Author: Herb Gould

Cheer up, lad. It’s the best of times at Northwestern. And Illini get their man, under-the-radar Underwood.

Somebody needs to find that kid. You know, the one in Northwestern gear who seemed to think the Wildcats had come to bodily harm rather than abuse by Gonzaga and by referees failing to see an obvious goal-tending call. Yes, Northwestern lost in wrenching fashion Saturday, when a powerful comeback was stalled by the missed goal-tending call, and the insult-to-injury technical call on Chris Collins for trying to point out the obvious. Would the Wildcats have won if the goal-tending call had been made? We’ll never know. It sure would have been nice to find out. But somebody needs to find that kid and tell him this was great stuff by Collins and the Wildcats, who made their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance by proving they belonged. They were tough, beating Vanderbilt and regrouping from a 22-point deficit to give Gonzaga a real scare. They were as entertaining as could be. And they return a core of players that promises to give them another NCAA shot very quickly—like next year. So relax, young man. No matter how devastated you were by the Gonzaga setback, you should know that this is the absolute best of times for Northwestern basketball. @@@ NEW ILLINI HOOPS COACH   Brad Underwood, who bolted from Oklahoma State after just one year, looks like a promising hire as Illinois’ new coach. The rest of this article is available to...

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Big Ten Takeaways: Can anyone make Indiana great again?

Everything you always wanted to know about Indiana, but—well, everything I know about Indiana. But first. . . Ten days ago, I gave you four Big Ten coaches to keep an eye on. Since then, two of them, John Groce and Tom Crean, have been fired. The other two? I wondered if Thad Matta might yield to chronic back troubles, and what Chris Collins would do if someone threw an insane amount of money his way. We’ll see about Matta. But I would advise my friend, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, to ask Julia Louis-Dreyfus if she’s prepared to put her checkbook where her dancing shoes are. And now. . . what about Indiana? Because there’s trouble in Hoosierland. Again. Indiana is a tricky place. Because a short list of the greatest basketball programs in America includes Indiana alongside Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina and Duke. (I won’t object if you want to include others. But these are mine.) Here’s the thing about Indiana: Historically, it is the best basketball program in the best basketball state. But that’s long history. In the last 30-plus years, IU has been messy. At times, really messy. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here....

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Midwest Regional: If not Kansas, Louisville Cardinals rule

Midwest Regional Outlook:  All eyes will be on Kansas. Because the Jayhawks, despite their Big 12 tourney flop, have been been a No. 1 seed candidate and serious national-championship threat all season. They’re in a region that suits them, until that potential 1-2 matchup with Louisville. Home-court advantage favors the Jayhawks. But the rugged ACC has left Louisville battle-tested. In the first round, well-coached No. 12 Nevada has all the ingredients to surprise No. 5 Iowa State. And No. 11 Rhode Island promises to be a handful for No. 6 Creighton, which has gone 7-8 since Maurice Watson’s January knee injury. Miami-Michigan State and Michigan-Oklahoma State are a pair of first-round squeakers that could go down to the last possession. The Wolverines, winners of the Big Ten tournament, are on a roll since their airport runway scare. And Tom Izzo doesn’t miss many tricks in March. Upset Specials: Nevada over Iowa State, Rhode Island over Creighton. Moving to Kansas City: Kansas, Purdue, Rhode Island, Louisville Regional champ:...

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Snubbed Badgers should thank committee—for putting a #B1G chip on their shoulder

Ordinarily, I have this rule for teams who don’t like their seed or their ranking, or any of that other subjective stuff: Shut up and play. It’s going to be difficult for me not to break that rule on behalf of the outrageously snubbed Wisconsin Badgers. (Full disclosure: my undergraduate alma mater.) I am happy for my grad-school alma mater, Northwestern, which will make its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance this year. It’s fitting that the Wildcats will play Vanderbilt in a matchup of two fine academic institutions—the Northwestern of the South vs. the Vandy of the North. It’s also fitting that the Wildcats will play in Salt Lake City, which had arcane liquor laws when I cared about that sort of thing, just like Evanston, home to the Northwestern campus and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. But now, this forward-looking message: It’s going to be really interesting to see how the Big Ten fares in the NCAA bracket next year. In Chapter Two of Delany’s March to the Sea—Chapter One being the recently completed conquest of Washington, D.C.—the Big Ten will play its conference tournament a week early in 2018, so that it can play in Madison Square Garden—and spread the gospel of Big Ten commandments to the Eastern heathen. And that will give the NCAA Selection Committee actual, you know, time to seed the Big Ten teams properly. The...

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Illini show need for change. Northwestern soaring. Big day at Big Ten tourney.

Quick takes from the first two days of the Big Ten tournament. . . ILLINOIS: I am reluctant to keep pounding on the John Groce situation. The facts are pretty clear. This is Illinois’ worst five-year stretch in Big Ten play in more than 40 years. The Illini are set to miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year, the longest drought in more than 40 years. On the other side of the coin, Groce has an excellent group of recruits coming in. And his teams have shown flashes. That, I believe, is an argument against him. Consistency matters. Never mind Illini Nation. While watching the messy efforts at Rutgers last weekend and against Michigan on Thursday, I couldn’t but think that these players deserve better. . . coaching. It’s not that Groce is terrible. He’s a good coach who will do well in his next job, whether he’s an assistant at a major program or a head coach at a smaller school. He’s just not in the same league with John Beilein or any number of other Big Ten coaches. He may improve down the road. But coaching at the highest level of college basketball is a tricky deal. There are a lot of nuances involved. And Illinois needs to find someone who has mastered them. The Big Ten gobbles up coaches who haven’t done that. NORTHWESTERN:...

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