SOC - Rutgers (Plus Basketball)
You have currently viewed 1 story this month.
IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.
Gonna have to combine two posts here. Thoughts on the exhibition basketball game tonight + thoughts on the football game tomorrow. I had originally planned on writing two but I don't want to fall asleep in the pressbox tomorrow. Let's start with basketball.
This game was nearly exactly what I was hoping for. Let's start with what I wrote last night in the (new, basketball version of SOC called) "So, How We Doin'?" post:
I really do hope they give us a test. I'm hoping to see Belo and Kofi play 12 minutes and then the rest can be "how does this team function without Belo and Kofi?". Maybe sit Trent for long stretches, too.
Give me at least 20 minutes from Coleman Hawkins and at least 15 minutes from all of the freshmen. Omar Payne only played 9 minutes against St. Francis - I'd like to see at least 18 tomorrow night.
And just give me something where Indiana (PA) goes on an 8-0 run and Underwood has to call a timeout. I always want these exhibition games to provide the first "oh man, we need to step it up" of the season.
Let's see how we did on some of those requests:
- "Give me at least 20 minutes from Coleman Hawkins" - Hawkins played 24 minutes (16 points, 9 rebounds)
- "18 minutes from Omar Payne" - Payne played only 9 minutes again.
- "Indiana (PA) goes on an 8-0 run and Underwood has to call a timeout" - They did go on a 7-0 run in the first half (to take a 14-10 lead), but there was no timeout. They did, however, have a quick 5-0 burst at the beginning of the second half that caused Underwood to take a 30-second timeout.
So I feel like I mostly got what I wanted. The 94-79 score is fine as far as "how it looks" is concerned. Thanks, 9x-7x. The 79 points by IUP allow Brad Underwood to just put on the film and they say "really? REALLY?" for the next week. The difference defensively without Trent and Da'Monte was glaring. So this provides lots and lots to work on in the next 11 days before the opener.
I guess I shoult talk about why no Trent and Da'Monte. Da'Monte was being held out (as was Austin Hutcherson) for nagging injuries. And Trent hurt his shoulder in the first half and only played four minutes. He immediately went back to the locker room, scaring the entire builting, but he did return and play two more minutes later. To me, I'm reading that as "the trainers checked him out, it wasn't a serious injury, so he played two more minutes to see if he could play through the pain but then he shut it down."
Without those three, there was a clear "five main guys" tonight. Which means that if our rotation will be eight guys (much like last year), I think we know the eight guys. The three guys sitting out plus Belo, Kofi, Grandison, Plummer, and Hawkins. I'm guessing Omar Payne is then the ninth guy after that, but it seemed pretty clear these first two exhibition games that there's eight main guys.
I have a lot more to say about basketball, but I'll save that for the massive preview (comes out in six days!). Let's get to the SOC.
I'll just say it now and you can skip to the end. I'm predicting a loss tomorrow. I will now spend the next several paragraphs explaining why.
This team just beat #7 Penn State on the road. One would think that this immediately translates to beating Rutgers at home. But there's a reason Rutgers is favored here. There's a reason the line moved three whole points in the Rutgers direction. This is still first-year Illinois with quarterback issues. And it's probably going to be really difficult for first-year Illinois with quarterback issues to win two games in a row in the Big Ten.
Maybe I should say it this way. Rutgers went to Michigan in late September and almost won. Say a few plays went the other way - say Rutgers beat Michigan but Illinois lost a heartbreaker to Penn State - then you'd 100% expect a Rutgers win tomorrow right? I don't think it would even be a question.
That's how I see this game. 2nd-year-of-the-rebuild Rutgers vs. 1st-year-of-the-rebuild Illinois. I feel like they're slightly ahead of us at this point. We just played our best game of the season, they just played their worst (a 21-7 loss at Northwestern), and now they're coming off a bye week and we have an emotional hangover.
Look, I would love to win this game. I'd probably run around recording From The Stands just saying "at 4-5 this team can ABSOLUTELY GET TO BOWL ELIGIBILITY." It would be a dream. But I just can't see it, even when I squint. I don't think I'm being fatalistic here - just realistic. We still have massive QB problems, and two games ago Wisconsin held us under 100 yards, and the Barge Package can only take us so far.
I'm not sure I have much more to say about this game. I just feel like it will be a close game with Rutgers pulling away in the end. If I could picture us moving the ball through the air, I'd predict an Illini win, but I keep trying and trying and I can't picture it. I just can't see a scenario where that happens, and I don't think the run game can cover for the passing game two games in a row.
Rutgers 24, Illinois 20