The tubes. This season continues to go down them. But by the time this article goes up, you'll all be too distracted by watching team USA win another hockey game to pay attention to this week's incredibly weak lead in. That's what we in the business call "choosing our shots".
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 email@example.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.
I'm 25 years old and live in a basement apartment in the middle of Kansas. I have no idea or concept about money other than that I will never have any because I stupidly decided to be a veterinarian at a time when that costs around $200K to do. Part of me wants to just say yes because why not? But please, please do not base any financial decisions on advice from the guy who spent his free time last Friday delivering flowers at $4.50 a pop (it actually worked out really well).
@Champaign_Room Weve been within 5 pts in second half most of these losses. Lose close in year 2 right? Why is the nation so negative?— Eric Weir (@callmeweir) February 17, 2014
It's the dropoff from last season. And it's compounded by the fact that the football team hasn't been good for a few seasons. Basketball is always supposed to be the respite from the woes of another winter without a bowl game. We all knew it would be a down year for John Groce and the boys, but none of us expected it to be this down. Which, honestly, makes us idiots. The bench has five freshmen on it. Our entire offense was built to revolve around a transfer from a mid-major and a streaky player who seemed to be better off the bench. The good news is that Kendrick Nunn has taken a giant step forward and the team is looking considerably less green. No one enjoys watching a rebuild, but sadly that's what we're having to watch right now with both major sports. Things will be better for both squads this next season, so try not to drink all the bleach before then.
Does this nightmare still exist? Yes? Then our answer is no.
Email from Scott Stein-
After considering potential contributions to player development, game-planning, recruiting, and comedy, if you could select any former Illini to join John Groce's staff as an assistant, who would you choose? Feel free to ignore current employment of your options, just assume Groce could make them an offer they couldn't refuse.
As much fun as seeing Dee Brown or Deron Williams roaming the sidelines again would be, the answer kind of has to be Jerrance Howard, right? He already has assistant coaching experience (and at Illinois). He's a great recruiter, which is always something every team can use more of. And since he's currently at KU, it hurts the Jayhawks by poaching him. I may not have any true rooting allegiance to Kansas State sports (other than loving the football stadium I helped build), but that doesn't mean I don't hate the Jayhawks (while still loving the city of Lawrence). It's Howard in a landslide. If not Howard, give me Kendall Gill because he's not afraid to hit assholes.
What is #AskTCR 's favorite venue to enjoy Illini games? I'm a big fan of Schoolyard here in the city. Giant jalapeno pretzels with cheese.
— Gary Guidi (@BisonGary) February 17, 2014
That does sound pretty good. I'm not exactly the best person to ask this question though, so I hope the other contributors will throw in their two cents. The only place out here I'd probably be able to get the game on would be Buffalo Wild Wings, and while BWW is fine and all, I'd rather just watch it at my apartment where the atmosphere will be slightly more pro-Illini. Even my beloved hometown of Plainfield isn't very conducive to watching Illini games in public. I remember trying to get two bars to put on a basketball game last winter with one bartender asking me "Illi-what?", forcing me to remember most of the bartenders in my hometown never made it out of Plainfield. In Champaign, I'd have to say Firehaus or Murphy's.
It's all connected. I think it's pretty obvious that Putin and Beckman are best friends, so it won't be much of a coincidence when the 5-6 Illini team rolls up to Evanston in November to discover half the Northwestern team has mysteriously disappeared, forcing them to either forfeit or play vastly undermanned, leading to a 6-6 record and a trip to Detroit or somewhere down in Texas for Wes Lunt & Co.
I actually did sort of enjoy watching the football season last year. Over the past two seasons, I've had to watch every minute of every football game because Tom's real job kept him from being able to instantly recap the sadness. So after enjoying the one-two combo of real life depression and spending my Saturdays watching my team go 2-10, last season was infinitely more fun to watch. This season is going to be even better! TASTE THE EXCITEMENT!
It depresses the hell out of me. That being said, it's more playing experience for the rookies so I'm all for it. Is there any pride in winning the CBI? Nope. But it gets the team more experience and that is never a bad thing (barring freak injuries).
What do you think was the main reason Illinois had that long losing streak? & was the new starters against PSU what helped win? #askTCR
— Katie Pratt (@katieleigh24) February 17, 2014
I'm not sure I buy into the idea that the new starters were the definite reason the losing streak was finally snapped. While it may have helped end the streak, I think the more likely reason we finally won again is that Penn State is not a good basketball team. Neither are we this year, but still. Three of the four home games during that stretch came against teams that are simply a lot better than us this year (Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa). Wisconsin doesn't lose many at home, so there's another loss. Losing to the Buckeyes in Columbus is hardly anything to be upset about, so that's five of the eight right there. Rayvonte Rice playing hurt and no one else stepping up to be the main man combined with a generally unfavorable schedule created a perfect storm for the season to die on the vine, and that's exactly what happened.
My first thoughts were having to drink mead out of a viking helmet or read Beowulf while exercising on a Nordictrack, so I'd say your imagination tends to be a bit more exciting than mine.
#askTCR if everything falls into place next year, what do you foresee for both Illini football and basketball?
— Tony Gallo (@firet92) February 18, 2014
For football, I can actually see a 6-6 season with a trip to a lesser bowl game. Wins against Texas State, Western Kentucky, and Youngstown State are pretty much givens. The three games at Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin can likewise be chalked down as losses. So that sits the team at 3-3. The other two away games are at Northwestern and Washington, games I could see going either way. The remaining home games? Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State, and Purdue. So long as the offense remains productive (and with Lunt, it should) and the defense improves (it can't get worse), this is a team that gives us something to watch over winter break.
For the basketball team, it's a lot harder to predict since we're still in the thick of the current season. That being said, if everything breaks right, the Illini should be able to sneak into the tournament as a 10 or 11 seed. NIT at worst.
Little (Minn.) coach Pitino & Chris Collins- were these options for the Illini when we hired Groce? Did we miss the boat on these 2? #ASkTCR
— Drew McElligott (@RetailPortal) February 18, 2014
Collins may have been, but I don't believe Pitino Jr was. I'm not ready to say Groce was a worse hire than those two. Look what he did in his first year. I don't believe we missed the boat. It's going to take just a little bit longer to form that opinion.
#askTCR should I live in Champaign after I graduate just in case Illini basketball makes a FF run?
— Tony Gallo (@firet92) February 18, 2014
I could have happily lived in Champaign for the rest of my life, but at some point, it would have killed me. I would have had a hard time adjusting to no longer being the student body and eventually would have become the creepy guy at the bar if my cirrhosis didn't catch up to me first. I don't know if you're the same, but at some point you're probably going to have to walk away from the comfortable womb that is Chambana. And that final drive out of town will be one of the worst trips you'll ever take.
I don't know that it will ever completely take off in the Big Ten like it has in other conferences. Baseball games in the SEC and the more southern Big 12 schools have great attendance turnouts and historically strong programs. What really hurts the Big Ten schools in this regard is weather. College baseball has already started its season. Go look out the window. Do you want to go watch essentially minor league baseball right now? In those piles of snow? No, you don't. Because you're sane. When the weather gets warmer, I'll happily go tailgate out here in Manhattan. Will I actually attend the games?
No. And I love baseball. It's my favorite sport. But college baseball will never reach the same level of watchability as college football or basketball because the players are not as good as players in the pros. In any given major conference football or basketball game, you could be watching a player that will make a difference in the NFL or the NBA as soon as next season. In baseball? Those players you're following will probably never sniff the majors. And even if they do, they're probably still at least two years away.