As I watched Illinois lose to UIC (!) at the United Center (!!), my first thought was “Wow, what a hugely embarrassing, damaging loss” (if you didn’t know, UIC is 4-7 and lost its last two games to NIU and ISU, respectively). My second thought was “Wow, I’ve had that thought quite a few times in the last five or so years.
Lindsey Willhite was thinking the same thing, apparently, and did a look back at some of the worst losses based on KenPom rankings:
2009-10: No. 125 Utah at Las Vegas over Thanksgiving break.
2008-09: No. 89 Western Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
2007-08: No. 227 Tennessee State on Dec. 30 at home. TSU entered that game 3-7.
2006-07: No. 64 Iowa on the road to end regular season.
2005-06: No. 117 Penn State on Feb. 4 at home.
2004-05: No. 31 Ohio State on the road to end the regular season.
2003-04: No. 94 Northwestern on Jan. 14 on the road.
Those are just the single worst losses from each year since Bruce Weber became the coach, which doesn’t really tell the whole story (that Tennessee State loss in 07-08? Touched off a five game skid that included a home loss to Penn State; and who could forget the 38-33 home loss to Penn State the following year? Or Utah and Bradley last year?). We’ve gone from a program that pretty consistently took care of business and once owned the nation’s longest home court winning streak to any loss anywhere being on the table. These are the losses that put teams on the bubble and worse, in the NIT.
It’s easy to blame the players for overlooking teams or not being mentally ready – but at a certain point, it’s safe to say this is an area where the coaching staff is lacking. If you keep putting different cars into the ditch every year, eventually it’s because you can’t drive in the snow, not because your cars can’t handle the conditions.
The quotes following the game were a little disconcerting:
“We knew they might play zone, but they hadn’t shown the 1-3-1,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “To [Moore’s]credit it changed a little bit of momentum.”
Come on. Even if they hadn’t showed 1-3-1 before, it exists. It’s a known zone defense. And we’re going on about five straight years of always struggling against any kind of zone.
“I gave them a goal to be Top 10 right after Christmas. Obviously that’s not going to happen,” Weber said of his team, which must now get ready for Missouri in four days. “I’ve been scared, to be honest. We haven’t had good practices.”
Well, that’s on the coaches, no?