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 is 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 in conference could very well 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.
These are lean times indeed. Especially in Chicago where UIC looks mediocre at least, ending a 33 game road conference losing streak and picking up some decent non-conference wins. Loyola (13-9, 3-6), Chicago St. (7-16, 2-2) and DePaul (10-11, 1-7) have combined to go 30-36, 6-15 in conference. This is beyond pathetic and laughable. For fans to say that college hoops is really down here is a tremendous insult to the direction of down. How can such a fertile recruiting ground inspire no one good to stay home?
When it comes to Chicago St, at least I know that their program actually exists, and I know where it is; giving me superior local hoops knowledge. Seriously, that must be Tracy Dildy’s (great guy by the way) biggest challenge to recruits- convincing them his school really exists.
“Chicago’s Big Ten Team,” Northwestern have never been to a NCAA Tournament in their entire history, but this year’s group could play themselves back on the bubble with a winning streak. At 13-10, 4-6 in the Big Ten, they need to get a lot of RPI boosting wins over high ranked teams in conference play. Likely won’t happen though because they’ve been pretty awful at home. Even though they’re located in Evanston, you have to include them in the Chicago pool to help augment the city’s winning percentage. They might be considered the second best team in the state. Universities in this city have been playing terrible ball for many years and this year is no exception. Then when you combine how ridiculously bad the teams in the rest of the state are, looking at their records becomes one big disgusting glob.
DePaul is in dead last in the Big East. Will they ever turn it around? Oliver Purnell has been given plenty of time now to get his own guys in. Yet they’re still the pushover of the Big East. Hard to believe this was a Final Four program in the 1980s. Illinois started 12-0, rose to as high as #10 in the country with wins over highly ranked Butler, Gonzaga and Ohio State. But then conference season revealed all an they’re pathetic 2-7 conference record means that during the last two years…only lowly Nebraska has a lower conference record than the Illini. At least Nebraska has football, what does Illinois have right now? They have 5 Final Fours and one national title game appearance in their history. They're widely considered the best program in college history never to have won a title. Right now, they look like a MAC team.
Loyola has the state's only national title in 1963. But they're a shell of what they once were, having not even made the tournament since 1985.
And we’re not done yet. Downstate, Bradley, located in Peoria is 5-6 in conference, 13-10 overall and Illinois State is 13-10, 4-7. The bottom of the Missouri Valley belongs to 1-10 SIU 8-14 overall. The Salukis were a fixture in the big dance last decade and even made a couple sweet sixteens. Today, ex-Salukis coach Chris Lowery destroyed Floor Burn U. and couldn’t keep going what Bruce Weber and Matt Painter started. SIU, like DePaul has some history, so the fact that both have been down for awhile is killing basketball in the state.
And for completeness of this article I should mention that Northern Illinois seems to have discontinued playing basketball, setting a NCAA record, for fewest points, 4 in a loss to Eastern Michigan.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.