I came into the season with high hopes for Bloomington-Normal's Birds. They had the Missouri Valley Conference's best player (Osiris Eldridge) a standout transfer from a BCS program (Champ Oguchi) and an up-and-coming head coach (Tim Jankovich) and coming off a 25-win season, that's usually the recipe for conference title.
And at 19-4 overall and 8-4 in Valley play, there is no doubt the Redbirds are a good team.
But they're not an NCAA Tournament team, and the thing is that there is too much talent on that squad where missing the Big Dance for two straight years should truly be a disappointment.
On the offensive side of the ball, they've got a bunch of guys I would characterize as "chuckers." They take some of the most difficult off-balance shots I have ever seen taken, and it almost caught up with them against an under-manned Saluki squad.
They've got two legit stars, but as point guard Lloyd Phillips said after the first meeting between SIU and ISU (Red), players need to not take everything on their own shoulders. And that's what it looks like at times with the Redbirds offensive attack. Five guys going in five different directions.
And the thing is it is not as if the Illinois State isn't well coached. I just think their players lose focus, that's all.
- Champ Oguchi, good player.
- Osiris Eldridge, damn good player.
- Tim Jankovich, coaching star in the making
- Team chemistry, questionable.
- Chuckers, aplenty.
Talent and good coaching can take you far, but a lack of cohesion as a unit might be why a team that has 25-win potential might miss out on the March Madness fun for the second straight year.