n8held: When do you think the Illini will lose their first game?
Jay Bilas: It is hard to say. Any team, even one as close and tight as Illinois, can lose with the three point shot. I think it will take an extraordinary effort to beat Illinois. I think that the Illini will be unbeaten at home, though. Assembly Hall is one of the five toughest places to play that I have seen. Your "Paint the Hall Orange" effort was nothing short of awesome. I especially liked the big flags running the concourse level. Strong.
SpinAndySpin: What other prominent programs traditionally run a motion offense and why does Illinois seem to run it so successfully? What types of teams do you think will give Illinois the most trouble?
Jay Bilas: Duke used to run straight motion, and did it pretty well. Alot of teams say they run motion, but really do not. They run sets to get quick hitters. Bruce Weber has alot of entries into motion, and they are really hard to guard. Motion requires smart players and they have to be responsible. Every player has to move with a purpose, and that is hard to teach. Motion requires a coach to teach his team how to play, rather than how to run plays. When it is run right, it is the best, because it is hard to scout and hard to prepare for. The best ever in running motion is Bob Knight. Bruce is doing an excellent job, and his players are buying into the system.
illinination89: Jay, could you please evaluate Deron Williams at this point in his career and how ready is he to play at the next level and could he hurt himself by staying in schoo?. Im curious because Chris Thomas' stock has stayed the same or went down from when he tested the waters of the NBA as a sophomore
Jay Bilas: On the Deron Williams question, I think he is developing nicely, and will be a great player in college. He has the chance to be a really solid pro, and will play a long time in the NBA. He may not be fast or quick, but he knows how to play. His shot is a bit streaky, but he can hit, and I think can be a reliable shooter on the highest level. Leaving early is not for everyone. The word "ready" is deceiving. Most are not ready to impact the league, but are just ready to be drafted. Deron is doing the right thing by staying in school. He will make more money staying than by going. With regard to Chris Thomas, he was not ready two years ago, and needed the extra time. He may make it, but may not. The NBA is tough business, and there are alot of guys that can play in that league, given the right situation. Leaving early is only for sure things, in my opinion. Reasonable minds can differ.
From pck, a fellow lawyer: But ask him about the illini trapping defense, and get his comments on the trapping with big men, and why does he think other teams don't run a similar scheme.
Jay Bilas: I like the idea of trapping big men in the post, because few are skilled enough to really hurt you. You just have to resign yourself as a coach that you may give up an open shot, and perhaps an open three. The key question is where do you double from? Do you do it from a ballside guard spot, the closest man, or from post to post? You have to have a smart and well drilled unit to handle the traps well, and to rotate properly and still cover the glass. Basketball is an easy game in many respects, but can become quite complicated.
Detlef: Jay, what was it like working with Ken Howard during your cameo on "The White Shadow"?
Jay Bilas: The White Shadow was great. I was only 16 when I was on the show, and was a guy named Larsen. I was the best player on an all white team that a guy named Reese transferred to. All of the guys on the show seemed to be my age, but all were about 30, which seemed ancient at the time. I saw Ken Howard about two months ago, and he couldn't have been nicer. A great memory for me.
Nick Connor: What do you feel are the weaknesses of this Illini team? In other words, do you see anything that might prevent them from reaching the Final 4?
Jay Bilas: Like most teams, Illinois is vulnerable to a cold shooting night, but the only thing I see as a problem might be inside play. I think James Augustine is an outstanding big man, but he is really a power forward playing in the pivot. Roger Powell really makes this team hard to guard because he can be isolated in the post and cause alot of match-up problems. If the Illini face a really big team, and there are a few out there, they could have some issues. However, the only team that would scare me if I were Illinois would be North Carolina. The Tar Heels are the most explosive team in the country, but Illinois plays the best together. Illinois has the best passing team that I have seen.
Krush34: Did you always know you wanted to be a television analyst, or did you ever give any thought to coaching?
Jay Bilas: I actually did coach for three years at Duke. I was an assistant to Coach K for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992, and thought seriously about continuing on in the business. However, I got married, and my new wife wanted no part of being a coach's wife. She is plenty smart! I still get feelers to coach every once in a while, and may someday take one of them. I love the game, and would love to do it. That being said, this is a much better job. It is all indoors, no heavy lifting, and I never lose. With the exception of a stray orange t-shirt with my name on it, it is a pretty cool job!
OrangeBlazer: From a national perspective, what basketball programs do you consider to be the "elite", and is Illinois part of that elite? If not, where does Illinois stand in relation to the top programs? Would a national title, or Final Four run put Illinois on par with the top programs in the minds of analysts and (more importantly) recruits?
