Hey, Let’s Check in on Brad Underwood

[USATSI]
Written by Kyle Porter

Kyle Cox wrote a fun post on Mike Boynton’s first 15 games in office on Wednesday, and it reminded me that we haven’t checked in on Brad Underwood in a while. This won’t be something we do regularly, but I thought it would be fun to see how that first season at his dream school is going up in Champaign.

Illinois is currently ranked No. 87 in KenPom’s rankings. They are behind Buffalo, South Dakota State and Louisiana Lafayette.

Oh.

And they lost to Eastern Illinois in an exhibition game.

Oh my.

And nearly lost to Tennessee Martin in a real game in November. Then they almost lost to Grand Canyon (!) on December 30.

But at least the entire thing has been encouraging and optimistic, right?

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Underwood has become a sideshow of his own this season and that was certainly true Saturday during Illinois’ 62-58 grind-it-out victory over Grand Canyon.

When Trent Frazier was fouled on a 3-point shot, he went to the line for three free throws. In a close game, Illinois may have needed every one. Instead, Frazier missed the first, made the second and missed the third.

Underwood pivoted on his shoe, looked at his assistant coaches and said sarcastically, “Yeah, he’s mentally ready.”

Another time, when there was one of Illinois’ 20 turnovers, Underwood tossed a handful of index cards over the team bench. They fluttered to the ground like snowflakes while he shook his head in disbelief. [Herald-Review]

I say all of this tongue in cheek, of course. I think Underwood is a fantastic college basketball coach who is going to thrive at Illinois (or wherever he is). But I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t at least a small part of me that has a bit of a chuckle at Illinois struggling in Year 1. They’re currently 10-7 overall but 0-4 in the conference.

There’s still a long way to go, obviously, and we saw the wizardry he performed down the stretch in Stillwater last year, but KenPom projects the Illini to go 6-12 in league play and not make the tournament. Most of this is due to a lack of offense. After running out the No. 1 offense in the country in terms of efficiency last year in Stillwater, Illinois isn’t even in the top 50.

But hey, there’s a long runway there for Underwood to improve. He signed a six-year, $18 million deal after leaving Stillwater. His program will grow, and, if last year is any indication, grow towards becoming a top-notch Big Ten program. So enjoy the bit of misery while you can.

And hey, at least he didn’t have to dump all those orange ties.

  • Or America’s brightest coral

    Illinois, America’s brightest grapefruit.

  • RealisticallyIdealogical

    Hope we play them in the NIT

    • Forever 14

      Hope OU plays them in the NIT. Yes, I know, but I can dream, can’t I?

    • Lee Cothran

      They won’t even make the NIT.

  • Winning Comment

    Their 12 year old AD may be feeling some pressure after handing over that kind of money and ending the season with a worse record.

  • Diane Way

    LOL!!… I actually set my DVR to catch all of the Illinois games just so I can “enjoy” their lack of success… I think that means I am bitter and immature, but it’s sort of gratifying… :o)

  • @below_the_cheddar_curtain

    0-4 Conference start. He’s got’em right where he wants’em.

  • tomg

    I never blamed Underwood for leaving due to his age. After decades of assistant/SFA pay I knew he was looking for a big pay day that would secure his financial future. I also didn’t think Holder low balled him by offering to double his pay as the start of negotiations. I thought that was a reasonable negotiation after one year, but get that Illinois struck while the iron was hot and made Underwood’s dreams come true. Holder was never going to offer 18 million and I don’t blame him. I was completely wrong in that I thought Underwood saw a long term future in Stillwater and he would eventually secure a wonderful retirement. I like Boynton, like having Scott Sutton on his staff, and hope Mike eventually secures a wonderful retirement at oSu.

    • austinpoke

      Completely agree with your post. Underwood could have handled the departure better, but I totally understand wanting to secure a lucrative contract at his age.
      Ironically, I think Holder missed on a better candidate when he hired Underwood. Chris Beard has Texas Tech playing really well, and he was available when Holder hired Underwood.

  • Wayne from Forty One

    He better be saving that money for when the fibby’s come knocking on his door right after they stop off at Frank Martin’s house. He’s a poser.

  • Arkady Vachon

    I think he went 0-5 starting conference play with us? they then wona string of matches, then lost a string of matches…hopefully Boynton will improve on it, if even by a little

    • David

      0-6

  • Sonny

    Don’t forget, Brad Uderwood is also LHAO at articles like this as he drives his brand new [insert car here] on his way to the bank for a bag he can lay against the Pokes.

  • LMC

    Sounds like he shouldn’t have ditched MikeB. His loss.

  • David

    Sucks to suck, Brad.

  • Arkady Vachon

    Wisconsin walloped the Illini 75-50 tonight, which puts them at 0-7 conference record and 10-10 for the season.

    Over on some of their forums the great unwashed are getting mighty restless.

    But hey, maybe Brad will win against someone like Rutgers (or not?)