Heat Checks and Hail Marys - Rough Loss but Positive Signs of Life

Mike Cagley, Co-Host IlliniGuys Sports Spectacular

February 19, 2023

Today, I have a few musings on different subjects including the Illini and topics beyond the Illini.

Heat Check #1 - Tough Loss for the Illini but Reasons for Optimism

The Illini lost a frustratingly close game against the Hoosiers yesterday. The game was essentially a one-point loss with an extra dunk thrown in for good measure at the end by Trayce Jackson-Davis.

The Illini continued to struggle from the three-point line - hitting a junior highesque 30% of their three-point attempts, just slightly under their anemic 31.2% average. Even a slight improvement - even to hit just one more three-pointer on Saturday - would've won the game for the Illini. To fall short on shooting behind the arc was not a surprise, but to miss a myriad of layups, particularly early on in the game, really sealed the Illini's fate. They could've been up by ten or more at the half - without factoring in the bizarre technical foul on Coleman Hawkins.

At the same time, the Illini played without Terrence Shannon, Jr. who became the 3rd Illini player to be concussed in a B1G game in the last 3 years. Without Shannon playing, Luke Goode got his first extended minutes of the season playing 23 minutes and scoring 7 points. As Luke rounds into shape and gets used to playing in games again and when Shannon returns, the Illini should have another player who can score in the rotation. With the Illini struggling for shooting accuracy, Goode's return couldn't be more welcome.

Heat Check #2 - The Schedule Ahead is Tough but not Impossible

The Illini play three games this week. They begin with Minnesota at home on Monday. Minnesota is in last place in the conference with a 7-17 record. Shannon or no Shannon, the Illini must win this game. On Thursday, the Illini play Northwestern. The Wildcats have shocked the college basketball world by being the second place team in the conference. Not even Chris Collins expected second place.

After the Illini's loss in Evanston to the Wildcats featuring a 30 free throw attempt disparity, the Illini should be ready to play. In my eyes, this game is a toss-up, but only because it's at the State Farm Center.

Next Sunday, the Illini face the physically talented but out of sorts Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on national television on CBS. This is a must win game versus the next to last team in the Big Ten (13th). No letdown can occur here, this is a loss that would be bad for the Illini's NCAA tournament seeding.

The final week of the regular season features the Illini playing Michigan at home on Thursday March 2nd. The Wolverines are currently tied with the Illini for 8th place in the conference. Both teams will need this game. Coach Brad Underwood has done well against Coach Howard, so one can hope for a victory against the talented but still up-and-down Wolverines.

On Sunday March 5th, the Illini battle Purdue on the road in the toughest place to visit in the Big Ten. While the Boilers have been struggling of late, they have to be the favorite in this matchup.

The Illini have a real shot at going 4-1 with a long shot at 5-0. Sadly, with their cold 3-point shooting, they could underperform and go 1-4, which would be disastrous for their NCAA tourney hopes. To be successful, the Illini defense has to perform at high levels, communication between players must be effective on both ends of the floor and they cannot afford defensive lapses.

Any offensive "explosions" are icing on the cake. If they occur, take time to appreciate them, but don't expect the offense to become amazing this season.

In my eyes, this team has proven that outside of a North Carolina-like run of last year, this iteration of the Fighting Illini cannot be expected to outshoot any team. They're just not a reliable shooting team, but they can out-defend any team on their schedule. Make sure to do just that. Defense travels (and plays well at home, too).

Heat Check #3 - What is a "Darkness Retreat"

Aaron Rodgers is doing a four night "Darkness Retreat" to contemplate his future. Why does one need darkness and a retreat to achieve this goal? Can't he just think about things, like everyone else?

Heck, I'll even let him sit in my recliner to assist his efforts. I'll turn out the lights and guarantee that I'll charge him $2500 less a night to sit in the dark in my recliner. Note: I have no idea how much Aaron's paying, but I have a hunch I'll still make some money!

I don't want to pick on someone for trying to better themselves, but this reminds me of a line Robert Wuhl's character spoke in the Batman movie from 1989. He told Kim Basinger's character, Vicki Vale, "The rich. You know why they're so odd? Because they can afford to be."

In that case, Wuhl's character was describing Bruce Wayne's behavior, which was symbolized in part by his suits of armor collection. In Aaron's case, it's going on a "Darkness Retreat". Maybe Aaron can send me a grant, and I'll use that to finance my own foray into "Darkness Retreats".

In any case, good luck Aaron. I hope you find a path that works for you.

Heat Check #4 - Marvel's Newest Ant Man Movie

At IlliniGuys, we like to watch movies. In particular, myself, Ked, Brad & Connor are all huge movie guys. We were thinking of doing an occasional off-topic I on the Illini podcast reviewing movies and entertainment when the timing works. Blockbusters like Ant Man would be the type of movie that has enough general interest to make the idea of doing an entertainment one-off podcast worth contemplating (but we will pass on doing a "Darkness Retreat").

Let us know if you'd want an IlliniGuys review of movies or streaming/television shows like The Last of Us on HBO. Drop us an email at info@Illiniguys.com to let us know what you think.



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