So, How We Doin'? Notre Dame
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I don't have an ounce of feel for this team. This might be 2006 and it might be 1999. I seriously have no idea.
I want to believe that all of the mess we've seen so far is related to all of the external factors. Kofi's suspension. Belo's concussion. The flu bug. Trent's shoulder injury followed by his knee injury.
But then I think about the Cincinnati game - a game where everyone was healthy - and I wonder if I'm just leaning too far into the excuses. Remember this?
This is every Illini shot after that timeout (with Illinois up 23-8). 7 for 40. SEVEN FOR FORTY. pic.twitter.com/t3sXTvsUHB— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) November 23, 2021
That's a thing that happened to the Curbelo-Frazier-Grandison-Hawkins-Cockburn + Williams-Plummer-Payne-BBV lineup. The only player missing was Luke Goode with back spasms. Our A-lineup did THAT. Seven for FORTY against a team (Cincinnati) that lost at home to Monmouth yesterday.
So I have no idea how to feel. I sat there on Friday night during the UTRGV game and wondered what was happening and then I'd cover it up with "no Trent, no Belo, no Grandison, so of course this is happening". But then I'd realize that it was UTRGV and we let them do this:
Open threes, short jumpers, and layups. Nine consecutive shots drained by one of the worst teams we'll face this season. That's pretty far beyond "we were missing Trent, Belo, and Slim", right? There's something majorly wrong, right?
It's not that it can't be fixed. It might very well be that the IUP exhibition game - where Belo got his concussion and Trent hurt his shoulder - was this moment that (temporarily) moved Illinois from the 11th-best team in the country to the 63rd-best team in the country. Once Belo returns to 100% and Trent returns to the court, perhaps we simply see the 11th-best team in the country again.
But now there's a flu bug going around, and we're playing Notre Dame, and if we're without the same players from Friday night plus BBV, I just don't see how we beat Notre Dame. Yes, even "just lost to St. Mary's and Texas A&M" Notre Dame.
(By the way, Wisconsin won that tournament, and I swear to God if they're better than us this year I'm not going to know what to do with myself. They're supposed to be 11th in the Big Ten this year. As of this moment, KenPom has both Illinois and Wisconsin going 11-9 in the Big Ten this season. I can't handle that.)
I think what I'll do with my prediction here is blindly hope. I'm going to hope that the rest from the K-State game until now has helped Belo and that tomorrow night is S2E1 of The Kofi & Belo Show. Season One set up the character development. A lot of buzz around Season Two. Suspensions and injuries prevented the season premier from being aired until after Thanksgiving. But now it's time for the first episode of the new season. Hope it's a good one.
Illinois 68, Notre Dame 63