Here’s the point of a high school season when we’re winding down and tons of random non-high school sports thoughts are running through my head.
Before we get into the final stretch of the boys basketball postseason with regionals coming up next Saturday, indulge me by allowing a mind dump to empty my brain …
In case you haven’t been paying attention to college basketball, it’s a hit or miss season for state teams. Purdue won the Big Ten regular season title and the Boilermakers’ top player, Caleb Swanigan, is in the running for national player of the year.
Notre Dame is going to make the NCAA Tournament again, as will Butler, which has floated near the top 10 in the national rankings much of the season.
And then there’s the rest of the state. Indiana has struggled late in the season after beating top-five national powers Kansas and North Carolina early in the campaign. The Hoosiers did manage to get a road win at Ohio State on Saturday afternoon, but they need a big week.
Is coach Tom Crean’s job on the line? Maybe. Nothing that a run to the Big Ten Tournament title won’t fix.
And then there’s Valparaiso, which finished runner-up in the NIT last year and was looking like a lock to win the Horizon League regular season title outright. Instead, the Crusaders finished tied for first, got the second seed in the Horizon League Tournament that’s going on now, and lost top player and senior Alec Peters for the rest of the season. It will be tough for them to make the NCAA or NIT tourneys.
The state to our west, Illinois, has gone through a dry spell recently in qualifying teams for the NCAA Tournament. Two of the last three years, that state has gone without any teams in the big dance. But that’s going to change this month and in the biggest way possible.
Northwestern is going to make it for the first time ever. Yes, you heard that right. In the 79 years of the tournament, “Chicago’s Big Ten school” — as it describes itself on radio promos — has never been selected for the tourney in men’s basketball.
But the WildCats under coach Chris Collins — son of former Chicago Bulls coach Doug Collins — will be making it after a late-season scare of four losses in five games.
In addition to Northwestern, Illinois State looks like a lock out of the Missouri Valley Conference.
Illinois had a decent shot at making it out of the Big Ten, too, but the Illini choked with a loss at last-place Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.
Are you ready for March Madness? I can’t wait.
• Can they play on TNT all the time? Don’t look now but the Bulls are playing well despite their upper management looking like dummies again at the trade deadline. And they kept a unique streak going with their win at home over Golden State on Thursday.
The Bulls have won 19 straight Thursday night TNT-televised home games. And they have one more at the United Center on March 30 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which the Bulls have already beaten twice.
How hard is it to figure out this team? Besides the two wins over the defending champs and the victory over the Warriors last week — albeit with Kevin Durant out for a month — the Bulls also have wins over Boston, Toronto, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. But they have also lost to non-playoff teams Milwaukee, Minnesota (twice), Phoenix, New York Knicks and L.A. Lakers.
• Nice backtrack in North Carolina: Did you hear about the stupidity in North Carolina that turned into an intelligent reversal?
The state legislature was ready to propose a bill that would allow parents to make the ultimate decision on when their high school athlete kids could return to competition after suffering a concussion.
Yes, you read that right. Not a certified trainer or doctor … parents who likely aren’t qualified medical professionals and many times don’t have the best interests of their athletically-talented children in mind.
Thankfully, though, at least one state representative got the language removed from the bill. Ignorance averted.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.