Turnaround


Robert
Jan 15, 2022
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3 Comments

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It's kind of hilarious that both Tyler and I covered the game last night, it's currently 10:09 am, and neither of us have written about the game last night. We went to the game, then we went to a bar, then we went to another bar, and then we went to Merry Anne's. So writing last night... didn't happen.

But I have my coffee now, and Tyler, Carmen, and I are tossing around the idea of recording a podcast (because all we're doing is sitting here boring my wife with our "remember that win over Purdue in early 2020?" stories so we might as well record them), and I told them I needed to write something before we do that. This is that something.

Our conversation focused on that Purdue game. Two years ago right now. Early January 2020 and we go to Michigan State where we're blown out of the gym. Our shooting continues to be horrendous (313th nationally in three point percentage). We had gone 4-14 in the Big Ten, then we'd gone 7-13 in the Big Ten, and then we started 1-2, with the second loss being that 76-56 loss at Michigan State. Brad Underwood is starting his third conference season and, when you include Big Ten Tournament games, he's 13-31 in Big Ten games.

I've referenced this several times before, but here's what I wrote after that Michigan State loss. Ayo as a sophomore and Kofi as a freshman and somehow we were 9-5 on the season. I was... not handling it well:

When I say that I broke during the Missouri loss, I really think I broke. I've watched the last two games angry and more angry, and I never watch games angry. I'm perhaps the most patient fan on the planet, and I just can't handle the fact that we're going to go 16-15 this season.

After giving John Groce the injury excuses for the 2015/16 season, I swore I would never stray from my original statement. Because of the history of the programs, football coaches at Illinois should be given five full years to see what they can produce and, also because of the history of the program and the resources available, Illinois basketball coaches should be given 2.5 years. See what the third recruiting class looks like, see what the third team looks like mid-January of their third season.

It's January of the third season, we have Kofi, we have Ayo, we have Giorgi, we have Trent, we have Andres, and we have Alan Griffin.... and we're 9-5 and didn't win any of our important non-conference games. Teams that should be well below us given where they were last year and the players they lost - Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State, Indiana - look better than us so far. If we lose on Sunday, we'll be 9-6 and will probably need an 11-5 finish to dance. Half of those games will be on the road, and we only won once on the road last year and once on the road the year before, so... can you really see us winning 3-4 road games?

This is a crisis. We're in big, big trouble. We can't shoot - THREE HUNDRED THIRTY FIRST NATIONALLY - and if we don't start at least hitting an average number of threes, there's absolutely no chance we roll off 11 more Big Ten wins. Which means we will miss the Tournament for the seventh straight year.

I haven't checked KenPom's projections yet (his prediction for our record). Let's do that together, shall we? KenPom says we will finish the season... 17-14. I don't think that's even in the NIT. How is this even happening? We're really going to sit home in March again?

I guess there's always a chance for a Wisconsin moment. I said these same things after the Eastern Michigan loss for the football team. I went on the radio and talked about how I was like that guy pinning everything on the wall and running red strings from page to page, trying to figure out what he missed at training camp. I was certain there was 7-5 talent on that team, and I couldn't understand how that talent lost to Eastern Michigan. Well, that talent then went on a run, beat #6, drilled Purdue, thumped Rutgers, and put together the largest comeback in school history at Michigan State. So it's possible we'll see the basketball team do the same. The Illinois basketball equivalent of Illini football rolling off four consecutive Big Ten wins is something like 9 straight wins, right? Maybe this basketball team wins nine straight some time soon?

I mean, it has to, right? For our sanity? We're all going to break soon, right? I think I'm going to break soon.

I didn't break. Starting with the very next game, we won seven straight (including the Ayo daggers at Wisconsin and at Michigan). We went 13-7 in the Big Ten and were set up for maybe a six or seven seed (perhaps much higher if the Big Ten Tournament had happened) when Covid closed the world.

Tyler, Carmen, and I were discussing that very moment this morning. Tyler stated it very succinctly: the Purdue game in early 2020 (when we beat Purdue 63-37) was the very specific turnaround moment. January 5th, 2020, so nearly exactly two years ago.

Here's the stats:

  • Before that game, Brad Underwood was 13-31 in Big Ten games.
  • Since that game, Brad Underwood is 37-9 in Big Ten games.

Thirty seven and nine.

Now I need to get to 37 Big Ten wins working backwards from that date. Here's a candidate for Stat Of The Year:

December 2014 through January 2, 2020: 37 Big Ten wins in 103 games.
January 3, 2020 through January 14, 2022: 37 Big Ten wins in 46 games.

Yeah that might be the stat of the year full stop. I might just need to end this post after only 30 minutes of typing and go record that podcast.

37-66
followed by
37-9

I want to go back and tell January 3, 2020 me - the one freaking out and screaming HOW IS THIS HAPPENING - to take a very deep breath.

He's about to have his mind completely blown.

Comments

ATOillini on January 15, 2022 @ 01:41 PM

Good, honest reflection…which is rare these days.

6-0 in conference is a fantastic start. However, since you’ve focused on numbers here, it should be noted that the combined conference record so far for 5 of those 6 teams is a not so great 5-21 as of Friday night. Obviously tougher competition awaits.

HNLINI on January 15, 2022 @ 01:59 PM

While we admittedly have not played the tougher part of our schedule this year, it should also be noted that we have won 20 of our past 21 B1G games, which has to be our best run since 2004-2005. Underwood deserves a lot of credit for turning things around.

danny on January 15, 2022 @ 02:57 PM

You can only beat the teams on your schedule. Winning at Iowa n Minny are never easy.

As someone once said “you are what your record says you are”. Right now the Illini are 6-0 and leading the conference.

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