'm ready for conference play already. Bring on Michigan, please! Then Ohio State and Wisconsin. Enough of the holiday hoops already.

I know we're 12-3 on the season (and should be 15-0 to be honest), but tonight's loss was another good example of the problems we face heading into 2k7 and beyond. More in a second. In the four litmus-test games so far this season, we went 1-3 (not good). Sure, the three losses were all 'decent' losses. But they were LOSSES.

We need some leadership on offense, badly. Again, Dee and James are gone. Who's going to step up and stay there game in and out to provide the points when they're really needed? Scoring is a problem for my team right now. We just don't look in sync on offense. Nothing but inopportune turnovers are coming easily. On defense, there are too many ticky-tack fouls and not enough solid play. In every loss this season the opposition has gone to the charity stripe at least 10 more times than we have. We're just not playing great defense for 40 minutes. Sure, there are flashes - but they don't seem to last.

Beyond the leadership, scoring, and defensive lapses I just mentioned, I think the biggest problem might just be a lack of elite talent. Let me put it this way, who's the next pro? If you look at our BIG-10 Championship teams of late, they all had at least 2 or three NBA starters in the lineups: Brown, Williams, Head, Augustine, and Cook. We're missing that elite performer who can take over a game on both sides of the court as he leads the team, by will if required, to victory. I know Coach Weber can coach. He's a great teacher of the game who believes in gritty play on defense and motion in the half-court offense. We're not a run and gun squad anymore (like the '89 Flyin' Illini were - again, more serious pro-talent there).

So, what's really going on in Champaign these days? Obviously, losing recruits like Gordon to other BIG-10 foes (Indiana) doesn't help much. Illinois is a very rich basketball recruiting ground with some of the best high-school programs in the country coming out of Chicago, the burbs, and down-state (mainly Peoria). Perhaps Weber should steal a page out of the Zooker's notebook when it comes to recruiting. After all, Coach Ronnie and his team of recruiters do it just about as well as anybody in the country right now. And don't forget that this is basically his Gator team of seniors in the BCS title game against Ohio State. See my previous ZOOK BLOG. Until then, who's our next pro? I ask myself this question all the time.

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