So, How We Doin'? Arkansas State
You have currently viewed 1 story this month.
IlliniBoard now offers two free stories per month, for more please subscribe.
Just do not feel good about this game. I don't know a single thing about Arkansas State besides KenPom having them 185th out of 358 teams, but if 4 of the top 8 guys in the expected rotation are out, I'm scared of any game unless the team is ranked in the bottom 20% like Jackson State.
Now, maybe the game starts and Andre Curbelo is in uniform and I breathe a sigh of relief. Just having Belo back would make this game a zero sweat game for me. But if we're missing Belo + Kofi + Trent + Hutcherson again, we don't have any ball handlers (or our All American center) and that scares me against any average opponent.
Tyler tweeted this the other night:
I used T-Rank in several posts this spring and summer. Mostly because they'd allow you to add or subtract players from the roster and see how that team projected forward into next season. As I recall, when Da'Monte, Trent, and (especially) Kofi announced their return we went from something like 46th nationally to 5th. And there, as Tyler is showing you, if you remove Trent, Kofi, and Curbelo, Illinois drops from 5th to 65th.
And that's pretty much exactly how I see basketball. I'd say that in the last 10 years, if you try to find the most commonly written basketball article on IlliniBoard, it would be "there are no superstars, and teams without stars just can't go very far". Until we returned to having Derons and Dees and Frankies and Kendalls on our team, we wouldn't return to having those type of seasons.
We then saw an Ayo-Kofi-Trent team get a 1-seed. And this year we're hoping to see a Belo-Kofi-Trent team stay in the top-10 all season. And this game might be Belo-Kofi-Trent-less. Which just returns us to a decent, finish somewhere 8th-through-10th-in-the-league Big Ten team. 65th sounds just about right. That's... this year's Penn State team.
If you heard that Penn State was struggling at home with Arkansas State, it wouldn't really surprise you. So if you heard that Illinois was struggling with Arkansas State tomorrow night without Kofi, Trent, or Belo, would that surprise you?
This isn't a shot at this year's team. It's just the same statement I've made for years. Two great players can move a team from the NIT to a 2-seed. College basketball, at least the way I see it, is a talent-driven sport. And if your top three players are out, it would be a significant blow to every single program in the country.
Pick any of the ten teams in front of Illinois in the AP Poll. Take away their top three players for a few games. How do you think they'll perform? Would you be surprised at all if they struggled at home with the 185th-best team (which is pretty much smack dab in the middle - 185th out of 359 teams).
That's why I'm worried. No ballhandlers. No Kofi. Didn't matter against Jackson State. Might matter against Arkansas State. Will absolutely matter at Marquette. Would mean a 25 point loss if they were out for Purdue.
So put me down for a win, but an uncomfortable win. I don't think I'll be watching. I'm in Idaho right now with my son and his wife (bye-week trip), so Tyler is covering each of the next two games. Probably going out to eat tomorrow night, so I doubt I'll see any of the Arkansas State game. And I'll be in the air flying home on Monday night, so I won't see any of Marquette.
Which might be a blessing if all three guys (plus Hutcherson, who could be the point guard if he was healthy) are out for the next two games. Just feels like it's going to be harrowing basketball until those guys return. (And then it's going to be dominating basketball once they all return.)
If all three don't play and we still dominate Arkansas State and Marquette? Them I'm going to be ready to call this a top-5 team. If they're all out, I'm nervous.
Still gonna say that this one is a win, though.
Illinois 77, Arkansas State 70