Smile Politely

Iowa beats Illinois*


*Okay, the fact is that Illinois won by ten. Should you be ecstatic?

It was Gonzaga Part II. Illinois hit 13 of 18 from distance. That’s 72.2% It was UIC all over again, except the shots went in.

The offense looked crap in the opening minutes. On defense, Jereme Richmond started the game at the Warren Carter spot — instant offense for the other team.

But because the Illini hit seven consecutive treys to start the game, the interweb is not currently on fire.

Should you be worried?

I say go ahead and be ecstatic. It’s fun when the ball goes in. Enjoy it. Illinois beat Iowa 87 to 77 in a game that was exactly that close.

Be especially happy for Bill Cole, who hit every shot he took, grabbed six rebounds, and disrupted the Iowa offense.

Cole must have confused the Hawkeyes on the other end, too. They couldn’t find him.

There are a couple of other positives about the offense.

Richmond didn’t quit, and he didn’t get flustered. Mike Tisdale displayed interior strength. The team ran some effective sets.

These developments should all be filed in the Progress folder.


Mike Tisdale scored on a strong post move @ 5:56 of the first half. An unremarkable drop-step for bruisers like Barkley and Shaq, this play evokes nouns like epiphany, revolution and sine qua non when applied to Tisdale.

He lowered his shoulder, but moved forward and upward. He accelerated toward the rim, mid-air. He employed quickness, physical strength and the backboard.


Bruce Weber conceived a number of nice sets. His team executed them.

There were even intentionally designed inbounds plays. For real. I have the pictures to prove it.

The success of sets shows the need for specific plans during those times when straight motion conjures no magic.

If the team is in sync, fine. Let them run motion.

Sometimes it produces beautiful results.

But recent Illini teams consistently demonstrate the need for blueprints.

Look at the inbounds plays when there aren’t instructions attached. It’s hard to watch.


For those Illini fans who believe it’s never appropriate to criticize the coach, I say piss off. You’re doing no one any good.

Weber needs us on his ass as much as he needs to be on his players’ asses.

For all Weber’s inflexibility, he does learn… eventually. But you have to keep on him. It’s like his relationship with Demetri McCamey.

Sometimes we envision a different path without a full appreciation of its real-life consequences. Sometimes our analyses lack sufficient information.

But that’s the same with Weber.

For example, last night Weber said McCamey ate too much over the holiday. Here’s the full Weber postgame:

McCamey says it was sleep, not food, affecting his performance.

An old-hand at media relations, Meechi deftly inserted the phrase “with family” so you’ll know his late-night activities were wholesome, possibly church-oriented, and did not include clubbing, liquor or whore houses.

A vital shift in the Weber mentality, a seismic shift really, has yet to happen. But Meechi’s quip about sleep, and his correcting of Weber’s perception, is the latest fissure in the fault line.

I’m not talking about a player revolt. I’m talking about player psychology, mental fatigue.

It’s not that Illinois spends too much time practicing. It’s about the way the Illini practice — how they spend that time.

There’s too much scouting, especially given the determination to dictate tempo and style. The video sessions and walk-throughs are tedious. Sometimes they manifest positive results in real game situations, but not enough to counterbalance the enormous toll they take on the team. Not enough to justify the dearth of emphasis on fundamentals (stuff that’s obvious to casual observers, like free-throws and inbounds plays).

Were this team to employ alternating defenses, this argument would hold no water. But the shifting, helping man defense is read and react. It doesn’t change from team to team. The opponent’s offense is moot.

Bruce Weber is a genius until further notice; and won’t he look smart when he makes these adjustments?


John Lickliter was mysteriously absent from the Iowa bench.


Dan Flannel and Dave Dorris extended their consecutive-game attendance streak. Lorita Bertrand and uncle Randy Chattic joined them on the team bench.

I’ve not heard anyone call Fran McCaffrey arrogant. He does have a big head.

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