Illinois Basketball: 3 Observations From the West Virginia Loss

Illinois Basketball

Nov 24, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini head coach John Groce yells instructions during the second half of the second game of NIT Season Tip-Off against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Barclays Center. West Virginia won 89-57. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Basketball team fell to West Virginia in ugly fashion on Thanksgiving Day.

This game the Illini played was quite embarrassing.  They were in the game for about half of the first half and then they were done.

Here are my three observations from the West Virginia loss.

Nothing Changes

In year one of the John Groce regime, the Illini actually had some success.  They finished the year with 23 wins and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The following season, the Illini lost some talented players due to graduation and that was the excuse I made for missing the postseason.  They finished with 20 wins that year.

Two years ago, Tracy Abrams went down with an injury and the Illini floundered to a 19 win season and once again missed the postseason.

Last year, Abrams was once again hurt but Illinois had one of their worst seasons in the history of the program.  They finished with 15 wins and were a laughing stock of the Big Ten.

Heading into this season I was going to give Groce one last chance at redeeming himself as a head coach.  He has now failed my expectations already just six games into the year.

As a recruiter, Groce is about a B+ to an A-, but after that, I can’t find a grade above a D+.  He just doesn’t have the coaching ability for a Big Ten program.

So, after that loss to West Virginia by 32 points, I am officially done with Groce barring some type of miracle run the Illini go on this season.

Mar 9, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA;Illinois Fighting Illini guard Jaylon Tate (1) drives towards Minnesota Golden Gophers guard Darin Haugh (10) during the Big Ten Conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Joseph-USA TODAY Sports

Please Stop Starting Tate

Over the years and when he was at Ohio, John Groce liked to play a guard-heavy lineup.  But, with the Illini roster right now it isn’t set up for that.

Point guard Jaylon Tate has started pretty much every game this season and he really did a decent job against the first four calk walk teams.

But, the last two games Tate has not been good.

In the last two games alone Tate has averaged 28.5 minutes per game.  He is 4-of-11 from the field in these games for a total of 12 points.

Tate hasn’t really produced in any other area either.  He has a total of 6 rebounds and 6 assists in these two games, but what has killed us the most is the 5 fouls and the 6 turnovers.

It was clear to me and most Illinois basketball fans that Tate is not cut out for Big Ten basketball, but for some reason, Groce just doesn’t see that.

And that brings me to my next point; if Groce is going to put a player in that will turn the ball over that much, why not let Te’Jon Lucas play more minutes?

Lucas played 16 minutes last game and scored 5 points and had 3 turnovers.  He needs to play more and Tate needs to play a lot less.

Groce’s rotations right now just do not make sense to me.

Nov 24, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini guard Malcolm Hill (21) is tied up by West Virginia Mountaineers guard Jevon Carter (2) and guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half of the second game of NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Hill, Step Up!

After last season Malcolm Hill was checking out where he was projected to be drafted into the NBA.

Thinking back to that moment now, I am wondering what he was thinking.  What I am seeing this season isn’t an NBA player.

Through the first four games, Hill was putting up big-time numbers.  He had a 44 point game and that really made everyone pay attention.

But, then the tough part of the Illini schedule hit these past two contests and Hill came back down to Earth hard.

Hill scored 14 points on 23.5-percent shooting against Winthrop and then he scored 7 points on 25-percent shooting against West Virginia.

NBA caliber players are supposed to put their team on their back when they need them the most.  Hill has yet to do that this season.

I want to see more driving to the basket by Hill.  He is a bigger body for the college game and he needs to utilize that in the lane.

Hill has the talent deep down I truly believe, but it is all a matter of if he shows that game in and game out.

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