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  • Big names like Kaminsky keep leaving Illinois Apr 2, 2014 10:24 PM
    Frank Kaminsky, a product of Benet Academy in Lisle, has helped Wisconsin into the Final Four. That's as good an explanation as any for the sorry state of college basketball in the state of Illinois.

     
  • Agency sets date for Northwestern players union vote Apr 2, 2014 7:09 PM
    A federal agency says a date has been set for Northwestern football players to vote on authorizing a union to represent them in collective bargaining with the university. A spokesman for the National Labor Relations Board confirmed Wednesday that the vote is scheduled for April 25.

     
  • Final Four selections Apr 3, 2014 10:13 AM
    Final Four selections

     
  • Union question looms as Northwestern practices Apr 1, 2014 6:29 PM
    Northwestern running back Venric Mark says he is not sure all his teammates who signed union cards in January realized the ramifications. Mark says some players signed, some did not. He wonders if those who did “knew what they were or if they thought it was going to turn out the way it did.”

     
  • State Senate OKs committee to woo Big Ten Apr 1, 2014 7:22 PM
    Two suburban Republicans’ plans to try to get another Illinois university into Big Ten Conference was approved by the Illinois Senate Tuesday. State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, wants to create a committee to look at the possibility of how the state could market an existing state university to the Big Ten as a candidate for expansion.

     
  • Wisconsin tightens D in NCAA run Apr 1, 2014 6:23 PM
    Changing defense was one less thing the Badgers (30-7) had to worry about during an already memorable season that has Wisconsin facing Kentucky (28-10) in the Final Four on Saturday. Like any good coach still in the hunt, Bo Ryan will just as easily point to things to improve. The new rules emphasis, though, probably wasn’t on high on the list. “We haven’t been a ‘handsy’ team in the past, so we just need to keep working on our positioning and our footwork,” Ryan said in December.

     
  • Kentucky keeps Michigan out of Final Four Mar 30, 2014 6:59 PM
    Aaron Harrison made a 3-pointer from NBA range with 2.3 seconds left Sunday to lift Kentucky and its freshmen to a 75-72 win over Michigan and a trip to the Final Four. After Harrison’s teammate, Julius Randle, inadvertently tipped in the tying shot on Michigan’s previous possession, the eighth-seeded Wildcats got the ball to the 6-foot-6 guard, whose twin brother, Andrew, is another of the five freshmen in Kentucky’s starting lineup. Standing a good three feet behind the arc, Harrison elevated over Caris LeVert and took a bit of contact on the arm from the Michigan guard as he shot. No matter. The shot rattled in, and for the second straight game in the Midwest Regional, Harrison had the go-ahead points in a tense game for the Wildcats (28-10). In this one, he scored all 12 of his points off four 3-pointers over the last 8:05. “I hit a couple before that, so coach said to get the shot we were looking for,” Harrison said. “They put it in my hands and I wanted to deliver for them out there.” Nik Stauskas missed a halfcourt heave at the buzzer for second-seeded Michigan (28-9), and moments later, Harrison was under a dog pile or make that a puppy pile. This is the first all-freshman starting lineup to make the Final Four since another well-known group, the Fab Five of Michigan, did it in 1992. “I’m gonna see everyone in Dallas this year,” coach John Calipari said, with his version of a Texas twang, as he addressed the crowd before the nets came down. The Wildcats will play Wisconsin next Saturday outside of Big D. Stauskas finished with 24 points for the Wolverines, who finished a win shy of their second straight Final Four. Randle had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his 24th double-double and was named the region’s most outstanding player. But he was just one of the freshmen stars for the Wildcats Sunday. While Harrison was being completely shut down early, it was unheralded Marcus Lee keeping the Wildcats in the game. Lee, one of the six McDonald’s All-American freshmen on Calipari’s roster, had scored a total of nine points since the beginning of January. But he got minutes that would have normally gone to the injured Willie Cauley-Stein, and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Eight of those points came on put-back dunks that were part of Kentucky’s 18 offensive rebounds. Harrison’s first 3 gave Kentucky a 58-55 lead and was part of an 11-0 run that put the Wolverines in catch-up mode, behind 62-55 with 6:30 left. They fought back, and during a nine-possession stretch of sublime basketball that covered more than four minutes, each team scored every time they got the ball. The first stop in the sequence gave the Wolverines the ball with about a minute left, trailing 72-70. Stauskas missed a layup and a 3-pointer and Derrick Walton then missed an open 3. But the fourth attempt went in with 31 seconds left and got credited to Jordan Morgan on a scramble under the basket, though it was Randle’s hand that tipped the ball in. Calipari called a timeout. Michigan burned a foul. And the endgame started with 10 seconds left. The ball went to Harrison and it was clear he was going to take the shot. He spotted up from about 25 feet, and after he hit, he walked backward calmly before being hugged by Randle and Dakari Johnson. Moments later, Kentucky was celebrating, preparing for the program’s 16th trip to college basketball’s biggest stage.

