College basketball is AWFUL in all of Illinois, yet again

depaul blue demon

What a shame. What a crying shame that Chicago, which every year has some of the best preps talent in the country, has zero going for it on the college level. Unless the Illinois Fighting Illini can somehow go 6-3 down stretch (and they face some brutal opponents so this highly unlikely) what Land of Lincoln team will get into the big dance? An improved UIC team that is 9-2 at home and 5-5 on conference could very possibly win the Horizon League Tournament, the only way they get their ticket punched. So maybe zero teams in the NCAAs this year, just like last year, just like four years ago. Juxtapose that with Indiana in 2000, when the Crossroads of America got seven teams in the big dance.

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Former Purdue guard Kelsey Barlow lands at UIC


UIC announced the addition of former Purdue guard Kelsey Barlow, who transferred to UIC to complete his final season of eligibility.  Barlow will sit out the 2012-13 campaign due to NCAA transfer regulations, and have one year of eligibility remaining, which will be satisfied during the 2013-14 season.

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DePaul, UIC Signing Day Synopsis

depaul blue demon

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell inked two players Wednesday to a National Letter of Intent with DeJuan Marrero and Jodan Price. Marrero is a 6’5” forward from Gary, Ind. and Price is a 6’7” guard/forward from Beverly Hills, Mich.

Marrero averaged 22.1 points and 15.3 rebounds per game as a junior at Gary’s Bowman Academy. The two-time member of the Times of Northwest Indiana All-Area first team played for the U18 national team for Puerto Rico at the 2010 FIBA Americas tournament. On the summer AAU circuit, Marrero played for Spiece Indy Heat and he is ranked among the top 50 players in the nation at his position and the top 15 players in Indiana by

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There’s Deron Williams (Illini, Nets) and Now Darrin Williams (UIC)

With the start of the NBA season locked out, and the very real threat of losing many more games to the labor crisis, we haven’t had a chance to talk about New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams.

But we can talk Darrin Williams, the UIC Center named to the Horizon League preseason all-conference third team. And like Deron Williams, Darrin Williams has had a big impact on University of Illinois, as well as Chicago, college basketball. And Darrin often gets mistaken for Deron. If you google Darrin’s name, the search engine will ask if you meant to spell “Deron.”

You’ll also see many photos of the former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign point guard in the results page when you do a Google image search for the University of Illinois at Chicago big man.

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Rough First Year at UIC for Howard Moore as Flames Continue Rebuilding


Last summer Jimmy Collins stepped down as college basketball coach at UIC. Collins spent 14 seasons as the Flames’ head coach and guided UIC to the first three NCAA tournament berths in school history. He is the all-time winningest coach in school history with 218 victories from 1996-2010.

Current Athletic Director Jim Schmidt, who’s been with the university for 25 years, found his replacement in Howard Moore, a high profile college basketball assistant under Bo Ryan with the Wisconsin Badgers. His Flames have just one regular season game remaining, and then the Horizon League Tournament. It’s been a rough year to say the least, as their record stands at 7-22, 2-15 in conference.

Senior Day at the UIC Pavilion was tough, as Butler blew out the Flames by almost 30.

“This one’s going to stick with me for awhile, it’s all I got to say about that. It definitely hurts right now,” said senior Robo Kreps, the teams leading scorer, following the game. The Flames will lose him, as well as Minnesota Golden Gophers transfer Paul Carter to graduation.

By Paul M. Banks

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Butler Bulldogs a Good Role Model for UIC Flames

butler bulldogs

For a solid blueprint to success, the team playing at the campus colloquially known as “Circle” can look to their “Circle City” conference brethren.

“Butler has a program that we’re aspiring to be, not that we’re trying to be Butler,” said UIC first year Head Coach Howard Moore, who previously worked as an assistant under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin.

“We’re aspiring for that kind of success, where your players come out expecting to win and expecting to get results whether at home or on the road. They’re very impressive, they know who they are, and they play to that.”

Moore has many reasons to complement his Horizon League rival. Brad Stevens has won the league all three years that he’s led the small private school in Indianapolis. This year, they’ll finish third or fourth, but look to be in decent shape for a NCAA at-large bid

By Paul M. Banks

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Butler Bulldogs 79, UIC Flames 52: Rapid Reaction

butler blue

If you read a lot of March Madness bracket projections (as college hoops nerds such as I often do) you might have noticed the Butler Bulldogs beginning the day as one of the last college basketball teams into the field of 68.

So with a road trip to UIC and a home game against Loyola waiting to finish up the conference slate, it was imperative the Bulldogs win big over Chicago’s two Horizon League teams. The first part of the mission was accomplished as Butler crushed UIC 79-52.

UIC led this game for most of the first half, but around 6:30 mark, Butler took over, never looked back and grabbed a 40-27 lead into halftime. They did what they had to in order to keep improving their RPI, winning big.

Because of the opponents’ winning percentage component of the RPI, it was essential that they beat UIC, a team that now stands at 7-15, 2-15 in conference by a very large margin.

By Paul M. Banks

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Chicago Invitational Blog Day 2


By Paul M. Banks

Another day at the Chicago Invitational Challenge, and another day that St. Louis Head Coach Rick Majerus camps out along the baseline, and gives me and the other reporters next to me a front row view of his behind. But hey, he wears all black both days, and as we know black is slimming. It’s great to be back watching college basketball, and not out at the shopping malls. I would rather be ANYWHERE than at a shopping mall on these two days. I honestly judge be people’s intelligence and decision-making abilities on whether or not they fight the “door-buster” crowds on these days. brackins2

Worse are the crappy local tv news stations that videotape this and run THE EXACT SAME story EVERY year. I’d quit if they gave me that assignment. I bring this up because I think this may why College Basketball tournaments draw so poorly during this week. Pretty much every tourney you see on tv, the arenas are always 3/4 empty. The Las Vegas Invitational is even held in a high school gym usually.

