Sunday, January 20, 2013
Old Mother Hubbard...
Since the college basketball season is now a few weeks into the conference schedule we are beginning to know who are contenders and who are pretenders. The success some teams have had early are not necessarily paying off during conference play.
One of those teams, unfortunately, is Illinois.
It looked like this team was starting to put the fight back in Fighting Illini.
They had started the season with a Maui Invitational championship by beating a Butler Bulldogs team that has taken out Marquette, Indiana, and now Gonzaga after last nights miracle in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
This current Illini team also beat Gonzaga in a place where they haven't surrendered many wins in coach Mark Few's tenure.
Coach John Groce seemed to be pushing all the right buttons in what was a 12-0 start and national ranking for his first team at Illinois. The praise was being delivered not only from fans but from national media from across the country.
The future looked bright and all seemed well.
The problem was a false sense of hope and not truly analyzing the current roster of players for the long haul. Teams need toughness and togetherness to accomplish their goals. Coach Groce was correct after winning the Maui that they weren't done improving and had better not be complacent with their early success.
So it gets doubly tough to be successful in conference and you need to be that more mentally tough to persevere. This current group of Illini are totally lacking in this aspect.
This mental deficit is what has eventually killed last season's squad and is currently killing this seasons team.
When the going gets tough the tough get going to quote Billie Ocean. This team, though, when the going gets tough they just collapse.
This isn't an indictment on John Groce's coaching ability it is more an indictment on Bruce Weber's recruiting ability and the players he had brought into this university.
The current group of Illini have shown now for two seasons to be incapable of handling adversity in the toughest of situations in Big Ten play. They came into league play and laid a stinker of a egg with an opening loss at (6-6) Purdue.
In the past three coaching changes the cupboards have not been as bare as they are for John Groce's first go around. Lon Kruger was hired and had done such a great job building the program back up from when Lou Henson left it that he was hired by the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. He in turn left a team with great talent that Bill Self was able to build on and bring in the crop of talent that Mr. Weber was lucky enough to have fall in his lap. Similar to Weber's current situation at Kansas State. Frank Martin, a fearless recruiter, left him well stocked with veteran talent from last years team. That is how it works at times.
Bruce Weber coached those players but not one single player that he recruited will hang their jersey in the Assembly Hall. Hell, his 2010 highly regarded class that included Jereme Richmond, Myers Leonard, and Crandell Head has not one, not one of those players still on campus.
So lets not be so quick to chastise John Groce for his current team. He is currently making C.O.C. basketball. Clean Out the Cupboard Basketball.
He is in the process of bringing in his own talent that fits his system. Bill Parcells used to say, ""If I'm going to be asked to cook the meal, I'd like to be able to pick the groceries."
Different sport but same concept.
I have mentioned before that in the short amount of time Groce has been on campus he made serious gains in recruiting. You have to have a foundation recruiting class in any coaches start to a program. He did that at Ohio University by grabbing D.J. Cooper out of Chicago to start his career there.
That adjustment just might be playing the younger kids on the team and showing them the future is now. These kids have been given scholarships to play basketball at the University of Illinois. These scholarships are renewable after each year. This is what a new coach will look at after the seasons end.
If there are players in the upcoming recruiting classes they feel better fit their system and a current player who they had not brought in doesn't fit then he could have his scholarship not renewed. Players transfer every year. This is were the current roster of players on this Illini team need to look in the mirror and decide if they are going to be here in the future.
Because when you go to the cupboard to get your dogs a bone you want to know you have it well stocked.
And well stocked with the type of bones you crave.
Posted by WGCY Newsroom at 5:00 PM