March 8 Illinois basketball chat

March 8 Illinois basketball chat

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 12:30pm

Illinois opens Big Ten tournament play Thursday morning against Michigan in Washington, D.C. Will the Illini beat the Wolverines? What does that mean in the short term? Or the long term? Should Malcolm Hill have been a First Team All-Big Ten selection? Is E.J. Liddell the next metro east standout on the Illini's horizon? Spend your Wednesday gearing up for the Big Ten tourney in the nation's capital by asking these questions (or any you want, really) to beat writer Scott Richey. His weekly chat tips off at 12:30 p.m.

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm
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Good afternoon everybody. I don't know about you, but I've been enjoying the March Madness buildup the last few days. The only time better than Championship Week in college basketball, of course, is what comes next. Illinois' place in that has yet to be determined. We'll certainly know more tomorrow.

Until then, you have questions and I have some thoughts (plus the ACC tourney on the big screen). On to today's chat ...

Big Dave wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm

If they'd request it, do you think the incoming recruits would be released from their letters of intent to pursue other opportunities if there is a head coaching change? And do you think there are ever any phone calls made to recruits ahead of time to gauge their commitments to the university if a change is made?

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm
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Big Dave,

If there is a coaching change, the first that that will be done will be to give the new coach a chance to sell the incoming class — not his guys — on the type of program they will run. A coaching change does not automatically mean a lost recruiting class. But if one or more of those guys want a release, they get it. Or they should. You don't want to become known as that program. Student-athletes are already at a disadvantage in that regard (coaches can change jobs at will, but players must sit out if they transfer). If a release is requested by a 2017 recuit, grant it.

As for your second question, while a strong recruiting class is a good thing, I don't think it should be a major factor in if a coach is retained or not. A coaching change should be made with the program as a whole in mind, not what a certain class might contribute for a few years. 

teachdacc2 wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Scott,

Thanks for great chat.  Short of winning the tournament what do you project regarding the current staff?  Of our seniors what does the future hold for them?  

 

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm
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teachdacc2,

I think if Illinois makes the NCAA tournament then Josh Whitman will retain John Groce, and I honestly don't see Groce making any changes to his staff without prompting from above. Whitman will sell that move on Illinois' stronger finish and next year's recruiting class. If Illinois doesn't make the NCAA tournament, I believe it would be a tough sell for Whitman to keep Groce, but it could well happen. 

I think Malcolm Hill, Maverick Morgan and Tracy Abrams could have a future in professional basketball if they want it. Hill could find his way into the second round of the NBA Draft — he's currently the No. 54 pick in the DraftExpress mock — but that's obviously not guaranteed. Europe (or Asia, South America, etc.) is an option for all of them. 

Anonymous User wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Two questions. In your best guess and opinion will we see Mark Smith in an Illiniuniform next season? Also in your opinion who will be coaching the Illininext season?

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm
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Anonymous,

I had similar questions several weeks ago. I think I have the same answers ... Yes. John Groce.

But if you ask me the same questions again tomorrow about 1 p.m. my answers might be different.

Anonymous Jim wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Living in the suburbs of Chicago I do not get a good feel of the mood surrounding the basketball program, if you had to guess, what percentage of the fanbase is for keeping Groce and what percentage in favor of making a change?

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm
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Anonymous Jim,

If I were to base my answer based on Twitter and other social media platforms, it would probably be 2 percent in favor of John Groce remaining the Illini coach and 98 percent ready for a change. The loudest voices are there. In reality? A truly conservative answer would probably be 70-30 against retaining Groce. 

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on March 08, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Scott -

How certain will the basketball team shake off the loss with Rutgers and regain the 'magic' that was part of the late season winning 5 of 7 games vs Michigan tomorrow?  Who among the BTT lower seeds has the most favorable path toward Sunday's BTT championship game?

If John Groce is removed from his position, how confident are you in Josh Whitman's ability to select a candidate that the fan base would be 'excited' about?  I know it is impossible for Josh to satisfy every fan.

Thanks

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

The answer to your first question depends on how you view the last few weeks of the Illinois season. Was the four-game winning streak and five wins in seven games the anomaly? Or was Saturday's loss at Rutgers, when some of the same issues that occurred in January and into early February, the anomaly? One thing is certain. The Illinois players are aware of the significance of tomorrow's game. 

I would say Indiana as the 10-seed and Ohio State as the 11 have the easier path toward the championship game. Their spots on the bottom half of the bracket means they avoid either the best team in the conference (Purdue) or some of the hottest teams right now (Minnesota and Michigan). Honestly, the Hoosiers are my true dark horse this year.

