Well, Sunday at Michigan St. was a tough game to stomach, particularly that second half. I still think the team had a breakthrough against Iowa, and in the first half against Michigan St., it looked like the team was picking up where they left off. Upon closer examination, however, it is clear that Brian Randle and Jamar Smith both struggled for both halves against Michigan St. McBride and Pruitt both seemed to have good games, and Carter played okay too. But when 2/5's of the line-up is hurting you, that's never going to add up to a victory on the road, especially in the Big Ten. Jamar Smith is becoming a major source of concern for the team. He is being relied on heavily for his outside shooting, but he is absolutely in one of the worst slumps I've seen an Illinois player go through in quite a long time. All in all, though, I think Weber is sorting things out as each game passes. He admitted that he made some mistakes against Michigan St. in the second half. I think Weber's biggest struggle this season has been his rotation of the players in and out of the game. Due to injuries, he hasn't solidified a starting line-up and bench rotation to support it. And we're four games into the Big Ten season. That's a big problem. With the rhythm necessity of the Weber motion offense, his teams have to have a solid rotation, and everyone needs to understand their role. And yet, this team still does not have those things solidified. To make matters worse, no one has stepped up to be the leader that this line-up and rotation can first gel and then solidify around. We need for this to happen.
Anyhow, I still hold up hopes for this season to end with an NCAA berth. The next three games will be critical. The Illini, however, need to just take one game at a time from here on out. Let's get a win at Minnesota on Wednesday! Here's how I see the starting line-up now, subject to injuries of course.
PG - Chester Frazier
SG - Rich McBride
SF - Brian Randle
PF - Warren Carter
C - Sean Pruitt
Bench: Brock, Meacham, Arnold, Carlwell
Other: Smith (I don't think he should play until his ankle sprains are totally healed), Jackson (When he plays good in practice, will Weber give him some game minutes?)
Well, keep your spirits up Illini fans.