The 8,000 seat UIC pavilion is no different, as only 3,000 people came to the game last night. I like this little venue a lot though. It’s right there accessible from the EL, and it’s actually in Chicago, unlike the venue that hosted the “CHICAGO INVITATIONAL” during the first three years of its existence. That would be the beautiful and state of the art Sears Centre (also seats about 8,000) located WAY OUT in Hoffman Estates; or pretty much the edge of the suburbs. What makes it seem even farther though is the highways leading too it are ALWAYS the most congested in all of Chicago. Given that it runs right past Woodfield Mall, I’m sure it’s even worse today. So why was this tournament moved from the Sears Centre to UIC Pavilion? Ticket sales? No, it was because when they made the decision, the authorities thought the Sears Centre would be out of money and closed by this time. They were pretty close to shutting down. Of course, what the Sears Centre needs to go is get some actual tenants that people might actually consider wanting to buy a ticket to see.


Currently they have the Chicago Shamrox (indoor lacrosse), Chicago Storm (some sort of indoor soccer league) and the Chicago Hounds I think, which is roller derby or something maybe. Anybody ever heard of any one of these teams? The only reason I’ve ever heard of the Chicago (although when you play your games 1.5 hours outside Chicago, are you really allowed to use that name?) Shamrox, is because a girl from my high school graduating class is a dancer for them. Hence the obligatory dance team pics. The “Hot Rox” they’re called.


Notre Dame is about to beat St. Louis in the Third place game right about now…..actually there’s 1:11 left. with the Golden Domers up on the Billikens 60-48. So I guess that means SLU finishes fourth. Also, there’s a few other mid-major teams in this tournament, Kennesaw  State beat Mississippi Valley St. in the fifth place game, and the battle to finish 7th took place between Liberty and Tennessee St. but I’ll have to go find out the result on that one. If you really want me to I will. I know you’re dying to find out.

ND wins 64-52. Harangody finishes with 18 points, 9 rebounds. He entered the tourney averaging 27.2 Ben Hansbrough had 14. Willie Reed of SLU finished with 20 pts

Highlights of postgame pressers:

SLU Head Coach Rick Majerus:

“We struggle to score, and part of it is unfamiliarity with each other, part of it is some of these teams are more veteran, more physical, part of it is we go backward on misses.” well, you get the point. They scored 52 points today, after just 54 yesterday.

I’ll be back with quotes from Luke Harangody and ND Head Coach Mike Brey. For right now, the title game is in progress.

NU trails Iowa St. 10-8, with their only points coming from John Shurna, two 3s and a “and 1”.

Luka Mirkovic scores inside and score is now Iowa St. 12, Northwestern 11 with 11:51 to go in the half. ISU has a starter named Lucca Staiger, who hails from Blaustein, Germany. This game will probably set the record for a basketball game featuring starters named Luka, or Lucca.

Iowa St. also has a guy named Jamie Vanderbeeken. Sounds alarmingly close to James Vanderbeek, the actor everyone knows as better as Dawson from “Dawson’s Creek” or Jon Moxon from “Varsity Blues”. Sorry for bringing up Dawson’s Creek, I know you’ll inevitably have that annoying theme song by Paula Cole in your head now. I know I do.

With 7:16 left in half NU leads 24-22. This tournament is an example of why a conference having it’s own network is so advantageous. The only games being broadcasted from this tourney are those involving Northwestern. Even though they’re not the best team here (probably Iowa St. but we’ll know for sure in about 1.5 hours) and not the highest profile program either (that would be Notre Dame), their games take precedence because the generous Lord bestowed upon us the gift of BTN.

ISU comes out of the gates firing on all cylinders and extends their lead 43-37 with 16 min to go. Craig Brackins has a NBA body no doubt. There were a few NBA scouts here yesterday, I saw dudes from the Miami Heat and Golden St. Warriors here, and Bulls GM Gar Forman was in attendance too. I could see both Brackins and Harangody being total “John Paxson” picks. Think about his history, then draw the paralells. Both fit in perfectly.


very close game. ISU leads 51-48. Thats a good complement for NU as Majerus said he thinks Iowa St. has a chance to challenge Kansas for the conference title. ISU has a LOT of good athletes and they are a very underrated team. They also have Carlos Boozer’s brother Charles. But he hardly plays more than five minutes a game. And he’s a junior already, so don’t expect him to be in “the league” someday soon.

61-55 NU with 3:32 left. Can lightning strike twice? Is NU going to win the Chi Invitational, when no one gave them a chance in back-to-back games? Would this start up the tourney talk again?

63-61 Cats with 1:16 left. If Juice had knocked down that last shot following an offensive rebound, it might have clinched the game. Instead the crafty German Lucca Steiger went down and hit a big 3 to cut it to a basket.

65-62 NU leading with 8.2 left. Looks like they’re going to be sitting much prettier than Illinois after today. who would have thunk that? Illinois is down four to Bradley, freaking Bradley with 9 seconds left. WHAT? Oh, and after this weekend’s games, so much for the Big Ten being the best conference in AMerica.

My Illini lose…but here, NU is about to claim the invitational trophy and champsionship

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


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.”



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.


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.


Duke N Carolina Basketball

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.


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.



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!