If there is a coaching change, I have a feeling that there are going to be a section of unhappy Illinois fans ... sort of like the last time. I would say Josh Whitman is 2 for 2 on his coaching hires in Lovie Smith and Chris Tamas. Good track record in a short time. But this year in basketball? There just doesn't seem to be that one guy everyone would agree is the guy. That's the feeling I get at least.

Anonymous User wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Okay, so I believe it is a given, Groce seems to be on the outs...nothing saves him short of the BTT C-Ship and that isn't happening. So if you had to choose of the following possibilities and pick one with reasons who would it be? Most commonly thrown around names...

C Martin, B Howland, M Williams, F Hoiberg, A Miller, B Drew, S Drew, T. Crean or might you have a new one?

 

We all want a home run hire, splash, credibility, etc....how bout way out of the box and Becky Hammon to turn it all around?

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Anonymous,

I'll go ahead and choose from one of the candidates you mentioned. Everybody's list is basically the same, which only makes me feel sometimes like a possible new coach — if a change is made, of course — will come out of left field (more on that later).

So from the eight coaches you listed, I'll go with Monty Williams (because I think Archie Miller is holding out for Ohio State or Indiana and Cuonzo Martin might get snapped up by Missouri).

Williams would follow the more nonlinear path Josh Whitman has taken in his coaching hires. I would place serious emphasis on the assistant coaches should he be the the option (recruiters for sure), but Williams has playing and coaching experience in the NBA and has Kevin Durant's stamp of approval (his players loved him). Williams would be something different for Illinois. Maybe that's the spark the program needs.

Now, speaking of out of left field suggestions, I almost want to stand up and applaud you for bringing up Becky Hammon. That would certainly be some outside of the box thinking. I like it. Hammon has spent the last three seasons coaching under Gregg Popovich. Not many better coaching educations than that. Plus she led the Spurs D-League team to a title in Vegas in 2015.

Will this happen? No, I don't think so. But I truly like the idea.

 

Anonymous User wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Scott, 

Saturday's loss was obviously devastatingn in many ways. Even with the loss, we are still listed in the first 4 out in ESPN and CBS bracketology. What will it take in the BTN tournament to get us back in the convo? 

Will wins against Michigan and Purdue do it? Does just beating Michigan do anything for us.

Thanks, 

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Anonymous,

I'll be honest and say I was surprised Illinois was still among the First Four Out following the loss at Rutgers. Beating Michigan might be enough should some of the other bubble teams lose early in their respective conference tournaments. I think wins against both Michigan and Purdue would clinch an NCAA tournament berth.

Illini Basketball Fan wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Scott -

What teams should we root for in winning/losing in the P5 conference tournaments now to pave the way for the Illini to get into the NCAAT? (on the hope that the Illini somehow beat Michigan tomorrow)

Thanks!

 

 

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Illini Basketball Fan,

Glad you added the caveat of an Illinois win against Michigan tomorrow. That's got to happen first. If it does, I'd start actively rooting against these teams if you're an Illini fan ...

— Xavier ... a loss today to DePaul would be really bad

— USC ... turn into a Markelle Fultz fan and root for Washington today

— Rhode Island ... plays Friday in A-10 quarterfinals

— Kansas State ... I assume this won't be a tough task tomorrow when Wildcats play Baylor

Then, just to be safe, root against California, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Clemson, Providence, Marquette and Indiana, too.

Anonymous User wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm

If we lose to Michigan by 15+ pts any bearing on whether Groce is retained or let go I guess my question is does this game have any bearing on his future? Also a big shoutout to the WIU Leathernecks lady basketball team  the best girls team in the state going to the big dance!

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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Anonymous,

I'm not in Josh Whitman's head — or, really, have any feel for what he might do — but I'm not sure a decision shouldn't have already been made. Coaching changes, in my opinion, should be more big picture than simply affected by single games here and there. That's what Whitman did in firing Bill Cubit and hiring Lovie Smith.

A loss to Michigan, which then keeps Illinois out of the NCAA tournament most likely, makes bringing Groce back a tougher sell. A blowout loss to the Wolverines just amplifies that.

Any team from Illinois — men's or women's — in the NCAA tournament is a good thing, so I'll share your shoutout to the WIU women's team. Fun fact, WIU freshman guard Olivia Kaufmann is the niece of former Illini Andy Kaufmann.

Scott Richey wrote on March 08, 2017 at 1:03 pm
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OK, looks like that's all the questions for today's chat. Thanks to everybody that submitted something or just followed along. Big game tomorrow for Illinois in Washington, D.C. The LIVE! Report should launch here at IlliniHQ.com around 9:30 a.m. for the 11 a.m. tip.

The chat will be back next week, of course. Same time, same place. And maybe a whole new bunch of questions to answer depending on how tomorrow goes.

Enjoy the week!