Maybe Tim Miles is the wunderkind of B1G basketball. He’s managed to fill an expensive new arena at a FOOTBALL school. He managed to fill that arena while playing the slowest form of low-scoring basketball currently available in the low scoring league.
Chris Collins has done a great job with The Snail’s Pace, but man oh man is Tim Miles good at it.
The John Groce Dribble-Drive offense may be an effective system. Given his current roster, it’s about as effective as the team’s shooting percentage. It’s good enough for last place in the Big Ten. Even the most ardent Illini supporters are becoming bored with watching Tracy Abrams play one-on-three with taller defenders who can jump.
The two game experiment of starting Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill demonstrated again that Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill make valuable contributions. It’s my theory that their inclusion makes an effective line-up, but that the purpose for starting them over Jon Ekey and Joe Bertrand was psychological. I assumed that John Groce is paving the way for similar line-up changes, involving other starters.
After the game at State College, Groce spoke of Ekey and Bertrand in glowing (and statistically demonstrable) terms. That’s easy to do. Ekey and Bertrand are the kind of role players that coaches love. They’re good at following instructions.
After hearing his name not called for the second consecutive Player Introductions (an outdated, and increasingly, onerously melodramatic presentation), Ekey skipped along the bench just prior to tip-off, fiving all his teammates, hyping everyone up.
Tracy Abrams and Nnanna Egwu have done great things in Illini uniforms. But you don’t have to look past Smile Politely to find evidence of the disconnect they endure on court (search: “c’mon nnanna”). Abrams has reached the extent of his utility in the Groce system. Egwu appears and disappears as a tool for rebounding, and hedging correctly on the defensive end.
Wednesday night, Egwu rebounded and hedged correctly. Abrams played his typical one-on-three dribble-drive game, but earned only four attempts from the charity stripe.
Illinois is now, again, all alone in last place. Twelfth out of 1G. And it’s as easy for us, as it is for scouting opponents, to see why.