Weird mix of questions this week. I like that we'll get a handful of questions each week until I ultimately resort to begging for more and then there is a massive deluge of queries, all that make me smile. Even got my first email requesting full anonymity! Fun times! The #AskTCR mailbag will continue year round, despite not having a major sport to follow. Things will just likely get weird, which I am always game for.
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. We'll 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.
Tracy Abrams is easily the most frustrating player currently on the roster. When he's on, the Illini have a good point guard capable of running John Groce's offense. When he's off? Well, let's just try not to think of that. The problem is, he often goes on and off during the same game, making it very difficult to predict when to bench him. And with him being a senior next year, there's a realistic chance morale could be damaged by benching him too much. And there isn't a new PG coming in with the freshmen.
But I still think he loses minutes. The combination of Jaylon Tate being a sophomore (and needing more playing time to properly develop) and Ahmad Starks being able to play will have to cut into someone's minutes and unless Tracy comes out of the gate sprinting, he's the most likely candidate. That being said, Tate really needs to improve his shooting this offseason if he hopes to steal more than a handful of minutes from the incumbent.
For Bob, I don't think either comes off the bench to start the season unless something drastic happens between now and then. If Ray struggles in conference play like he did to start last season, I could see him being shifted to the bench since we'll have more options, but I think Tracy would find the bench before he does.
An email from Scott-
How many years will Bruce Weber coach at Kansas State?
He did himself a really big favor by splitting the conference championship his first season in Manhattan and racking up 27 wins. But then the Wildcats went and lost to #13 seed La Salle in the first round (I will not call the play-in games the first round) and that was all basically erased. Getting knocked out in the first round again this year, albeit it to a very talented Kentucky team, doesn't help much either. Bruce lasted nine seasons at Illinois, mostly on the strength of the 2004-05 squad.
The bad news for Bruce? He didn't inherit that talented of a team out here and Kansas State hasn't kept a basketball coach for more than six seasons since Jack Hartman from 1970-1986. The good news for Bruce? Hartman also coached at Southern Illinois before moving to the Little Apple and retired in 1986 instead of being fired. So hey! Best case scenario right there! Unless he starts winning some tournament games (might happen) or lands some impressive recruits (a lot more skeptical), I think he has three years left, four tops.
It's always a little worrisome when your team rebrands because things could always get worse. All in all, I'm not too worried with this. We'll get away permanently from the awful New York Giants knockoff helmets, which is fantastic. And really, out of the three major companies who design uniforms, Nike tends to do the best job. Go look at some of Adidas and Under Armour's ideas from the past few seasons. The Wisconsin tungsten uniforms? The Northwestern highlighter get-ups? I'm looking forward to seeing what Nike cooks up for the Illini. It won't be anything as gaudy as they do with Oregon, but it should be interesting and at least attract the eyes of recruits which is really the most important thing.
Will Shaka ever leave VCU? #AskTCR— Troy Farsakian (@troyboy521) March 25, 2014
Eventually, yes. It's going to take a combination of not making the tournament, him growing unhappy at the smaller school, and a blue blood job opening up. I'll be shocked if he bails for Marquette when he could have had better jobs last season. Marquette is by no means a bad spot, but if he's leaving VCU, he's leaving for a job that you don't walk away from. Marquette is a stepping stone. Just like we currently are.
Question from anonymous-
Does the fact that my brother is a University of Illinois graduate automatically bump him ahead of me in the "who's a bigger fan" rankings. Growing up in central Illinois we have both always been huge fans and we both watch basically every minute of Illini basketball, but the fact that he is alum essentially seals it for him, right?
Side question - what percentage of fans in attendance of Illini sporting events would you say are alumni?
It bumps him ahead in the "who is an Illini" rankings, because well, he has a degree from the school. If you devote the same amount of time and energy into being fans, it seems a bit silly to let that be the determining factor. It's not like you're a Walmart Wolverine. He wins on the technicality, but it doesn't make you any less of a fan. It just means you didn't go to our school. You grew up in the heart of Illini country and still root for the team. Nothing wrong with that.
Not really sure that I can answer that second question though. If we're talking football, sadly the majority as the student base just hasn't been coming out. It shifts down for basketball, but the number is still high. If we played near more of a metropolis, the number would be different. But unless you're an alumni, you're probably not driving down from Chicago to attend an Illini game.
#AskTCR I haven't been back since I was proven a phony prophet. Who do you think the next Bball commit will be?— Tony Gallo (@firet92) March 25, 2014
#AskTCR what should I do while in Nashville?— Tony Gallo (@firet92) March 25, 2014
And we've missed you, Tony. Good to know you're still alive. Falls from prophetdom can be major shocks to the system. I have no idea who the next basketball commit will be. I know who I want it to be and that will be answered a little bit further down in the mailbag. It's only March and I don't expect and basketballer to say he'll be in our orange and blue anytime soon. And even then, I don't want to get excited about anything until his name is on the dotted line.
As for your second question, I can't really help you, but I wanted to include it in case any of our Champaigniacs can. I've never been to Nashville. I don't actively dislike country music, but it's not really my scene. I'm sure the city is plenty of fun though, so the usual city things like drinking and carousing probably apply. Help Tony out in the comments if you guys can.
Question from Shane-
If "Ill"inois Athletics was a Jeopardy category what are the 5 questions they would ask that would make a true fan physically ill to have to answer/hear the answers to?
Oh man. This is hard because you want five questions and because I have to dredge up memories no one wants to think about. You're a monster, Shane. A creative one, but a monster nonetheless.
$200: This high school basketball player tricked Illini fans into thinking he was choosing their school with a hat deke before following former Illini coach Bill Self to Kansas.
$400: This team ended the dreams of an undefeated 2004-05 season for the Illini in the final game of the regular season.
$600: This Auburn coach earned a lifetime place on Illini fans "Most Hated" lists by lying to the NCAA while an assistant at Iowa about an Illini recruit, ultimately resulting in unrelated sanctions being imposed on Illinois.
$800: After eliminating the Flyin' Illini in the Final Four, the Michigan Wolverines went on to beat this team to win the National Championship.
$1,000: The number of losing seasons the Illini football teams have had in Mark Primiano's lifetime, which is strangely his lucky number.
I linked to it yesterday, but I'll link to it again here. I think Frank nails it when he suggests it would have to be UIC. It's the only school even academically close enough for it to matter. Yes, they'd need to start fielding a football team and their basketball team has seen better days, but they're actually a good academic school and in the capital of Big Ten country. Yes, the B1G already has a strong enough foothold in Chicago, but it would be pretty fun watching Northwestern no longer be able to use "Chicago's Big Ten Team". If we're going purely off athletics, it's Northern Illinois by a mile but they'll just never have the academics or research to join a conference bigger than the MAC.
I'd rather win a first round NIT game. And I'm not just saying that because it's what we did this season. Making the field of 68 is a lot different than making the field of 64. Yeah, your name was called out on Selection Sunday and that's neat. But shit, you're a Big Ten school. You shouldn't be excited to be in a play-in game. That's like making the tournament on a technicality. And then losing it? Man, I don't ever want to know what that feels like.
Brunson. I would be ecstatic about landing any of those players (throw Carlton Bragg in as well), but it has to be Brunson. I'm not saying he comes here, I still don't think he will. But he would check off so many boxes.
Perfect John Groce PG? Check.
Five star, top 20 player? Check.
Top in-state prospect? Check.
I want Brunson. If John Groce manages to land him, I promise to do something terribly embarrassing for the site.
Thank you for all the questions this week. The creativity and equal distribution of weirdness and honest questions is always appreciated more than I can express.