Illini wandering in the land of the lost
By Jeff Mayfield
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[February 06, 2013]
One thing they never covered back in
sports writing school was what to do when your team is lost, when
road trips are disasters or when you can't hold serve on your home
court. However, that is exactly the place the Illinois Fighting
Illini find themselves at the present moment. And I'm surprised that
my computer even let the keystrokes type out Fighting Illini right
I'm not saying the effort is bad. I think the team is working hard
to get the monkey off their backs, but the execution has disappeared
and the playing with passion and with a sense of urgency has gone
out the window. Where did it go? If you find it, please give
Illinois coach Groce a call and give it back to him. I'm quite sure
he is pulling his hair out... Wait, that's not possible, is it? You
know what I mean!
I just thought going into their last game with
the Wisconsin Badgers that they would find a way to snap out of it.
After subjecting myself to that debacle, I once again remembered
that it was personally a lot easier for me to walk away from
coaching the game than most of my friends ever thought possible. The
margin between winning and losing at the D-I level is so slim that
it has to be mind-boggling at times.
I mean, take for instance Illinois' current situation. The Illini
have lost six of their last seven, including four in a row at home.
Is it even possible to lose four in a row at home? How do you write
about that? What possible positive spin can you conjure up to even
find any silver lining? I'm really trying here. But as I left the
Assembly Hall early Sunday evening, I was in such a stupor that I
figured I'd probably get hit by a bus... and I was on the sidewalk.
But that's how this season has been going.
What's worse is that those who are even more positive than I am
have no idea where Illinois' next wins are gonna come from. At this
precise moment, I could not help them one iota!
I wonder IF we have a sports psychologist? Is he or she on the
scene? And has anything been discovered or determined? I know the
Illini have the talent to turn this thing around; I just don't know
how we convince our players that now is the time!
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If you handed me the keys to the Illini right now, I wouldn't
know what to do with them. Where would you start? We seem to
struggle with the easiest things. Then when our ballhandling bites
us or we throw yet another pass into the stands, we get that
defeated attitude -- like here we go again ... wash-rinse-repeat --
over and over again!
I'm sorry that I'm not more optimistic, but right now all I can
really tell you is that the Illini are not playing well, and the
culprit is... everybody. We are code blue right now. We need all
hands on deck. We need all for one and one for all.
Will we snap out of it Thursday night when Illinois hosts No. 1
Indiana? OR will the coming-out party happen with one of our
friendly road contests at Minnesota, Northwestern or Michigan?
I know our loyal LDN readers click on us to get shrewd basketball
insights into matters like this. Unfortunately, I dropped my crystal
ball when I avoided getting hit by the bus.
All I know for sure is that we're gonna keep playing. We're
due... aren't we? Something good has to happen for these Illini,
doesn't it? Don't the basketball gods owe us big-time? There has to
be a big upset brewing deep down inside us somewhere. There has to
be a run... a winning streak just dying to come out. Why not
Thursday? Why not Sunday? Why not... the rest of the way?
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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