Earlier today in #AskTCR I was asked if I thought it was weird that the Illini didn't play in any of the preseason tournaments this year. Here was my answer.
No, not really. We've known for a while that the Illini wouldn't be playing in one. In fact, we've known since the Maui Invitational last year when John Groce made it pretty clear we wouldn't be.
Groce is following the blueprint laid down by Thad Matta at Ohio State. He believes there's a lot more value to your team to play as many early games at home as possible, and help build up your resume with wins rather than a quality win and a quality loss you're more likely to pick up in a preseason tournament.
Groce talked about our lack of home games last year and how that was one of the things he was going to change in the future. So these neutral site games we're playing with Auburn and Oregon the next few weeks? We won't be seeing many more of those in the future either.
Then, maybe after a few years when Groce has built the program back up, and we find ourselves ranked on a weekly basis and a Big Ten contender, maybe we start seeing the Illini in some preseason tournaments again. But I emphasize maybe.
So of course a few hours after I write that Marcus Jackson drops these tweets.
Not sure if this has been out there, but the #Illini will be playing in the 2014 Las Vegas Invite over Thanksgiving weekend.— Marcus Jackson (@MarcusJ_NG) December 4, 2013
Baylor and Memphis among the other teams in the eight-team field with the #Illini which will be played at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.— Marcus Jackson (@MarcusJ_NG) December 4, 2013
So, like I was saying, yeah, it's totally weird the Illini didn't play in a preseason tournament this year. I bet they do next year.
Baylor, Memphis and Illinois will likely be the headliners for the event. This year's tournament had UCLA, Northwestern, Missouri, Nevada, Morehead State, IUPUI, Gardner-Webb and Chattanooga. UCLA won.
Frankly I'm fine with playing in this kind of preseason tournament. Possible games against Baylor and Memphis -- sidenote: one of Leron Black's first games could be against Baylor, the team he originally committed to, or Memphis, his hometown team -- look nice on the resume come tournament time, and they're also somewhat winnable. So if the Illini win the tournament, they look really good.
Drawbacks for this tournament are that I'm extremely busy with work during Thanksgiving weekend. But I doubt any of you care about that.