In what was a shocking development that I wasn't expecting at all following the end of the football season this week, #AskTCR has received a buttload of questions about the quarterback battle between Aaron Bailey and Wes Lunt, as well as another buttload of questions about Tim Banks, when Tim Banks would be fired and who would replace Tim Banks after he was fired.
Well, we've sort of gotten answers to all of those questions already this week, but we're going to include them in the Mailbag anyway. Just for a chance to get a bit more in depth.
Unfortunately, there was also one question that came in that was AWESOME, but I just haven't had enough time this week to give it the answer I really wanted to. I was actually going to base this entire week's #AskTCR around it, but I just can't. The end of the regular season is an extremely busy time for me with all these damn coaches being fired.
Anyway, if you want to send in a question for next week's #AskTCR and hope that I'm not too busy to give it a proper answer, here's how you do it.
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 TheChampaignRoom@gmail.com. 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.
And to the questions.
@Champaign_Room #AskTCR Who do you have in the QB race, Lunt or Bailey? Will Cubit change the system and/or sets to match the QB?— Ken Chenoweth (@Ken_Chenoweth) December 2, 2013
Well, I think the more likely candidate is Wes Lunt, and I felt that way even before Bill Cubit talked about it earlier this week. It's not that I think Cubit wouldn't be able to change up his system if he had to, but more the fact that not changing the system is ideal.
Both Lunt and Bailey have been working in the system since getting on campus. Why change it up and set back everything the both of them have learned in that time? And considering that Lunt is more experienced in the type of offense the Illini run -- he threw in both high school and at Oklahoma State while Bailey ran the option in high school -- then I don't see how you can consider anybody but him to be the favorite at this point.
Although, to be clear, that doesn't mean the job is his. Aaron Bailey may not have a lot of experience in a passing offense, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the ability to play in one. He has a strong arm, and considering Cubit's previous work with a lot of less talented quarterbacks than Aaron, it's not exactly crazy to think Bailey can improve as we go through the spring and summer. It's just he has an uphill battle to fight right now.
And to be honest, no matter which one of them wins the starting position next season, quarterback isn't really the position I'm worried about. That's one of the few spots on this roster in which we have multiple quality options available to us. I understand it's the obvious question because it's the quarterback position, but I'm much more interested to see the position battles at wide receiver, on the defensive line, among the linebackers and in the secondary this offseason. Those are going to be the spots that make or break us.
@Champaign_Room Who's getting fired? Banks has to. #AskTCR— Mike Rohan (@MikePRohan) December 1, 2013
Well, it doesn't sound like he will be right now. But like I said on Tuesday night, the way Beckman worded it isn't set in stone. So there's a possibility Banks could still be replaced, though I'm no longer expecting it to happen.
As for the rest of the staff, save for Matt Sinclair, I wouldn't expect anybody else to be fired. Though that doesn't mean somebody won't leave on their own for another job.
@Champaign_Room Can we expect the defense to get better next year under Banks? They are very young have a ton of returning starters.#asktcr— Keith Cummins (@Illfan76) December 1, 2013
We most certainly can. Though that doesn't necessarily mean all that much. I mean, when you finish 112th (in the nation) in total defense, 115th in yards per play, 105th in scoring defense and 118th in rushing defense, it's hard not to improve simply because you don't have a lot of room to get worse.
However, I think the improvement will be greater than that lowest of ceilings. I've felt the defense would improve next season no matter who the coordinator was based simply on so many starters returning. Now, that doesn't mean I thought Tim Banks would be back.
I've felt he would be the sacrifice to the angry fans to maybe take some heat off of Beckman, and I was more than okay with that because even if the defense does improve under Banks next season, I feel like the unit might improve even more under somebody else's tutelage. I hope he proves me wrong, but after two seasons the fact is that I just haven't been all that impressed with what I've seen from Banks' defenses.
#AskTCR Is it just me, or is it odd the Illini were not in a preseason tournament this year?— TJMC/Pirate Dash (@toonboy92484) December 2, 2013
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.
Who are your top 10 picks in a college basketball coaches draft? Assume school tradition doesn't exist(NW is the same as Kentucky!) so a school getting Coach K for 2 years may not be better off than a school getting Calipari for 15. -- Tim Lamkin
This is that awesome question I mentioned in the intro. I really wish I had more time available to go deep into this one just because it's such a good idea and a fun topic. In fact, there's a good chance I could use this as the basis of a post over the summer once the basketball season ends.
As for now, I know a lot of people don't like him, but I'd have to lean toward Calipari with my first pick. There's the worry that he'd bolt for the NBA, yes, but if he doesn't he'll probably win at least one national title for me.
I'd also include Brad Stevens if I can pry him back from the NBA.
One coach I could leave off that folks may be surprised by is Shaka Smart. It's not that I don't think Smart is a very good coach, it's just I'd like to wait and see at this point. With college basketball's new emphasis on hand-checking and the rest of the touch fouls, I have some doubts about Smart's system of full court pressure. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts his defense to the way they're calling fouls now.
