Mark Tupper's blog

After whipping Illini, are Badgers title-bound?

2014-01-08T22:59:00Z After whipping Illini, are Badgers title-bound?Mark Tupper
January 08, 2014 10:59 pm  • 

John Groce has a new challenge as head coach of the Illini basketball team.

So far this season, he’s wanted his team to look at each step, study the shortcomings, learn and improve.

He’ll want some of that after Illinois got clobbered at Wisconsin Wednesday, 95-70. But the new challenge is to get his team to shove this one into the rear view mirror pretty quickly because a hangover from what happened in Madison simply can’t infect what Illinois hopes to do next on Sunday in Evanston.

Wednesday pretty much a disaster.

Wisconsin led 13-10 and while Illinois was struggling through an 0-for-13 shooting drought, the Badgers scored on eight of 11 possessions and ripped off a 20-0 run that pumped that lead up to 33-10 in a matter of minutes.

Groce called timeouts during the run but he didn’t like the look of his team during the timeouts nor did he like their response on the court.

“That’s not like us,” he said. “But for some reason tonight we just didn’t respond.”

Groce credited Wisconsin, as well he should. And he pointed to the big difference between the team’s 2-point shooting.

Wisconsin made 24 of 38 shots from 2-point distance. Illinois, on the other hand, made just 20 of 60.

Illinois whipped Wisconsin on the glass, 48-35, and had 25 offensive rebounds. But the Illini missed just about every kind of rebound, put-back and tip-dunk imaginable.

A lot of teams will be losing to Wisconsin and I’ll be paying attention because I believe the Badgers could go on a pretty good run. A look at their schedule reveals they do not play at Michigan State nor do they play at Ohio State this season. Those would be two trouble spots the schedule-maker says they can avoid.

I know Michigan State and Ohio State are the darlings of the national media and maybe it will turn out that way. But I won’t be even a little bit surprised if Wisconsin is trying to wrap up the Big Ten championship in March.

And speaking of March, again look at the Wisconsin schedule. The Badgers final three games are at Penn State, at home vs. Purdue and at Nebraska.

By comparison, Michigan State finishes at home against Illinois, at home against Iowa and at Ohio State.

The Buckeyes have just two games in March – at Indiana and at home against Michigan State.

I think the championship is Wisconsin’s to lose.

And although I normally don’t think Wisconsin is built for NCAA Tournament success, this team is different. This team is better suited offensively. I think this is Bo Ryan’s best Badger team and if his group can stay healthy, I like their chances, especially as Nigel Hayes sheds his freshman skin.

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(15) Comments

  1. sugmeister
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    sugmeister - January 10, 2014 2:33 pm
    Tom - I sure hope something clicks soon too..... we have a limited ceiling with NE playing as he has been the entire season. you are probably correct in Coach's willingness to play him knowing his offensive deficiencies. I think Egwu plays too fast sometimes. he may set 80 picks a gm as coach says but very very few of them are effective. oddly the only time he slows down is when he gets the ball on the low block and dribbles to make his move to the basket. and THAT is the time he needs to speed it up and do things quickly.
    I'm not saying Morgan is a total loss on the defensive end. I think he has shown some progress there. but he just seems to be one of those guys (as a freshman) who gets a foul called for stepping onto the court. the touch foul at the 3 pt line is a good example of that. we had just got hacked on a drive to the basket with no call and Morgan got a foul for breathing too deeply apparently.
    I agree Pete - we have got to win the ones we should win. nobody expected to win the other night. remember how it felt (for when they come to town) but forget it and move on. also agree on colbert. I thought he looked better 2-3 wks ago than now but maybe thats because the competition is better.
  2. Tendonitis Tom
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    Tendonitis Tom - January 10, 2014 12:32 pm
    Can't disagree with the points about Egwu. Not picking up any instincts for the game that you think he would from just playing. The missed lob against Wisky was strange, because he's usually looking for those and he appeared to give the guard the look that he knew it was coming. He's got a season and a half left; maybe something (anything?) will click yet but it's not looking good. Still, since the team's base strength is defense, I think Groce thinks he's better off suffering with NE's offensive deficiencies than with what he'd lose off the defense with MM in there with starter's minutes.

