I’m going to do this in two parts. First, I want to talk about 06-07 in Illini basketball. Then, I’m going to spend tomorrow to talk about the 07-08 Illini.
I think it was proper how we lost to Virginia Tech the other night. It was a microcosm of our entire year. What was bad about this year:
1) The external problems, loss of recruits and multiple injuries hurt the entire program. It put a long shadow over our entire season, and it was hard to escape from it. Injuries aren’t always unavoidable, but I’m sure it makes it hard to practice with players in and out of the training room. Legal problems are another thing. If this was happening to another team, I’d be making fun of them. Now, it is happening to the Illini. It is just a shame, but this is how our season will be remembered. I’m hoping they sort this out over the summer because it will be devastating if it rolls into 07-08.
2) We didn’t have any go to scorer. Basically, we had no offense. When you can’t count on anyone to put the ball in the hole when the clock winds down, you are in trouble. When you can’t count on anyone to put the ball in the hole when you are having offensive troubles, you can’t do much on offense. Someone who can create opens up opportunities for other people on the team. We did not have it.
3) We couldn’t put other teams away. While we had no bad losses, we had no big wins. I guess our biggest win this year was Indiana during the Big Ten tournament. Out of our 12 losses we had leads in the second half for 9 of them. Let me repeat that…9. That means we were able to hang with many teams in and out of our conference. Since we had no scorer or offensive plan, we never got that big win.
Now, the good things:
1) We had great defense. I know a lot of people dog the Big Ten type of play, but I love it. And, we should be proud of the way we played defense. Weber and the team had that down.
2) Despite the adversity, we won games and made the tournament. Some people say Weber did a great job coaching this year even though his record does not really indicate that. Even with everything that happened. Even with the lack of talent. Even with all that faced our program, we had what I would call a successful season…I don’t care what anyone says.
Let’s talk about the seniors:
I expected more from Marcus Arnold but it never materialized. He could never be counted on to adequately take the place of Shaun Pruitt. He did have some games were he looked good, but he was so often over-matched.
Warren Carter is the man. He really grew into a strong player this year. He was one of our star players and the glue that held our team together when we couldn’t count on our guards. He will be missed.
Rich McBride…I’m glad this is it for you. You should have been the leader on this team but the DUI ruined your season. You could not be counted on to hit a big 3 and you often disappeared during games. All the talent just went to waster. And sadly, we will miss what you did do for our team this year.