Following the recent national titles by Syracuse and Maryland, your colleague Andy Katz quipped that Illinois had the most basketball tradition WITHOUT a title. Would you agree with this statement?
Jay Bilas: The "Traditional Elite" are North Carolina, St. John's, UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, and Kansas. To me, the elite differs from year to year. You can have an elite team and not an elite program. Michigan State is not a traditional elite, yet has an elite program. To have an elite program, many would argue that you have to have a National Championship banner. To me, that is all talk. If I said that Illinois was elite, it would not take the sting out of a loss in the Sweet 16 this year. Similarly, if I say Illinois is just outside of the elite, it doesn't mean that the 2005 Illini is not one of the truly elite teams of the decade. Here's the bottom line...this team is worthy of great respect because it plays the right way, and it makes you feel good about the game when you watch the Illini play. A banner already hanging in Assembly Hall would not change that. On the same level, if you saw the 1989 Illini play, you know that it could have easily been Kendall Gill on the line hitting free throws rather than
Brumby's note: This got cut off
Jay Bilas: Did that last answer get cut off? It was brilliant!!
Next Question: Jay, what are your feelings about the changes Myles Brand is trying to enact concerning NCAA athletics? Do you feel it's on the right track, and are there any other reforms you'd like to see?
Jay Bilas: Myles Brand is doing a great job because he listens. He understands that basketball pays the bills and must be protected. I believe that Brand really gets it, and will continue to do what is in the best interests of the game. If it were me, I would have an opening day for college basketball, and get rid of the postseason NIT. I would have the Top 16 teams tip off the year in the an early NIT, and create a meaningful title to win. I think it would be great for the game.
Next question, A quick follow up to your last answer. On the list of elite programs you did not include Duke, was that intentional, or just an oversight? I personally consider them now part of that elite teir with the UNC's, Kansas', and UCLA's.
Jay Bilas: Oversight. My bad. And St. John's may be out of the elite currently, but has won alot of games over the years. That's why I called it a "Traditional Elite". You guys don't get caught up in that dumb stuff, do you?
J6687ESPN: Where do you see Bruce Weber taking this program in the future?
Jay Bilas: The short answer is consistent winning. That is the measure of a great program. Do you compete for a conference crown and national honors on a regular basis? That is what great is....However, to have a great team every few years is extraordinary. To have a special team, which is what Illinois has this year, happens rarely. It may be that the Illini win it all, or fall a bit short, but this team has the feel of something really special. Enjoy it.
Next Question: Jay, many people in the media have said the Big Ten is "down." Right now the three best teams in the conference are Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan State. Is one reason the Big Ten is considered down is the recent flux in coaching and the lack of recent success of both Michigan and Indiana, the Big Ten's traditional powers?
Jay Bilas: The Big Ten is a bit down right now. I would put Iowa in the top three in the Big Ten,and I think that the Hawkeyes are an NCAA Tournament team. The bottom half of the league needs to get better, there is no question about that. I take Minnesota and Michigan out of the equation right now, because each is coming off of scandal and probation that the current coaches had nothing to do with. You may be able to say the same thing about Ohio State, but it was not quite as bad as the other two, and may not have as much damage to contain. But, because the league is down, it doesn't mean that Illinois or Michigan State would not compete favorably in the ACC or Big East. I would love to see the ACC have to take a trip to Champaign to play in AH, and then talk so tough.
rickb53: You have had so many opportunities to be present at so many college venues....which ones stand out as favorite places to announce? Part two....how does Assembly Hall in Champaign presently rank in terms of excitement and crowd participation for "big" games?
Jay Bilas: I love Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Penn and Oregon for history and atmosphere. But, I hate to be seen as pandering to you, but I would say that Assembly Hall is in the Top Five of venues I have seen. The first half of your Wake game was electric, and the crowd made it a really tough place to play. I was at your Michigan State game three years ago, and my ears are still ringing fromit. That is a big time atmosphere, and you should be proud of it. Raftery adn I were really impressed, and we have seen alot of places and alot of crowds. It was Big Time. Really.
Not sure what "fromit" means....but I was not just saying that. If I thought it was a lesser venue, I would tell you.
Next Question: Jay, this is the final canned question and then if you are willing, I will open it up to what I missed. What do you think are the NBA chances for the Illini players: Luther Head, Roger Powell, Deron Williams, Dee Brown, and James Augustine?
Jay Bilas: Deron will be a pro. He is strong and knows how to play. Dee is small, but he can shoot it and has great speed in the open court. Roger is an undersized four, but will get a chance. The question people will have is, where do you play him? I think that if he impacts the game, he can find a place in the league.
BrusselsIllini: Jay: What is the word around the watercooler at ESPN on the future of BT/ACC challenge. Is it extended? Is it giving you guys what you want?