    One NE play against Wisky left me thinking I was hallucinating -- when he tried a spin move in the lane, ala TA or RR. Of course, he left the ball in Brust's hands for a runout the other way; but I couldn't believe he actually tried it.
  3. Pistol Pete
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    Pistol Pete - January 10, 2014 7:35 am
    Sug hit the nail on the head regarding Egwu. All of us were probably fooled by his play in the Miami game last year. After seeing what he did against them, I thought he would really take off this year, but I think he has actually regressed.
    The newbies are all getting PT out of necessity & I've seen progress from everyone except Colbert. Tate has been missing shots lately, but I think he'll bounce back.
    Agree about the 5 game stretch coming up after Purdue. That will be brutal. The next 2 are must wins.
  4. dhaab
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    dhaab - January 10, 2014 1:44 am
    I agree about Egwu and his offensive game. Maybe he's playing hurt (possibly a back injury) because he looks really awkward out there. Also, he's a smart kid and he may be over-thinking out there instead of just playing in the moment. Tough to watch at times.
  5. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - January 09, 2014 4:43 pm
    Sugs wrote
    egwu..... oh boy. hands of stone and no clue what to do on the offensive end. back to back trips down floor botched easy baskets. 2nd one was a perfect lob pass from tate after he drew the defense to him on a drive. should have been an easy dunk by egwu wasn't even looking for the ball. turned a sure dunk into a 4 ft fadeaway that missed. other times dribbles off his own feet. I would have rather seen morgan get totally schooled on defense than what I saw last night out of egwu.

    CASE closed.
    Hate to say it, but his play on the offensive end is not showing improvement.
  6. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - January 09, 2014 4:39 pm
    Wisconsin sure impresses me. Their floor spacing and ball movement resemble our '05 team's,

    TT, was eating dinner,watching the game again (wife is out of town) and was going to post exactly the same thing.

    Thier ball movement and passing was significantly better than ours crk
  7. Tendonitis Tom
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    Tendonitis Tom - January 09, 2014 3:51 pm
    Yep, forget about it ... until February 4th.

    Ekey's shot is a bit flat, but he also rushes them a bit. Notice how his feet fly in different directions; he's not collecting them properly before launching. I really wish JB would shoot more 3s. Since all he ever does is drive, the 3s are there for him a lot, but it seems he just won't fire unless alone and unguarded. Also, is anyone else seeing how we run a high pick and roll with Tate and the opponents are just leaving him alone, daring him to shoot? I think he has to start taking a few of those just to keep them honest. Maybe he'll make some.

    Wisconsin sure impresses me. Their floor spacing and ball movement resemble our '05 team's, though they're not nearly as athletic. Just smart, versatile, fundamentally sound players playing in a system that attacks any number of ways. A mouth-agape, droopy-eyed 7 footer that tears it up from the arc and can post up too. Guards that post down on the block. A 6'8" retro-Rob Petrie who can take anyone to the basket from the wing off the dribble, or drain 3s, etc. And they're plug-and-play. You lose your 6'8" post-up guy, best rebounder, and top grinder/muscle guy to graduation (Evans), you just replace him with a virtual clone freshman (Nigel whats his name) for the next 4 years. They find your weakness and just go after it. You saw what they did with Dekker all night with TA on him. When Egwu sat down and AC went in, it was straight to Kaminsky down low for abuse, and one. I don't particularly like the Mad Bo persona but I regard him as a great coach. They obviously play best at home, but since they don't face osu or MSU on the road, they might just be good enough to run the table in the regular B1G season. We might have the best chance of taking them, at home.

