Since our last mailbag, Illinois has continued to keep losing at basketball and I have spent the past two days snowed into my apartment. Sure would be nice if the landlord would send a plow to clean out our parking lot. It's not like a foot of snow has fallen or anything. Then again, it would be nice if they replaced the burnt out light in the hallway that has been out since I came back a month ago. The past two weeks have been great for #AskTCR though, as you've all been contributing questions at an wonderfully high rate. Let's keep that mojo going.
There are two ways to ask The Champaign Room your questions. You can tweet them at us on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTCR -- it just makes it easier to keep track -- or you can email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. Well change your name to Tom Crean when we publish it on the site. And remember, you can ask us ANYTHING. It doesn't have to be about Illinois or even sports.
This is what tends to happen when a conference is viewed as the top one in a sport. It's just like the SEC in football: it all depends on how you want to look at it.
Last year, the Big Ten was amazingly strong and had us all hyped for the 2013-14 season. So far that season has the Michigan schools on top while Ohio State and Wisconsin have the same conference record as a Northwestern team that lost to Illinois State. An Illini squad that made it through an OOC schedule with only two losses and a victory over Missouri has only managed to go 2-8. It's odd. It's just really, really odd.
You could pull the SEC fan move and claim it is because the league is so danged strong from top to bottom unlike all them other weak, wussy conferences from around the country, but that would only be half true at best. There is one very good team (Sparty), two pretty good teams (Michigan and Iowa), and a bunch of confused power teams that should be doing better but are mired in bizarre death spirals (OSU, Wisky, Indiana, Minnesota). We knew Indiana and Illinois would have down years, but not this down. I'd say it's more probable that the conference was a bit overrated this season but likely to be back up next year.
Who are on #AskTCR 's celebrity crush list? Mine: J Lawrence, Giada, Hayden P, Julianne Hough and Lolo Jones.— Gary Guidi (@BisonGary) January 31, 2014
My favorite part of this is that Gary only picked one super obvious choice, as what straight male between the ages of 15-40 isn't somewhat in love with Jennifer Lawrence? Kudos, Gary, you've made this exercise far more fun for me (and hopefully commenters). With that in mind, I'm skipping the blatantly obvious options (the Scarlett Johannson types).
The thing with me is, if the girl is pretty, odds are I have a crush on her. That's just who I've always been. So this will be an incomplete list, but it's the thought that counts, right? Also, keep in mind I am 25. In no specific order:
- The entire female cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, Chelsea Peretti)
- Comedienne Natasha Leggero
- Ava Crowder from Justified (Joelle Carter)
- Alison Brie from Community
- Jennette McCurdy (I'm very jealous of Andre Drummond)
- Musician Neko Case
- Lizzy Caplan
- Emilia Clarke, Natalie Dormer, Carice van Houten, and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones has far too beautiful of a cast)
- I'm going to stop now before this post becomes 2,000 words about women I find attractive.
Would Scheelhaase throw for a single passing yard tonight if he quarterbacked both Denver and Seattle? #AskTCR— John Sanderson (@sandman_12) February 2, 2014
Yes. Zero throwing yards seems silly.
Will Egwu ever catch a pass again? Is John Groce a bad coach? Is it too late to hire Jerrance? Is basketball turning into football? #AskTCR— John Sanderson (@sandman_12) February 2, 2014
Mr. Sandman, you are like a Gatling gun of punchy questions this week, aren't you? In order (and with short responses because you asked so many questions: Yes, no, yes, no.
Egwu is better than this. Groce is also better than this. Jerrance Howard seems pretty happy in Lawrence, and who could blame him? Town has a PepperJax AND let's dogs into dive bars. It would take a lot more than one bad year to turn basketball into what happened with the football team. A basketball squad is a lot easier to restock than an entire football roster.
#askTCR why aren't we good at anything?— Tony Gallo (@firet92) February 2, 2014
Don't be so hard on yourself, Rooster. You're good at getting into the mailbag every week! I'm sure you have many other talents. You seem like a good guy. I believe in you.
Email from Scott Stein-
Does Illinois have men's and/or women's curling teams? If so, can I root for them without fearing a massive conference losing streak? If we don't have curling teams, why the hell not?
Sadly, there are no curling teams at Illinois. Not even on the club level. And I agree with you, it is an outrage. I'm going to blame former Chancellor Richard Herman, because that guy was the worst.
Since I only attended one concert at Assembly Hall during my four years, the Jay-Z concert my senior year wins by default. And showmanship wise, it tops every other concert I've ever been to. The man rose out of the ground! He also stayed on stage for something between 90-120 minutes and spent a solid 10 minutes of that thanking the crowd while having a camera man display individuals on the jumbotron for him to single out and thank one by one. I'll never forget feeling the bass rumble the wires in my broken wrist. It didn't hurt, but it was still a really strange feeling.