Jay Bilas: The ACC-Big Ten is here to stay. It started as the ACC-Big East, and was the brainchild of Dave Gavitt and Gene Corrigan. The coaches in the Big East didn't want it, and let it die. The Big Ten jumped in and got a great marketing tool out of it. Smart move.
RockyMountainIllini: Jay, first of thanks for doing this! I am really going to enjoy listening to you in the future. Speaking of that, when are you going to be in Champaign to announce another game?
Jay Bilas: Not sure, but maybe sooner if Majerus leaves ESPN for USC, which is in the works right now.
quincybluedevil2002: Jay- if you find this one amidst the others...in your opinion, what is the best team to not win the title?
Jay Bilas: Duke 1986. The 86 Blue Devils had a lousy center (that Bilas guy) but won 37 games and lost to Louisville in the title game. I really thought we were better, but the best team does not always win. Especially when the better team has a slow, undersized and mouthy center!
Walkon: A scout sitting in front of me at the Wake game had one word next to Rog's name - "Limited". I felt bad for him since he was playing his ass off.
OB25: jay, i have been campaigning for Roger Powell's nickname to be "Showtime." Its a bit of an inside joke, but get to work on getting that name out to the masses, please.
Jay Bilas: Roger is a great young man. I sat with him at Aunt Sonya's, and he is a true class act. Great kid.
meanjeans: Jay, the Illini nation has been known to go off the deep end from time to time when we perceive "bias" in the ESPN coverage, or when we think we're not yet considered an "elite" program. We think Dick Vitale doesn't like us for the tone of some of what's been posted here. Lay it on us, how annoying are we really as a fan base? :) Any more or less than other schools?Thanks so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with us.
Jay Bilas: I don't get annoyed at fans or opinions. I think your opinion is every bit as important as mine. I only get worked up when facts are wrong. With regard to ESPN and certain announcers, if you think that certain guys have bias, that's okay. Just make sure that you look at it objectively before you make up your mind. The truth is, we could care less who wins. I admire those players, teams and coaches that play the right way, and have no favorites. Last year, I picked UConn, and when the Huskies lost early, I still said they were the best and would win it. This year, it is not UConn, and I have not put them in my top 15. This year, it is Illinois, Carolina, KU, Okie State and Georgia Tech. The champ will come from that group.
ThePiasa: Jay, do you believe the media in reality helps/hurts recruiting for programs?
Jay Bilas: The media can help or hurt in anything. The only thing I hope for the media is that we are informed and we know what we are talking about. Too many media guys are giving opinions now, instead of seeking out what experts think. If you hear a writer tell you that so and so is good and why, ask yourself where he or she got it from. If that person is speaking for himself, what are his credentials to do so? I think I know baskeball, and have spent most of my life around the game. However, if I were to start talking about football, and who was good and why, I would be talking out of my backside, because I am just a casual fan. I hope that makes sense. Just because it is in print doesn't make it correct. It also doesn't make it an opinion of substance. Judge for yourself.
illinination89: Jay, the Big Ten title game is basically meaningless when it comes to seeding for the NCAA tournament. Why can't the pairings announcement be pushed back into prime time or move the final game up. Your thoguhts.
Jay Bilas: It is all televisioin. The Big Ten has a contract for the game, and the NCAA has a contract for the Selection Show. The Big Ten is taking a risk, but I don't think it really hurts anyone that badly. It does make the game irrelevant for seeding purposes, but it does get cash for the league. Hard to tell what is the best thing.
TriangleIL: Jay, first I want to thank you immensely for taking your time!! Do you think with a 1 or no loss non-conf and 2-3 loss conf. team the Illini will end up a #1 in the Midwest?
Jay Bilas: Probably. I like Illinois chances for a No. 1 seed. It certainly depends what other teams are doing. There are probably six teams that could reasonably grab a No. 1 seed, but others can emerge.
stlfan72: jay, could you comment on how illinois' future nba-ers might be impacted, at least initially in the pros, by having spent much of their college careers in the motion offense.
Jay Bilas: Motion only helps, because these guys know how to move with a purpose. Anyone can run a set play. The Illini understand player and ball movement. That will translate well into any system. A more important question is whether a player can guard people.
uofi1998: Jay... Bruce Weber has been phenomenal at UI after spending time at a mid-major. In your opinion, who are some of the next big-time coaches to come from the mid-major level??? Thanks for taking the time.
Jay Bilas: I like Mark Turgeon of Wichita State and Dana Altman of Creighton. Altman seems to be happy where he is, though.
