Chicago College Basketball Postseason Roundup

Well it's that time of year when office pools, parties, and trips to sports bars all occur in the same week {or same day} for one reason only: College basketball postseason..... Now everyone of course is all about the big NCAA Tournament and maybe the National Invitation Tournament.

But there is also the lesser known College Insider Tournament and College Basketball Invitational. This year, we have local teams participating in every tournament except for the NIT. I'm sure this is probably an NCAA first.

But none the less, here is now everything shakes  out...

2013 final four

First we'll start out with the NCAA Tournament:

Both the Illinois Fighting Illini and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will jump on the Road To The Final Four on Friday. Illinois has the #7 seed in the East Region where will take on the #10 seed Colorado Buffaloes from the Pac-12. Illinois is favored by most but this is a game that they could lose if they're not careful.

Colorado got into the tournament after going 10-8 in Pac-12 play during the regular season, {Their second best record since they've been a member of that conference}, and marching all the way to semi-finals of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas last week. They finished the regular season with a 21-11 record.

It's their third straight 20-plus win season and their second straight tournament bid, and only their second bid since 2003. They are motivated and hungry and they are ready to prove that they are for real. I look at Colorado with the same potential to eliminate Illinois that Minnesota had in last week's Big Ten Tournament.

The Illini will need a team effort all around. They need to play the same way they did against Minnesota in order to beat CU. The winner of this game will take on the winner of the #2 seed Miami {FL} Hurricanes and the #15 seed Pacific University on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for roughly 3:40PM.

Notre Dame is also a #7 seed but they will play in the West Region against #10 seed Iowa State. Every year, as good as the Fighting Irish are in the regular season, they always seem to get eliminated with in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

This year, there is a big upset potential by taking on the Cyclones. ISU is coming off of back-to-back 20 win regular seasons for the first time since 1997 and 1998. Tim Floyd was the head coach when this last happened. Now, his former guard Fred Hoiberg is coaching the team. He has breathed new life into this Iowa State program.

They are a fundamentally sound team and they are capable of out-shooting the Irish. Mike Bray will need to have his team focused and on a strict game plan if they are to move onto the next round.  Tipoff will be just before 9PM on Friday night. The winner will play the #2 Ohio State/#15 Iona game winner on Sunday.

If you've seen the clip once, you've seen it a trillion times. You know, the once of Bryce Drew's game winning shot in the first round of the 1998 tournament against Ole Miss... We'll adjust your TV sets and DVR's accordingly because you will see that clip another trillion times.

The Valpo Crusaders are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in almost a decade, but this is their third straight postseason appearance. Bryce Drew has been coaching Valparaiso for the last few seasons. He took the reigns from both his father and brother to continue the family dynasty there.

Of course luck is not on Valpo's side as they have been eliminated in the first round of the last two tournaments that they have played in. And things don't look any brighter this year as they are the #14 seed in the Midwest Region. Their opponent will be #3 seed Michigan State on Thursday.

The Crusaders will need another tournament miracle if they are going to break their postseason losing streak. The game will be played in Detroit so you know the Spartan nation will be out in full force. Plus, Tom Izzo's team has a huge chip on their shoulder after Ohio State took them out of the Big Ten Tournament in the semi-final round last weekend.

I'm sure Bryce Drew is already praying for a victory. Whoever wins this game will play against #7 Creighton or #10 Cincinnati on Saturday.

CIT logo

 

It's not often that we can say that Chicago will be hosting a postseason game. But that will be the case on Wednesday night as the UIC Pavilion will host a first round game of this year's College Insider Tournament.

The UIC Flames will play host to the Chicago State Cougars. This game is historical for both teams. For the Flames, this will be their first postseason game since being bounced out of the first round by Kansas in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

This will also be the first time the Flames have held a postseason contest that wasn't a conference tournament game. Howard Moore's new approach to Flames basketball is finally starting to payoff. Illinois-Chicago finished the season with 17 wins and 15 losses, the best record they've had under Howard Moore.

Led by seniors Gary Talton, Daniel Barnes, and Josh Crittle, and accompanied by a host of role players, the Flames have more than enough talent to advance to the next round. Standing in their way however is the Chicago State Cougars {I'm still getting used to saying that}.

Tracy Dildy's hard work and dedication to restore the program's academic issues and to build a winning culture at 95th and St. Lawrence is has not gone unnoticed. For the first time in school history, the Cougars have won a conference tournament game, a conference tournament championship, and received their first postseason invite.

All of this was achieved in 2013, the Cougars basketball program has been around since the 1960's. Despite winning their conference tournament, The Great West Conference does not have an automatic bid agreement with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

The Great only has five member schools and the conference is expected to dissolve once all of it's teams move into the Western Athletic Conference in July. The Cougars are led by Jeremy Robinson, Nick Ross, and Quinton Pippen the son of Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.

They have been "the big three" that have carried this team all season. While I do expect the Flames to win on Wednesday, it will be a hard fought game for both teams. UIC is also looking for their first postseason victory.

This game will be bittersweet to some degree for Coach Dildy as he played at UIC in the late 80's, he was also an assistant under Jimmy Collins before taking the Chicago State job. Tipoff from the Pavilion will be at 7PM.

Bradley is also in the CIT this year. They barely got a postseason berth with a record of 16-16, they will take on Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Phoenix almost knocked off Valparaiso in the Horizon League Tournament a couple of weeks back.

 

CBI logo

 

Finally, we have one other local team in the 2013 CBI Tournament. Those loveable Western Illinois Leathernecks. WIU is coming off of back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in a long time. Last year they lost the Summit League Tournament Championship game, this year they were eliminated in the semi-finals of that same tournament.

Despite have their first 20-win season in this century, it was not good enough to get into the NCAA or NIT tourneys. This will be their second straight CBI appearance. Last year, they were eliminated by Oregon State in the first round. This year, they will play another tough team when they take a trip to Purdue on Wednesday night.

Purdue is licking their wounds after losing their first round game of last week's Big Ten Tournament against Nebraska. That loss almost ruined their postseason chances. They would love to take out their anger on Western Illlinois. Purdue is a bigger team and on paper they are expected to win.

The Leathernecks will need to dig deep and use all of their energy if they are to pull off the upset. Tipoff from West Lafayette, Indiana will be at 6pm with the winner facing either Vermont or Santa Clara in the second round.

Of course while everyone is caught up in postseason fever, there is still some movement taking place in conference realignment. According to the Associated Press,  Butler and Xavier are planning to join the "New Big East" with DePaul and the rest of the "Catholic Seven".

The official announcement in scheduled for Wednesday. Not only will the new members officially be introduced, the league is also expected to announce it's ongoing negotiations with Fox Sports on a lucrative television contract. Let the madness begin!

Log onto www.sportstownchicago.com on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30. Click on the listen live link as I will once again be joining the "Cooley and Chivari show" to talk about college basketball.

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