Another coach I really like is Fran McCaffery. In fact, no offense, Iowa, but I'm hoping he has enough success in Iowa City that a bigger school comes along and takes him away from you like Kansas did to us with Bill Self.
As for the rest of the list, I'm guessing what most of you want to know is whether or not I'd include John Groce in my top ten. At this point, no, I wouldn't. I don't think Groce is one of the ten best coaches in the country right now. I think he's fully capable of attaining that level of success, but he's not there yet. The good news is he's only 42 and has plenty of time to get there, and I hope he does it in Champaign.
@Champaign_Room which loss is worse...losing to georgia tech last night, or losing to Northwestern last year? #AskTCR— Sam Sherman (@Sam_Sherman5) December 4, 2013
Last year's loss to Northwestern, without a doubt. That loss was to a terrible team at home with an Illini roster chock full of experience. Last night we lost to an ACC team on the road with a roster full of freshmen. Yes, last night's loss could hurt a lot come March, but as far as the loss itself is concerned, Northwestern was far worse.
Especially when you saw what the Illini did to the Wildcats in Evanston later in the year.
How long before we see Jaylon Tate running the point in crunch time instead of Tracy Abrams? (Please, please say not long at all.) - Scott Stein
It'll probably be a while. Listen, I know Tracy hasn't played well on the offensive end this season. But the fact of the matter is we've got a lot of games coming up on the road in the next few weeks with conference play right after that. During crunch time I can't help but think John Groce has a lot more trust in Abrams than he does in the true freshman right now.
And one important thing for us to remember: Jaylon Tate has played very well, all things considered, but we don't know that he'd be any better in crunch time simply because we haven't seen him yet. But during the first half yesterday, when both Abrams and Egwu hit the bench with foul trouble, we didn't exactly light the world on fire during that stretch.
@Champaign_Room what are the odds I can talk you into coming to a tennis match this spring? #AskTCR— Ross Guignon (@RossyG123) December 1, 2013
Not very good!
Listen, if I lived in Champaign, there'd be a chance. But I don't live in Champaign, nor am I much of a tennis fan. My girlfriend loves tennis. I have tried to get into it with her. I just can't. So the chances of me spending five hours in a car round trip to see a tennis match are somewhere between slim and none.
But you have my support. It's just that support is coming from Chicago.
#AskTCR What does a realistic bball class of 2015 look like? Does it include Charles Matthews?— Jeff Feyerer (@jfey5) December 2, 2013
My 2015 class prediction ETCHED IN STONE: D.J. Williams, Aaron Jordan, a big man to be determined later and Charles Matthews.
@Champaign_Room #AskTCR Is the lack of growth throughout the season in Aaron Bailey's utilization the biggest disappointment from the year?— Brad Stahl (@bmstahl) December 2, 2013
No, not for me. I'd have liked to see Bailey get better and utilized more as the season progressed, but to me the biggest disappointment is going to be the defense. Simply put, if we just had a below average defense instead of a terrible defense, we're preparing for a bowl game right now. Maybe not a nice bowl game, but a bowl game.
And a bad bowl game is better than no bowl game because then we're more optimistic about next season, and we also have one more game we're able to watch before the season is over.
@Champaign_Room what bowl game do the illini go to in 2014 #AskTCR— Mike Zagorski (@mzagorskijr) December 2, 2013
THE ROSE BOWL.
Serious answer: The Heart of Dallas, the Pinstripe of that new bowl game in Detroit.
Baseketball or Tazerball? Which would you rather play and/or watch an entire season of? - bakes1412
TAZERBALL. TAZERBALL BY A LOT. THE BIG TEN NEEDS TO ADD TAZERBALL.
@Champaign_Room who could be a breakout player for the team next year that did not contribute much this year? (No Lunt or Bailey) #ASKTCR— Jacob Puls (@JacobPuls) December 3, 2013
Good question. I think the obvious position to look at on offense would be wide receiver, and I've been a fan of Justin Hardee for a while now. I thought we'd see a lot more of him this year, but he only caught 11 passes for 95 yards. However, with guys like Ryan Lankford, Steve Hull and Miles Osei all gone, I think Hardee will finally break through in his junior season and prove to be one of our most valuable weapons on offense.
On defense I'd go with T.J. Neal or Jarrod Clements. Neal started seeing more time toward the end of the season, and his play was enough to make you wonder what took so damn long to put him out there. And Clements is somebody I think can earn himself a starting spot next season and have an impact.
We are having a party this weekend, what should the theme be? #AskTCR— Tony Gallo (@firet92) December 3, 2013
A "Let's Get Drunk And Have A Good Time" theme usually works for me.
Thanks for the questions! If you submitted a question that didn't get answered, don't worry, it's possible that I'm just saving it for the next mailbag. It's also possible the question sucked and you need to ask better questions next time. I guess you'll just have to wait to find out.
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