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Identity Crisis? (Part 2)

December 9, 2009

Before I wrote  the first Identity Crisis? post, I hadn’t realized that Daily Illini columnist Rich Mayor tackled this very same issue a few days ago.

Unfortunately for Rich, he’s on the wrong side of this argument. Here’s a rebuke from common sense…

When you think of (Weber’s) teams, what common trait do they all possess? What common trait has always been there, a staple of his coaching and, in turn, Illinois basketball? What common trait has led to his winning more games than any Big Ten coach in his first six years?

Clearly Rich is talking about defense, but the actual answer is coaching.

Weber has done more with HIS  recruits than a lot of “BCS” conference coaches have done in the last few years. Everything before the 2005-2006 season was done with mostly Bill Self’s guys, who were offensive players.

The only reason recent Illini teams have had a “defensive” identity is because Weber had no choice. The coach can only do so much with the tools he’s got. And Weber sure as schnitzel wasn’t going to try to outscore his opponents with offensively disabled players like Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham and Calivn Brock.

Speaking of those guys…

Senior guards Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock had almost zero ability to create their own shots, yet they played intelligent defense and shut teams down, forcing them to play at the snail pace the Illini were most comfortable at.

And how many of those guys are playing in the NBA right now? And how comfortable did the Illini look trying to slow down Western Kentucky in the tournament?

I rest my case.

I would rather have my heart surgically removed with a wooden spoon than watch Frazier, Meacham and Brock try to play offense. They are the right players for the right system…in the 1950s.  I heard Brock has got a mean potty shot.

Last season, Illinois led the Big Ten and ranked third in the nation in scoring defense (57.2 points per game). This year? Not even sniffing elite status at 65.6 points per game.

Do you know how many points on average the national runner-up 2004-2005 Illini allowed to their opponents?


I wouldn’t exactly call that “elite” status either, but that team made it to the Final Four while your 57.2 points per game team was bounced in the first round by a mid-major.

Just saying.

I understand you’re still in college and finals are just around the corner, but here’s the thing Rich: you’re talking out your ass.

The best players are the ones that score. Those are the guys who make it to the NBA. If you can’t score, you don’t play professionally. That’s why the stars of your Defensive Illini like Frazier, Meacham, Brock, Brain Randle, Warren Carter and Shawn Pruitt are out-sourcing their skills to countries that use umlauts and where man-pris are actually in style.

On the other hand, scorers like Deron Williams and Luther Head find themselves being picked in the first round of the NBA draft. Coincidence? I think not.

This is is because (prepare yourself for a rare cliche usage on my part) the best defense in college basketball is a great offense.

As long as your superior offense can keep scoring, you put pressure on the other team to match you point-for-point. This is a given in the NBA, but in the less-perfect, more-entertaining college game, teams will start forcing/rushing bad shots because they have to play catch-up. This is how the ’04-’05 Illini played and this how programs like North Carolina, Duke, UConn, Kansas and Kentucky win every year.

You want 40-point games and losses in the first round of the NCAA tournament? That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. Mid-major coaches make a career at one school with those kind of numbers.

But this is Illinois, not Western Kentucky. It’s not too late to transfer if you’re interested Rich.

Boom, roasted.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben permalink
    December 14, 2009 12:41 pm

    Rich is associating giving up lots of points with bad defense, when in reality those points are due to more possessions, partially from what you said, and partially from the amount of turnovers the Illini commit.

  2. Ben permalink
    December 14, 2009 12:43 pm

    Meh, I’ll correct myself. Our turnover numbers are actually lower than they have been in years.

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