Hi, this is ESPNChicago.com college basketball writer Scott Powers here. We're here with Illinois coach Bruce Weber for today's Web chat.
Bruce,At this point have you reached the "we've done everything we can to motivate these guys" point and just tell them have some pride play hard and most importantly have fun?
Yeah, I think that would be part of it. Last week, we tried a lot of your bags of tricks from highlight tapes to t-shirts. Now the tricks are gone and lay it on the court. We had a great practice yesterday. Now meet the challenge of Wisconsin and the whole Big Ten Tournament.
How is the team's morale after the Wisconsin loss? What is your plan get the team mentally ready for Friday?
After the game, obviously the players were down. Senior Day, not performing what we all think the level of play we can play at. Players usually respond faster than fans and coaches. They come right back. They got a good freshness to their attitude. As I said, we had a great practice yesterday, watched the game and saw what we did wrong. Now we just have to be a litle more focused on the details. I hope the shots and balls bounce our way. I think that's a big thing.
hello bruce,wanted to know how frustrated has this season been and what are your thoughts about making the tournament?
I don't know it's as much frusurating as someone used the word 'baffled' today. That's a good word. The ups and downs we've gone through the whole year. We've had some great moments during the season and some low moments during the season. You thought we made some strides. Some of it has been the schedule, but we also haven't played as well as we anticipated. At the same time, we've done a lot. When you look at the categories the committed looks at it. We've had the fourth most top-25 wins. I think only Kansas, Syracuse and Georgetown have more wins. If we were to get Wisconsin, we would be up with those temas sames. We've played a tough schedule. We've played road games and won road games. We beat Wisconsin and Clemson on the road, and we finished the top half of the Big Ten. I think we've positioned ourselves.
Bruce, how do you work on "turning the other team over?" A large part of Wisconsin's success seemed to be minimizing turnovers on Sunday, is it something that's exclusively in their control, or do you think you can press the issue better on Friday?
I think they're one of the leaders in the country and Big Ten in not turning it over. It's difficult to do against them. If you're in the right position and you're aggressive, you can maybe make them turn the ball over a few more time than they're used to and that can be the difference in the game.
Hi Bruce- huge fan and alum-what do you think is missing from this team as compared to the team you took to the championship game against NC? Is it more mental than anything else?
I think the biggest key is to make a run if you have to have a franchise player, lottery type player who can make play to advance, you always have to great leadership and all great teams who have success have good solid defense because if you don't make shots those are the days you rely on your defense.
What have you emphasized to recruits about your program to have the great commits you have for the next few years?
I think one of the parts of it is these kids watch 03-04 and 04-05 teams and that great success. They really latched onto Illinois and had great feeling about. I think the other thing is we recruited kids at a young age. We're able to get them on campus and impress with our facility and fans and just the basketball we played. It also helps we have guys like Deron Williams on the Olympic team and other guys like Dee Brown and Luther coming back and being a part of our strong basketball tradition.
Coach who do you talk to when you need coaching advice? Who's #1 on your speed dial?
Well, I think you got a group of friends you either coached with or coaches. I talk to Kevin Stallings from Vanderbilt, Chris Lowery at SIU and I talk to Tom Izzo a lot. The thing about all those guys is they share their problems, and it makes you feel like you're not the only with problems. When you have people you can talk to, it helps during the season in tough times.
Coach, how many orange ties do you own and why don't we sport the orange uniforms anymore?
I own at one time it was 72 orange ties, and I think I've added to the collection this year. People send them to me. I've gotten them as far as Italy. I try to wear them as soon as I wear them. I could make it through the whole season and not duplicate an orange tie. ... We have worn the orange uniforms. I'm not sure when the last time is. One thing is the new rule in the Big Ten. We wore them Wisconsin had the red, and it didn't go over well. I wouldn't be surprised if they're out on Friday in Indianapolis.
Hi bruce. Can you comment at all about the big ten refs or will you get in trouble. I see so many blown( obvious calls) against you guys and I cant take it anymore.
(Laughs) I think a lot of fans from a lot of schools feel the same way. Being an official is a tough call. They have to make a call in splint seconds. Ninety-five percent of the time when I go back and look at the calls, I can see why they made the call. Sometimes there are obvious calls that are missed, and as a coach, player and fan that is difficult. For the most part, they do it get it right.
Coach. Rooting for you big time Friday. Question though about the team's toughness. I notice that the guys, especially the bigs, rarely take charges. It seems most of the team, minus D.J., prefers to go for an acrobatic block instead of stepping into the lane. Can we expect to see the guys take more charges going forward? Good luck!
It's been one of our big question marks going into the season was our toughness and defensive pride. It would be nice if our big guys would do it, but I'm not sure if it's going to happen this season. We're going to have to rely on shot blocking and just getting big on people.
The team really started playing well when Griffey started and Davis was the 6th man. Any chance of going back to that rotation?
I don't think we'll change the starting lineup, but I think we need to get Tyler more minutes. He has some freshmen weaknesses, but he caa shoot the basketball and he doesn't try to overdo things.
Coach, how many big ten tournament games do you feel your team has to win to make it to the tournament?
hi bruce can you comment on the big ten tournament?and whois favorite to win the big ten title?
I enjoy the Big Ten Tournament. We obviously like it in Chicago. We hope it returns there. ... As far as the favorite, it has to be the three teams that tied for first and Wisconsin. That's the fun of it. You never know what's going to happen. We made a run a few years ago.
Bruce, do you feel McCamey benefits from you always being in his face?
Yeah, I think so. (laughs) I've tried the last couple of weeks because he had a good run and was complimentary of him. On the long hall, he does well if someone has a hand on him. He doesn't always deal with success really well.
Coach Bruce, what is it like having to play a team in back to back games with only a few days separating the match-ups. Do you think it provides an advantage to either side? I'm a Badger alum, so good luck on Friday, but not too much :)
(Laughs) I think it you gives a little glimpse of the NBA playoffs. You have to play five or seven times in a few weeks. I don't know if there's an advantage. We went to their place and won. They had revenge in their minds, and they beat us. We might have a little bit now. It comes down to executing and playing well.
Sorry, everyone, I have to run We're excited about this weekend. We had a great practice yesterday. I think when you study a team like Arizona a few years ago. They had 14 losses and because of their schedule rating and who they played, they got in and they moved on to the Sweet 16, if I'm right. That gives you a glimpse. I think we have some nice things on our resume. We can put an exclamation point on it on Friday if we can beat the Badgers.... Thanks
Thanks everyone for their questions today. See you next time.