    Gotta win the next two before a brutal 5 game stretch.

    Go Illini
  8. Mikeydamouth
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    Mikeydamouth - January 09, 2014 2:13 pm
    The Illini played Wisconsin last night? See, I'd forgot about it already and agree with Groce and whoever else said to forget about it. Shark you are right. Ekey's shot does seem to have gone flat and some friends of mine brought that up last week at lunch. I don't hear Groce talking about wishing him to keep shooting like he did earlier in the season though. Like everyone thought we would lose, this type of game coming up at NW Sun night is the type of game we cannot afford to lose.
  9. sugmeister
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    sugmeister - January 09, 2014 2:08 pm
    it was sort of a perfect storm - shots weren't falling for us and they hit an awful lot of shots. some easy, some not. we missed layups, dunks, tip-ins, you name it and yet they had BENCH players coming in draining 3balls.
    agree on Ekey Shark... his shot has always been flat and he seems more like a streak shooter than a good solid consistent 3pt shooter. he does an awful lot of other things well though and I'm happy to have him.
    sort of agree on the stop and pop but those wouldn't have went in last night either imo. i still don't see why we dont get more ft's than we do. we drive probably 60% of the time and still got outshot by 14 from the FT line. we get a lot of touch fouls away from the basket. doesn't seem right but certainly doesn't cost us this game.
    egwu..... oh boy. hands of stone and no clue what to do on the offensive end. back to back trips down floor botched easy baskets. 2nd one was a perfect lob pass from tate after he drew the defense to him on a drive. should have been an easy dunk by egwu wasn't even looking for the ball. turned a sure dunk into a 4 ft fadeaway that missed. other times dribbles off his own feet. I would have rather seen morgan get totally schooled on defense than what I saw last night out of egwu.
  10. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - January 09, 2014 1:39 pm
    Excellent point Jjjs. Our offense needs more variation. crk
  11. Shark
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    Shark - January 09, 2014 12:26 pm
    Stop and pop from 6-feet is a good idea. I especially like doing it from and angle and using the backboard. I think you can shoot a bit flatter using the backboard and get good results.
    The Badgers really shared and moved the ball well as a team to get open looms, including driving and drawing defenders. We still drive but I would love the person drawing the defense to do a bit more passing, especially kicking it out.
    Ekey - I watched closely last night and his three ball just doesn't have enough arc. His shooting % is way down. He does other things well, but you've seen him losing playing time to some of the younger bigs that will hopefully be here for a while. If he can't fill up the 3 ball, his value diminishes.
  12. Jjjs
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    Jjjs - January 09, 2014 9:25 am
    Why can't the Illini ever pull up and pop on a 6 footer instead of always having to drive all the way to the basket. The defense knows what they are going to do.... Rice is about the only one who will stop and pop.
  13. Pistol Pete
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    Pistol Pete - January 09, 2014 7:44 am
    I figured we would get beat, but not by 25 points. I would have taken the Illini & 24 points if I were to bet on the game. We looked kind of scared in the first half, but loosened up in the 2nd half. I'll have to rethink what I said a few days ago about us possibly beating the Badgers at the SFC in Feb.
    Yep, time to move on from this "L" & not let it affect our preparation for the rest of the B1G schedule.
  14. Shark
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    Shark - January 09, 2014 7:34 am
    I think the freshman learned a bit about going into a hostile arena in the Big10. Home teams get more energy, get more calls, and play better. To compete you really need to bring it. The Illini looked almost intimidated, rushed shots, didn't play the same defense they had all year. Nobody expected the win, so take it as a great learning experience and put it behind you.
  15. crkcrk2
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    crkcrk2 - January 09, 2014 4:00 am
    Not going to beat many teams shooting 31% I had the over 126, I thought we would get beat beyond the arc, which was not really the case. Agreed, just have to put this one behind us and get reading for Northwestern. crk
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