We Love No Other 6.6 - Illini Basketball 2008~2012


Robert
Jul 12, 2022
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8 Comments

Three acts remain. We're into the 2010's now, which means we've gotten to almost everyone's "and that's when I became an Illini fan" moment. If we refer to that moment as Boy Meets Girl, then there are three acts left:

Boy Loses Girl
Boy Still Can't Find Girl
Boy Gets Girl Back

This is Boy Loses Girl. 2008 through 2012. We were tumbling at the end of the last episode, from the national title game in 2005 to a 4-seed and a second-round loss in 2006 to a 12-seed and a first-round loss in 2007. It's about to bottom out in 2008, then fake rally in 2009 and 2011, and then give up a 27-0 run to end the game in 2012.

My guest for this episode, @BobZuppke, was an undergrad through these years (just like my guests for most of these episodes), so he watched the Boy lose the Girl up close and in person. And I started the blog during this period, so I followed along very closely as well. It, uh... it was hard to watch.

Let's just get to it. If you want to listen on Apple Podcasts do that here, if you want to listen on Spotify you can do so here, and if you listen to podcasts on Stitcher or CastBox (or something else) just search for "We Love No Other."

Or, if you're a masochist and you just want to get right to the pain of 2008 through 2012, you can start listening right now:

Comments

larue on July 13, 2022 @ 12:13 PM

That '09 team was #1 in the nation in ratio of assists to field goals made, and dead last in the nation in ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts. So, yes, the quintessential Weber team. Nobody that could create, played tough D but didn't create turnovers, poor offensive rebounding. An analytics horror show running offense to generate two point jumpers.

ChampaignSipper on July 13, 2022 @ 08:39 PM

Regarding the Gordon incident-some other points. As Bob Zuppke mentioned, decommittments happen all of the time. In this specific instance, clearly IU and Sampson got Gordon to flip covertly, but THEN led Illinois along by not decommitting so Illinois could go on to Plan B. The Gordons kept telling the Illinois coaches that they were firm to Illinois....all the way until the day of the actual flip. That's what caused the excess hatred BY UI fans towards Gordon and his family. This entire saga also exploited how "out of the loop" Illinois coaches were regarding the whole AAU culture, major college recruiting, etc. During that summer, all of the people in the "know" were saying that Gordon was going to IU. Those in the basketball community outside of Illini coaches and message board contributors knew Gordon to IU was a done deal and it truly showed how tone deaf our staff was in major college basketball recruiting.All of the Weberophiles were like, "but Dad posted on IB", "but EJ posted on IB" "Illini coaches say he's committed to the Illini". The snark that Sturdy had (he was carrying Jay Price's water) towards anyone who thought that Gordon was going to IU until the actual moment of the Gordon commitment was something that I'll never forget. Weber and Groce both got played in major recruiting battles and were left at the altar. Neither knew the nuances of how to close on a major recruit or read the tea leaves when things were starting to go south in a recruitment. Neither had a back-up plan as well. These are not weaknesses of Brad Underwood...it's one of his many strengths in running a major college program.

IlliniJoe81 on July 14, 2022 @ 01:53 AM

Underwood is infinitely better at this. I tried to support the Illini coaches at the time but I literally had nightmares about the Eric Gordon recruitment. It was right at the very end of my time in C-U and it was so deflating. Took all the great memories of the previous few years and burned them to the ground. Penn State loss then Washington then Eric Gordon. It felt like someone lighting your house on fire.

OrangeBlazer on July 14, 2022 @ 06:15 AM

I'd add a slight clarification here--decommitments do happen all the time.....now. In the summer of 2006 decommitments in basketball were relatively unheard of. Players didn't flip, and even moreso, there was something of an honor code among coaches that you stopped recruiting players after a verbal commitment. That's partly what made the Gordon saga so unique (and so terrible).

That said, I was thinking about the question on the podcast about what to think of Eric Gordon now, and I have a hard time finding fault with either side. It was truly such a bizarre and unprecedented moment with unique circumstances.

To me, and I remember thinking this at the time, the issue for Illini basketball wasn't really Gordon. Yes, it stung to lose him, and yes, the way it played out meant there was no Plan B. Yet, we should have never been in a position where the success of the program hinged on a single player like that--even if he was a top 5 overall recruit. The real issue was the lack of pieces brought in in the '04, '05, and '06 classes, and then the failure to surround Gordon with talent in '07. All that of as prologue to the Gordon saga was the real issue that led to the downfall of the 07-08 team.

And yet, I appreciated this podcast for reminding me of how quickly Sampson flamed out at Indiana. As painful as the Gordon saga was, and as much as it sucked to lose to him at home, watching Indiana flame out on the Blake Hofarber shot in the BTT quarters, and then lose in the first round, followed by beating them twice the next year and Sampson getting fired, and then Crean having to take over a total dumpster fire was a nice way to close that era of the UI-IU rivalry.

ChampaignSipper on July 14, 2022 @ 06:46 PM

One more thing as I listened to the last 90 minutes: One of the questions I would ask any prospective UI AD or Basketball UI Head Coaching Candidate would be:

What are your thoughts on the AH/SFC scheduling a Circus during the first week of the NCAA/NIT Tournaments?

If the answer is along the lines of we need that timeframe for NIT home games, the interview should be immediately ceased and they should be shown the exit. Hosting an NIT game should never be an expectation. A Circus bumping IHSA high school basketball or IHSA wrestling finals is another matter.

JeffreyJordanTouchdownPass on July 21, 2022 @ 01:32 PM

I listened at work, so maybe I missed it in the podcast. But I'm trying to recall what happened with Jerome Richmond not playing in the tournament and then declaring. I remember something about a fight in the locker room, maybe after the Big Ten Tournament loss? I assume him declaring was somewhat influenced by that, but probably also related to him getting bad advise from the people he was around?

larue on July 21, 2022 @ 04:17 PM

Richmond was suspended for violation of team rules. Rumor was a fight between him and Brandon Paul. I don't think there was any chance he would have been allowed back at Illinois, so it was either transfer or declare.

I saw Richmond play a number of times in high school, and it was clear then that there was something wrong. We probably should have told him to decommit and find another school, but that's a tough decision to make.

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