A question on Coach K & the Lakers job from this summer
Jay Bilas: Coach K took a hard look at it. However, he was never really that close to taking it. The Lakers offered to make him the highest paid coach in pro sports, and it was tempting, but Duke is where he feels most comfortable. I'm glad he stayed in college. He is good for the game.
Sukhoi: Jay do you have any special routines you go through before going on-air?
Jay Bilas: My routine is to go to practices, prepare my scouting reports, and get to the game a couple of hours early. I talk to the coaches, and do the game. Most of my work is done before I ever get there. It is a great job.
Phil: Jay-thanks for taking the time to chat with us. As you probably know, Lou Henson has had some health issues recently, and probably won't get to coach for a while. You probably know what it takes to get into the CBB Hall of Fame better than most of us...is Lou going to get his due (absolutely no pun intended...)?
Jay Bilas: I'm not sure what the Hall of Fame looks at for induction. John Chaney got in without a Final Four to his credit. Gene Keady was nominated last year. Jim Calhoun didn't get in last year, and he has two titles. Go figure. Henson is deserving, but it is a political process.
ijustkrushalot: hey jay. Thanks for doing this. What at are your thoughts on michigan? can we put a fork in them, or do they have any hope? they just lost by 11 to Boston U, at home....
Jay Bilas: As to Michigan, the Wolverines are hurt, and BU is pretty good. When you combine finals, injuries and a good opponent, you have a recipe for an upset. I would like to have seen Daniel Horton, Lester Abram and Graham Brown in the game and see if they could have provided the extra twelve points it would have taken to win. But Dennis Wolfe can coach, and BU is good.
Krush34: Jay, willing to make any final 4 predictions? perhaps a pick for champion? i'm sure nobody would bring it up if you turn out to be wrong
Jay Bilas: I already have....on ESPN.com. In October, I chose the following teams: Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest.
Sz: Jay-- I was wondering which players in college ball today you think have an opportunity to be truly great players. The Carmelo Anthonys, Dwayne Wades, etc, that can not only score points but change every facet of the game as well. By the way, thanks for doing this, it's really appreciated.
Jay Bilas: Rashad McCants is the best prospect in college right now. If he would guard people, he would be incredible. He is, without question, the best offensive player in the country.
kidd: Jay, if you had to pick a team, which do you like better, the 89 Flyin Illini or our current team? What weakness would the other team take advantage of?
Jay Bilas: The 1989 team had a great advantage....they were all older. This team is older for today's game, but I would still like to see them in a year, when they have had the time to really mature. I would probaly take the 89 Illini in a seven game series, but the 05 version could certainly win.
TVIllini: Jay - This is somewhat of a non-Illini question, but I ask it because it hopefully will relate to how well the Illini can play in the 'dance'. Do you feel that UNC can win 6 straight games in the tournament setting? They always seem to kill everyone, except when they forget they're North Carolina and think they're Vandy. Is their weakness mental?
Jay Bilas: Carolina has not had great success together yet, but are still really good. Can they win 6 in a row? Yes. WIll they? As long as nobody gets hurt, they have a good chance.
Yanr: Jay, slightly off topic but its my goal to become a sports broadcaster. Could you give any tips as being in front of the camara, and saying the write thing at the right time?
Jay Bilas: On the broadcaster question, turn the sound down, and do the games yourself. Tape them and listen back. It will become clear what you need to do to get better. It is a fun job, but requires some training. I hope we can work together sometime.
bbillini: what do you do in the offseason - do you have a "real" job?
Jay Bilas: I do have another job, as a lawyer, but I spend most of my time on basketball. It is 90-10 basketball, and it is really fun.
Krush34: Jay, how many basketball games would you say you watch a week? do you ever watch the NBA, or is the vast majority college?
Jay Bilas: I watch twenty to thirty games in a week, usually on tape. I cannot scrutinize every minute of every game, but I watch alot of games and game tape. I also scout players. Hardly breaking rocks.
ThePiasa: do you and the other analysts argue opinions, have any back and forth or do you all mostly agree with one another?
Jay Bilas: Nah, we argue all the time. What one guy thinks is a good team, another thinks can't play a lick. The guys that played or coached usually agree more often than not, but the guys that didn't play or coach seem to be on the other side of things more often. I like it when people disagree, but can do so without being disagreeable. It is fun to debate things and find out what people really think is important. For instance, I am not a believer in the Princeton offense. It may work for some, but it is not my favorite. Other guys like it. Go figure.
Jay Bilas: Aunt Sonya's is the real deal. Hey guys, I have to get off the board. My wife is giving me the evil eye.....thanks for having me, and I am looking forward to getting back to Champaign again soon. Enjoy the season. You guys have a great team, and a great group of supporters. Illinois has a great thing going. Thanks again!