Ed note: I asked Thump some questions about Illinois hoops. Let’s check to make sure he’s alive, shall we?
Graham: What were your expectations coming into 2016-2017? Did you have reason for optimism?
Thump: In a word...high. I think I predicted 25 wins. This is the most experienced roster in the league, and according to recruiting ratings it's one of the very most talented. Unfortunately, either the recruiting experts have overrated every single one of Groce's guys or he can't develop players very well.
A fully healthy, experienced, talented and deep team, with their coach's future on the line. I was expecting to be top-5 in the league and maybe a 5-seed or higher.
Maybe I let my hope get the better of me, but I thought at the very least this would be Groce's best season at Illinois. This team would need a hell of a run to pull that off now.
Graham: Are there any matchups you see on the horizon that might give you hope? Or have you given up on this year?
Thump: Nope. This team was supposed to be un-blowoutable, and we've trailed by 20 in four games. If we beat any teams from here on out, it'll be either because they're somewhat bad or they have extremely bad shooting nights. I think it'll only get uglier and the team will fall apart like two years ago, only it'll happen a lot earlier. The games against Northwestern are games I just wish wouldn't happen. I can't believe I'm saying that.
Graham: Groce's hot seat. He gone, right? Right? But who is next? Any targets?
By season's end, Groce will have graduated a class he recruited with none of them having ever seen the NCAA tournament. That was unthinkable when he took over. It doesn't get much more gone than he is right now.
Rumor has it that Cuonzo Martin could be had, which I wouldn't mind at all. Dayton still has Archie Miller, who could work out well. And who's to say Billy Donovan wouldn't want back in to the college game?
Graham: What's your sadness level, right now, for Illinois hoops on a 1-10 scale, with a 1 being "2005" and a 10 being "Cliff Alexander trying on hats"?
Thump: That's a bad scale, because it's much worse than 10 on that scale. At that time, we were coming off an NCAA tournament appearance and thought we'd snagged a bright young coach. The future was still bright in theory. This is Michigan fans in 2009.
Graham: Illinois has nice jerseys and good colors. Please comment and affirm.
Thump: I love the uniforms; even the gray one is...okay I suppose. The Flyin Illini throwbacks are glorious...which is why I'd like it if they stopped wearing them for every home game. Either as a motivational tool (earn it back!) or to preserve their special status. I'm also seeing too many Dee Brown headbands without Dee Brown quality play. You gotta earn that stuff.
BONUS: MORE GROCE
Thump: The only remaining argument for keeping Groce is fear that the current recruiting class will bail. To this I say:
1) He's landed plenty of talent and has nothing to show for it. Nobody ever learns defense, and I don't see how any group of freshmen that isn't literally a starting five of one-and-done guys will overcome Groce's coaching deficiencies
2) Any player that would come play for Groce would come play for someone demonstrably better
I mean...I feel for the guy. It's gotta be tough to flame out of a big time gig like this, and people seem to really like him. But you know what? I really liked Bruce Weber too. It happens. You have to win the games.