NCAA Talk

Will Richmond's Cinderella story come to an end?

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Will Richmond's Cinderella story come to an end?

Thursday, March 24, 2011Posted: 4:45 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

This year's NCAA Tournament has already had its share of thrillers--Kentucky's first-round escape over Princeton, Arizona's pair of slim victories (against Texas and Derrick Rose's beloved Memphis Tigers, respectively), Wisconsin outlasting Kansas State (and Chicagoland native Jacob Pullen's valiant effort), San Diego State's double-overtime second-round marathon over Temple, to name a few--but now it's time for the annual event's meat and potatoes, the Sweet 16.

With shockers like Morehead State over Louisville (picked by yours truly in the CSNChicago.com Bracket Challenge) out of the way, the contenders have mostly separated themselves from the pretenders, evidenced by last season's national runner-up, Butler, taking out not only sleeper candidate Old Dominion in the first round, but upsetting top-seeded Pittsburgh in a second-round heartbreaker. Speaking of the Big East, after a tournament-record 11 teams from the conference made the Big Dance, only two--Connecticut and upstart Marquette--are still alive, while Virginia Commonwealth, a school many believed should have been excluded on Selection Sunday, dispatched not only Georgetown, but highly-regarded Purdue, and convincingly so.

Some of the best individual performances thus far have been turned in by the likes of the aforementioned Pullen (the Proviso East High School product scored 38 points in his final collegiate outing), Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight (the latest in the line of John Calipari's star point guards hit the game-winner for his only first-round field goal, then scored a career-high 30 points in the second round), as well as continued excellence by the likes of Kansas' Morris twins (junior forwards Marcus and Markieff). North Carolina star freshmen Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall (the latter's poised playmaking has been the key to the Tar Heels' late-season surge) have also shone, as well as Arizona forward Derrick Williams, Duke guard Nolan Smith, Ohio State freshman big man Jared Sullinger and the two consensus top players in the country, high scoring guards Kemba Walker of Connecticut and Jimmer Fredette of BYU.

Two schools with local ties, Illinois and Notre Dame, each made it past their first-round matchup before falling in the second round. In a season marked by inconsistency, Illinois got by UNLV and one of its former coaches (Lon Kruger) before succumbing to another ex-head coach, Bill Self and top-seeded Kansas. Meanwhile, second-seeded Notre Dame expectedly cruised by Akron in the first round, but was then surprised by 10th-seeded Florida State, unable to deal with the Seminoles' length and rugged defense.

When it comes to the Sweet 16, however, while a lot of people's brackets aren't completely broken (three No. 1 seeds are still playing), the eliminated teams and nature of the games have seemingly put things up for grabs. With no further adieu, here are my predictions:

In the East region, Ohio State's combination of experience and Sullinger's inside dominance should be the difference against a young Kentucky team, while North Carolina's sheer talent should overwhelm undersized Marquette. In the Elite Eight, the Buckeyes' toughness will make life too tough for the Tar Heels, preventing yet another Final Four appearance, as well as the players cashing in on alum, Bulls legend and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan's pledge of free sneakers.

UConn, riding Walker's season-long hot hand, should have enough to beat San Diego State--the Aztecs have talent, but are new to this territory, despite having a former national championship-winning coach in Steve Fisher--while Duke should also march past youthful Arizona in the West, despite the brilliance of Williams. However, look for UConn's charmed path to continue with an upset of the defending champs in the Elite Eight.

In the Southwest region, Richmond's Cinderella story should end against powerhouse Kansas, but VCU's run should somehow continue against an up-and-down Florida State team with an injured star in Chris Singleton. Kansas, regarded by many as the favorite to win it all, will go to the Final Four after a relatively easy romp through its bracket.

Finally, in the Southeast, Butler's run will end at the hands of a disciplined, well-rounded Wisconsin squad, while Florida evens the score against undersized BYU in a rematch of last season's double-overtime tournament upset. However, the school that produced Joakim Noah will fall to the Bo Ryan-coached Badgers in the Elite Eight.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Illinois men's basketball cracks AP poll for first time in more than five years

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USA TODAY

Illinois men's basketball cracks AP poll for first time in more than five years

Illinois basketball has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2013 and has endured losing records in three of the last four seasons. However, things are looking up for the Fighting Illini.

Three straight Big Ten wins have the Illini 4-2 in the league, good for second place and the No. 24 spot in the latest AP poll. It’s the first time the Illini have been ranked since Dec. 2014.


Coach Brad Underwood went 26-39 in his first two seasons in charge, but things have turned around this season. A win against Michigan on Dec. 11 gave the Illini a marquee win, but losses to Missouri and Michigan State followed soon after. The current three-game winning streak has featured a blowout win against Purdue, a one-point win at Wisconsin and a three-point win against a surprisingly good Rutgers team.

Illinois’ RPI is currently 42 so they’re far from a lock to get in the tournament, but the Illini are in good shape as of now. The last season the Illini were ranked, they had to settle for an NIT bid.

Chicago native and Morgan Park High School product Ayo Dosunmu leads the team with 15.5 points per game.

NCAA is taking steps to allow student-athletes to make money off their likeness

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USA TODAY

NCAA is taking steps to allow student-athletes to make money off their likeness

Bulls rookie guard Coby White has talent, an infectious smile and an afro that makes him stand out on the court. It’s a fair bet he could have made some money off his likeness while he played at North Carolina if the rules allowed it.

The NCAA is taking steps towards allowing its athletes to do so, but there’s still a long way to go in the process. The organization’s Board of Governors unanimously voted to start the process. That vote moves things to the NCAA’s three divisions “to consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies,” as it was worded in the NCAA's press release.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes,” said Michael V. Drake, the chair of the board and president of Ohio State. “Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships.”

The board asked each division (Division I, Division II, Division III) to make any new rules immediately and no later than January 2021.

It’s important to note that none of the changes are final, or even imminent. It’s still relevant that the NCAA is going through the process at all, after being so strongly in favor of amateurism across the board for its student-athletes.

The potential changes would not allow for compensation based on performance or participation in a sport. Of course, the natural grey area is that higher performing athletes will be more marketable so they would be compensated on performance indirectly.

This comes after California passed legislation to allow college athletes to receive endorsement/sponsorship money and other states are pursuing similar.

This is still far from being official or finalized, but it will continue to be a major story in college sports over the next couple years.