Big Ten, ACC “Challenged” Considerably on First March Madness Weekend

In 1999, ESPN created the Big Ten/ACC Challenge as a made for television “event,” with the purpose of trying to drum up interest in preconference college basketball. Generally, interest in college hoops at this time of the year, during the NCAA Tournament, is on par with the Super Bowl.

The rest of the year, it’s probably about as popular as Major League Soccer. However, the B1G/ACC Challenge is kind of a thing, sort of, as it matches up what are usually the two best leagues, annually, in the nation. This March Madness, however, has been real rough so far for both conferences.

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Illini Basketball Rebuild Has Now Come Full Circle

The NCAA Tournament selection committee, always obsessed first and foremost with narratives and storylines, got the match-up they wanted when they set up the bracket with #1 seed Illinois facing #8 seed Loyola-Chicago tomorrow in the second round.

Just to belabor the point even more, Illini coach Brad Underwood could face his most recent former employer, Oklahoma State, in the next round too. That’s how brackets are made! On the eve of the match-up with Loyola, Underwood and All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu did a media Zoom to preview the game.

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Another Kentucky Wildcats Offseason of Huge Turnover Already Well Underway

9-16, 8-9 in league For the first time since 2013, and just the third since 1991, the Kentucky Wildcats missed the NCAA Tournament. With a record of 9-16 (8-9 in the SEC) it was a season to forget in Lexington, and the kind of campaign that almost never, ever happens to Big Blue.

Kentucky leads everybody in total NCAA tournament appearances (59), NCAA tournament wins (131), NCAA Tournament games played (184), NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances (45), NCAA Elite Eight appearances (38), total postseason tournament appearances (68), and conference regular season champions (51, 49 in the Southeastern Conference). So they’ll be back, and soon, but with a very different look.

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Michigan State vs UCLA is Biggest Brand First Four Game Ever

michigan state basketball

Typically, the First Four, the play-in games of the NCAA Tournament, bring us match-ups of mid-majors and low-majors, but this year is quite different. Usually, the play-in games are staged on the Wednesday night before March Madness begins in earnest on Thursday.

This year, the tournament really begins on a Friday, with the First Four on a Thursday, and one really marquee matchup- Michigan State vs UCLA.  While both teams are the embodiment of middling mediocrity this season, when you look at the bigger picture, in historical context, it’s the blue blood bowl.

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One Site NCAA Tournament Could Become a Thing Says Jim Nantz

When I first heard about the entire NCAA Tournament being played in the Indianapolis/central Indiana region, I thought to myself, “hey there are some positives to this!” While the change to one site, instead of multiple, came about only because of COVID-19, the crisis has created an interesting opportunity.

The worst part of the NCAA Tournament, in normal years, is the travel component. That’s because, well, you know how neurotic and stubborn the airline industry is, as a whole. Changing your flight should be as easy as rescheduling a dentist appointment, but that’s not how it works. The airlines believe you’ve signed some kind of ironclad deal and breaking it requires a force of nature.

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DePaul Blue Demons Coaching Search: Four Leading Candidates

Dave Leitao at DePaul 2.0 was mostly a system malfunction, as it was overall much less successful and effective than the inaugural edition. The high point of his second tenure leading the DePaul Blue Demons was a deep run in the CBI a couple year ago.

And yes the words “high point” and “CBI” do not actually go together, at all. With Jean Lenti-Ponsetto finally gone, there is actual hope now that DPU could get the men’s basketball coaching hire correct. Under JLP, DPU was a total laughingstock, and there wasn’t ever going to be much hope of escaping that. However, DeWayne Peevy, who took over the A.D. job in April, is on the ball, and he’ll get things done.

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Bill Raftery on Advantage Illinois Fighting Illini May Have in NCAA Title Chase

On a media call today ahead of the NCAA Tournament, CBS Analyst Bill Raftery gave his take on what the key ingredient might be to winning the 2021 national title.

He also explained what he saw in the Illinois Fighting Illini which conveys that yes, the 3rd overall seeded team in the country might indeed possess that secret sauce. #1 seeded Illinois opens their March Madness campaign Friday at the Farmers Coliseum. They’ll take on #16 seed Drexel at 12:15 CST.

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Illinois Fighting Illini NCAA Tournament History for Millenials

dee brown

The Illinois Fighting Illini would have seen their seven year NCAA Tournament drought snapped a year ago, getting in as a #6 or #7 seed most likely. Of course, last year brought no March Madness for anybody, as it was one of the first major casualties of the pandemic.

“Last year was taken away from us and we were playing great at the time,” Illini coach Brad Underwood said on media Zoom following his side’s double digit win over Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Underwood’s program turnaround is now complete.

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Reigning Champs Virginia Cavaliers Now Questionable for NCAA Tournament

With no NCAA Tournament staged in 2020, the 2019 national champions, the Virginia Cavaliers, are still the reigning bosses for now. However, they might not even have a chance to compete next week and defend their title, for the same reason that the tourney itself got cancelled last year: COVID-19.

Virginia’s ACC tournament semifinal against Georgia Tech was cancelled due to a positive coronavirus test, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the UVA program.

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Purdue C Trevion Williams a Major Player to Watch this March Madness

Today saw Purdue Boilermakers center Trevion Williams become the first Big Ten player since at least the 2010-11 season to have at least 25 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots in the same game. It came in a 87-78 (OT) Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss to #9 Ohio State.

The #20 Boilermakers saw themselves down by 18 at halftime, but fought all the way back, on the strength of Williams’ 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the second half (9-14 FGs), to pull level at the end of regulation. While Purdue has seen their conference tournament run ended today, they will be a very dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament.

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Picking a Perfect Bracket? Getting Eaten By a Shark is 15,000 Times Likelier


March Madness will soon be here and with it, some of the best days on the entire sporting calendar. How could anyone argue against the idea that the first two main days of the NCAA Tournament, when the field halves from 64 to 32, are as good as it gets when it comes to watching live sports?

You have action going strong for 12 hours plus, on back to back days, and with so many college basketball games going on all at the same time, if one’s a clunker, simply tune into a different one. Having all these options, it’s only natural that bracket betting took off.

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How Illini PG Andre Curbelo Got on a Fast Learning Curve

Ayo Dosunumu is almost certainly not coming back next year, and most Illinois Fighting Illini fans realize that. Don’t cry because it will soon be over, smile that it happened. Illini supporters also need to think about what they will have in 2021/22, a further seasoned and developed Andre Curbelo, taking on a larger role.

The perfect example of “Ewing Theory,” Illinois went 3-0, including their biggest win of the regular season, without Ayo. It was over this stretch that Curbelo truly asserted himself, and established the bonafides that got him the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Award. It also solidified Illinois’ place as a #1 seed this season.

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