Good morning, frents!
Want to do well in next year's bracket pools? Here's a tip: Get your phone out at some point today and set a reminder for next March 15.
Make sure to set it with this exact subject line.
"DO NOT PICK BIG TEN TEAMS TO REACH THE SWEET 16."
The guy who had an Illinois-Ohio State rematch in the Final Four.
Loyola 71, Illinois 58
Bulls 100, Pistons 86
Cubs 11, Reds 6
Sox 4, D'Backs 4
Jazz at Bulls (8, NBCSCH)
#7 N'Western vs #10 UCF* (3, ESPNU)
Giants at Sox (3, MLB.com)
Cubs at Angels (3, MLB Network)
*NCAA women's tournament first round
Matter of perspective
Loyola basketball fans are floating on cloud nine this morning.
Illinois fans might still be picking themselves up from the floor.
And for those of us who are impartial observers but like seeing our in-state programs do well come March Madness time?
Well, I'm not quite certain where I'm at following Loyola's 71-58 statement victory over Illinois in Sunday's second round.
There's a big part of me that wants to continue being angry at a NCAA selection committee that screwed the proverbial pooch when it decided to get cute by arranging this matchup. Illinois and Loyola were two of the nation's hottest programs coming into the tournament and yet the committee set both teams on an unfair crash course. It was a hypocritical decision as our friend Henry Bushnell expertly lays out here.
And yet I think I'm willing to let those wonks off the hook.
Porter Moser and his Loyola program certainly no longer have beef. The Ramblers are through to their second Sweet 16 in the last three tournaments and have wins over the ACC tournament champions (Georgia Tech) and the region's No. 1 seed to thank.
Yeah, they might have deserved as high as a No. 4 seed, but it's easy to let bygones be bygones when you're winning in March.
You might actually even argue the win over Illinois will be more important for the long-term health of Moser's program than 2018's run to the Final Four— so long as it doesn't end with Moser lured away by Indiana.
The Ramblers' domination of the Illini on Sunday was so thorough and inarguable that it was a complete validation of everything that Moser has built in Rogers Park. Illinois may not have played like a No. 1 seed, but it also didn't just beat itself. Loyola ran its own game from the opening tip and didn't flinch once. No one who watched it will forget it any time soon.
Illinois has right to be angry, of course.
The Illini came into the tournament having won 14 of its previous 15 games, including the Big Ten tournament championship. They had two Wooden award finalists on its roster in Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn plus a stable of solid depth players that made it seem like they could win the first national title in school history.
They probably deserved better than running into an underseeded Loyola team in the second round.
But Sunday's game was one a championship contender should have won. NCAA title winners have to win six games without taking one false step and the Illini weren't up to it for one afternoon. It happens.
So where does each program go from here?
Loyola will face Oregon State in the Sweet 16 next Saturday. While the Beavers' No. 12 seed looks permissive, the Ramblers know better after a Final Four trip as an 11 seed three years ago. Oregon State won the Pac-12 tournament title before shocking No. 5 Tennessee and No. 4 Oklahoma State to start the tournament.
Illinois, meanwhile, is an interesting spot. Dosunmu and Cockburn are likely off to a professional career that they were going to pursue before the pandemic changed their plans. A younger core and a good recruiting class will take their place.
Four years into the Underwood era and it would seem that the Illini have finally overcome the post-2005 malaise that plagued the program for so long.
But Illini fans also know that chances like this one don't come along often. Falling short against a team that measured much taller than its actual seed is going to sting for a long, long time.
Final: Bulls 100, Pistons 86
- Zach LaVine scored 18 points and Lauri Markkanen added 16 with eight rebounds for their sixth-straight win over Detroit.
- The Pistons are, frankly, terrible and were the perfect rebound for the Bulls after they blew a game in Denver on Friday night.
- Next: Things return to being tough as the Jazz hit the United Center tonight. Utah holds the league's best record at 30-11. The Bulls are 19-22 and enter the game as 9.5 point underdogs.
Final: Sox 4, D-backs 4
- Left-hander Carlos Rodón continued to dominate in his quest to win a spot in the starting rotation, striking out five batters and allowing one hit over four innings Sunday
- Focusing on locating his four-seam fastball, Rodón threw 38 of 49 pitches for strikes against a lineup that included mostly major-league starters. Rodón has 10 strikeouts in nine spring innings spread over four appearances. He also has yet to allow a run or a walk and has allowed just four hits overall. That seems good.
- In worse news: Outfielder Adam Engel will miss at least two weeks because of a strained right hamstring, which happened Saturday when he was playing center. Engel's projected time away would seem to creep into the regular season, but manager Tony La Russa said Sunday it's uncertain because Engel is in good shape and a fast healer.
- Next: It's Lucas Giolito time, hosting righty Kevin Gausman and the Giants on Monday at Camelback Ranch.
Final: Cubs 11, Reds 6
- Fighting for a starting job, David Bote drove in five runs Sunday afternoon, hitting a three-run home run to help the Cubs improve their Cactus League record to 12-5. Bote is batting .333 with three homers and a 1.212 OPS in 30 at-bats. Bote and Nico Hoerner (who went 0 for 3) continue to vie primacy for second base.
- Right-hander Alec Mills allowed three runs, six hits, a walk and a hit batter over 4 1/3 innings. His spring ERA rose to 5.40 in 11 2/3 innings.
- Reliever Pedro Strop made his spring debut, and probable No. 4 starter Trevor Williams logged five solid innings Saturday.
- Next: The Cubs visit Angels camp today. Right-hander Keegan Thompson starts against Angels righty Griffin Canning.
— David Brown
- March 22 is a great day for Chicago sports birthdays. David Brown on an epic and eclectic group. Midway Minute
- Meghan Montemurro on Beth Mowins becoming the first woman in Cubs history to call a game. Mowins is set to make her regular-season debut on May 8. Tribune
- Andrew Vaughn and Jim Thome are becoming BFFs. Sun-Times
- The Northwestern women's team has a story to finish in the NCAA tournament. Inside NU
- A Cubs prospect was arrested after 21 pounds of meth were allegedly found in his car. I'm guessing that would a franchise record. Bleacher Nation