Northwestern-Notre Dame Private School Battle for Chicago’s Heart

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By Paul M. Banks

Welcome to the Chicago Invitational Challenge Live blog day one. It’s both an invitational and a challenge. Not just an invitational, nor merely a challenge, or tournament. But a challenge and an invitational. The fun started at noon today with the mid-majors going at it, but the action ramps up with Iowa St. vs. Saint Louis. Where it’s currently 30-27 ISU.

This is actually a pretty good undercard bout as the Cyclones boast two players who have a very high chance of going in the first round of the NBA Draft: forwards Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. And SLU has former ESPN analyst and coaching legend Rick Majerus at the helm. He’s spent most of the first half here at the UIC pavilion pacing back and forth in front of me. And at approximately 7:30 we’ll move on to the main event, the title fight, Notre Dame-Northwestern, the battle between two of Chicago’s most beloved private schools. Never mind the fact that ND is a longer drive from the Second City than Champaign, and in another state and time zone from Chicago, this will truly be a match-up between two Chicago teams. Here at the “Chicago Invitational Challenge”

In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s get it started in here! Let’s get it started in HAAAHHHHH!”

ISU-SLU 41-31 14 min left.

Attendance here is…a bit sparse. As are pretty much all holiday tournaments. Mostly because everyone plays on an out of town neutral court, so it’s harder to get people to travel. But  that’s truly a shame, as some of the basketball that’s played at these things is about as good as you’ll find all season. It’s still early, I’m guessing more people will come for the battle between “the two schools full of private snobs, and elitists,” or whatever people say to deride these two schools with a very high tuition. After my experience at the Bears game earlier this month, and at every Cubs game I’ve ever attended, I think elitist and snob is a complement. Pro sports, or at least the people who ended up sitting next to me at Cubs and Bears games, could learn a thing or two from the “snobs” and “elitists”. Maybe that’s why I like college sports so much better than the pros, less people on parole (or will be someday) in the stands next to you.

Or simply Bears fans are utterly disgusting sometimes…then again you heard what a Notre Dame fan did to Jimmy Clausen. And from what I hear, Clausen provoked him. Gives a new meaning to the term “Fighting Irish.”

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If I knew how to photoshop, I would put Clausen’s head on the leprecaun, with two black eyes, and have him lying on his back.

alright enough with the distractions, Iowa St. has opened a bigger lead on the Billikens now, and they’re threatening to turn this into a route. Both teams are undefeated and unranked currently, but the ‘Clones are the only team that looks like they should be ranked right now. Reigning Big 12 player of the week Craig Brackins leads the way with 15 pts so far, ISU 56-SLU 43, 4 min to go.

Iowa St. Head Coach Greg McDermott sums up the last game perfectly, “we found a way to win an ugly game, we finally got our offense in rhythm during the 2nd half.” Exactly ISU wins the 65-54. After falling behind in the 2nd half, the Cyclones stopped the Billikens on 9/10 offensive series.

Craig Brackins was a fun interview subject, one of the reporters asked him about his Tweets today. I hyperlinked his Twitter if you want to follow him, but he has to approve each and every one of his followers. If I were him, or in his situation, I would do the same. A lot of weirdoes out there, especially on online.

I have to admit I like the ND band. They play more original music, like Jimmy Buffett “Fins” and Styx “Come Sail Away”.

ND owns the series over NU 63-23-1. and this is their first meeting since 1984, which the Irish won by about 20.

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I hope this game moves at a much higher tempo than the last one. So far, not so much. ND leads 5-4 with 16:10 left in 1st half. So far they seem to be owning the paint on both ends. Stats would not exactly confirm that, but they’re using the superior size and more athletic bigs to intimidate the Cats from getting down low. I think that’s why Bill Carmody started Kyle Rowley tonight. He’s the biggest guy on the roster, even though he’s…well he’s far from leading the team in minutes per game for a good reason.

Northwestern takes their first lead on a Juice Thompson field goal, 9-8 with 13 min left in half. Now that Minnesota has knocked off Butler, NU’s lone loss this season looks a bit worse than it did before Wednesday. That said, they can redeem themselves here by giving #23 Notre Dame their first loss of the season. Good defense in this game so far, and bad shooting at both ends.

TSB readers know what I think of Tyler Hansbrough, well tonight I get to watch his little brother Ben, a two guard for the Irish. A good excuse to put my all time favorite Tyler H. pic. even though I loved Beeker from the muppets, so I hate doing that to Beeker.

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Shooting getting uglier, but Northwestern takes a 16-10 advantage with just udner 8 min left in half. 6 pts in a game like this is…15 I guess. And what I mean by that is if you lose a game 90-82. that’s a much closer game and a lot better effort than say a 58-50 game. Seriously, the margin is the same, but it makes a difference trust me. We need a scale for this. we need a stat to measure this.

When NU forward/center Luka Mirkovic took and missed a turnaround baseline jumper, I heard someone on the NU coaching staff say “what the hell”? classic.

Even better than Rick Majerus tell one of his players “you gotta watch the f–king press” right in front of me last game.

At another timeout I hear that the new coach at Notre Dame, football I mean this time, will be Bob Stoops. seriously. And of course, every time you mention Charlie Weiss, a fat joke must follow. But I’m a professional, so I’ll let people in the comment threads handle that…if they so desire.

25 all with a min left in half. low-scoring like soccer here tonight.

John Shurna hits a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng three as time expires to give NU a 30-27 advantage heading to the break. Shurna is starting to maybe come into his own this year. His time spent playing with the under 19 national team is paying off. He’s made a big leap from his freshman year.

When Shurna was at the podium last year, his soft-spoken, quiet nervousness reminded me of Paulie Bleeker (the guy played by Michael Cera) in the indie smash “Juno”. They kind of look alike too. I think at least.

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So when the All-American team decided to have a “white-out,” naming 3/5 Caucasian players to the first team, for no inexplicable reason, Luke Harangody received more votes than any other player in the nation. The nation? are you serious? the nation’s best player? as Duke Vitale, whoops I meant to say Dick Vitale would say ARE YOUUU SERRIOUSSSSSSSS??!!!!

I just don’t see it. I know this hasn’t exactly been Harangody’s best half ever, as he’s 3-9 shooting for 7 pts so far. Shurna leads the game with 14 pts on 5-10 from the floor. Still I don’t see what all the Harangody hullabalooza is all about.

On the strength of two Juice Thompson 3 pt FGs, NU leads 41-38 with 15:27 to go. You knew the Juice would start hitting those sometime, and that time is now.

I still love the ND band, their 80s music choices are killer. Just heard the “A Team” theme after some “867-5309 Jenny”

46-38 Northwestern now with 13:55 left. A big Jeremy Nash 3 pointer right after a Juice Thompson drive to the hole. The Juice is indeed loose.

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If you believe in “halftime adjustments” and I sure do, then Carmody really has made some great adjsutments in the locker room. Cats lead 50-38 with 11:42 left. Upset alert?

Yes, very much upset alert. The Irish can’t seem to find a way to consistently solve NU’s smothering defense.

Hi drama here as NU’s lead gets all the more slimmer. 57-51 just over 5 minutes to play.

Usually a coach should be happy when one of his players makes a 3. But on Alex Marcotullio’s last 3 bomb, which he made. Carmody looked about as dejected and frustrated as a coach can look.

61-56 Cats 1 min to go. The upset is a brewing, remember in 1995 when no one gave NU a chance to beat ND in football, and they won 17-15 sending shockwaves throughout the sports nerd world? Some dude here has a shirt with that score on it today, and they showed him on the jumbotron!