Favorite concert in Chambana would be a tie between Wu-Tang Clan at the Canopy Club and the Hold Steady at the Union Cafe. Two very small venues for groups who put on amazing live shows. I was front row SRO for both. I got to meet the real U-God and shake his hand. Cappodonna hugged me after the show while eating a gigantic chicken wing. I helped carry the War on Drugs equipment off the stage so the Hold Steady could play sooner. There's something magical about the coffee shop at the Union hosting a band you love. Favorite non-Chambana show? Joe Pug at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Very low key, perfect for his type of music.
#AskTCR five positive things about Coach Timmy Beckman's 2014 Fighting Illini football recruiting class? Thanks.— Jeff Johnson (@therealJeffJ97) February 3, 2014
Thank you for asking a question and being so mannerly, Jeff. Your folks did a good job. I'll do my best without stepping on Zidow's toes (he's spent so much more time on the recruiting angle and it is a blessing to have him on board).
1. Wes Lunt. While not technically a recruit, I still consider him one. With Lunt and Aaron Bailey on board, Bill Cubit is being handed two rocket-armed weapons at quarterback (or whatever Bailey may become if not QB) that have more talent than anything he had at WMU. That is scary.
2. The army of receivers. Other than Arrelious Benn, wide receiver always seemed to be an afterthought for Ron Zook. Just recruit a bunch of athletes and let God sort it out. That's different with Beckman, especially now with Cubit. Cubit has a track record of turning lesser heralded prospects into demonic receiving weapons. And this recruiting class is heavy on receivers and giant ones at that. If you liked last year's passing offense, this year's should be even better.
3. Improvement on the defensive line. Well, it's not like the line could get any worse, but adding talents like Paul James III, Tito Odenigbo, and Jihad Ward should go a long way towards ultimately fixing what ailed that unit. James gives the team some sorely needed pass rush talent. Odenigbo can play anywhere on the line. Ward is going to be an absolute monster in the middle of the line. While they won't be perfect this year, they'll be a massive improvement over what we had, which will help the defense as a whole. Tim Banks' defenses at Cincinnati were predicated on pressure and turnovers. He hasn't had any players here capable of causing much pressure, which is why there haven't been many turnovers.
4. Beckman is building pipelines. It's always going to be hard for Illinois to recruit out of region. We're not a big name. That makes it even more important to try keeping the top talent from the Land of Lincoln instate. Beckman hasn't nailed all of that down, but he's starting to become firmly established in areas he needs to be. With Aaron Bailey, Mike Dudek, Nick Allegretti, and Julian Hylton, he's started establishing connections in the Chicago suburbs. Josh Ferguson and Matt Domer come from two of the stronger private school programs in the Chicagoland area. Lunt and Malik Turner come from the center of the state, with Turner coming from the premier private school program in central Illinois. It all adds up.
5. Kansas State was built on JUCOs. I'm not saying Beckman is the next Bill Snyder. I hope he is. Snyder has built a fiefdom out of JUCOs and lesser recruits. If you have a gameplan and a system, you can make it work. JUCOs help patch up holes on the roster faster, allowing actual depth to build behind them.
I don't really care much for the Black Eyed Peas, but I did always enjoy the song "Hands Up" off the album Elephunk.
It's a legitimate concern. While I miss the tradition, it was probably the right time to retire the Chief's dance. I do wish the Chief logo could still be used though, as I think it was one of the best logos in sports. Native American team names/logos are a difficult minefield to navigate. I'm not a Native American, so I don't think my opinion should really count for much towards saying what is offensive and what isn't. If I had a vote, I'd say that I don't think of Braves as an offensive team name, but the retro "laughing savage" logo definitely is. Indians is more of a grey area. I think it's an okay team name when not combined with offensive imagery. There's a reason Cleveland is phasing out Chief Wahoo.
The Washington Redskins need to change their team name. But the logo? That's where I always get to the part that worries me. I don't think the Redskins logo, on its own merits, is particularly offensive. It's not a caricature like Chief Wahoo. It's not Chief Knockahoma. It's basically the Chicago Blackhawks logo, but attached to an incredibly offensive nickname. I view our old Chief logo as similar to Florida State's logo. Both are beautiful and (in at least my mind) inoffensive.
But once again, it's not my opinion that really matters here. That all being said, I don't see the school having to abandon the Illini and Fighting Illini names. The state is named after the former tribe. The state's flagship university shouldn't have to walk away from that name. Things may change down the line, but I don't see it happening.
If he makes a bowl game, I think he's definitely safe. That shows solid improvement from each year moving forward and it would be very difficult to fire him for that without some sort of scandal occurring. I think a five win season with close losses and improvement being displayed earns him one more year. Four wins or fewer though? I think that gets him axed.
As long as there is a lot of orange and none of that stupid "let's add grey to every school's color scheme" crap, I'll be happy.
And that's all the time we have for this week. Thanks again and ready your questions for next Wednesday. Happy National Signing Day!