     
  • Spartans fall; UConn going to Final Four Mar 30, 2014 4:10 PM
    Shabazz Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and UConn beat Michigan State 60-54 to return to the Final Four a year after the Huskies were barred from the NCAA tournament. Napier, the East Regional’s most outstanding player, hit three huge free throws with 37.6 seconds left at Madison Square Garden to carry UConn to the Final Four just as Kemba Walker did in Napier’s freshman year. The Huskies (30-8) rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to become the first No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Fourth-seeded Michigan State’s seniors become the first four-year players recruited by Tom Izzo to fail to reach the Final Four. Gary Harris led the Spartans (29-9) with 22 points. The undersized Huskies matched Michigan State’s physical play box-out for box-out, holding the Spartans to just six offensive rebounds and six points in the paint. UConn dared Michigan State to shoot 3-pointers, and the Spartans nearly made enough, going 11 for 29 from behind the arc. Trailing 51-49 with more than two minutes left, Michigan State had a chance to tie or take the lead. But Adreian Payne fumbled the ball away, and Napier drilled a jumper on the other end. After Payne hit a pair of free throws to pull the Spartans back within two, Keith Appling was called for a foul on Napier’s 3-point attempt. The senior extended the lead to 56-51, and after Travis Trice missed a 3, Michigan State couldn’t get to UConn to foul. Phillip Nolan slipped free for a dunk that clinched the victory and had thousands of Huskies fans in the Garden leaping up and down. UConn won its third national title in 2011, but the Huskies were ineligible for last year’s tournament because of previous low scores on the NCAA’s academic progress measure. Ryan Boatright made four steals as UConn used its quickness to force 16 turnovers. DeAndre Daniels shut down Branden Dawson, who scored 24 points in Michigan State’s Sweet 16 win over top-seeded Virginia. Dawson attempted just three field goals, making one, to finish with five points. The 6-foot-10, 245-pound Payne hit two long jumpers to put Michigan State up 32-23 less than four minutes into the second half. But Napier started driving, getting the bigger Appling in foul trouble and UConn back in the game. After hitting four straight free throws to tie the score at 32 with 12:38 left, Napier was struck in the face by Gary Harris the UConn guard was called for a foul on the play and left the court with his nose gushing blood. He was back less than minute later when Daniels completed a three-point play to give the Huskies the lead for good. Boatright hit a contested 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to put UConn up 49-39 with less than seven minutes left. But the Spartans rallied behind their long-range shooting.

     
  • Rutgers not concerned about move to the Big Ten Mar 29, 2014 4:25 PM
    Other than it being the first practice in pads and the first open to the general public, Rutgers’ spring workout Saturday had all the appearances of any other previously held at the birthplace of college football. Athletic director Julie Hermann talked to a couple of big boosters near one end zone. About 30 recruits and their families watched from the sideline as coach Kyle Flood put the team through some drills and little live action. The roughly 300 fans cheered the big plays. Nothing exciting, except the big picture. In a little more than five months, Rutgers will join the Big Ten Conference. The team that couldn’t win a title in either the Big East Conference or the American Athletic Conference in a transition year in 2013 now will be facing the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin on a weekly basis. The benefit is the expected financial windfall of roughly of $15 million to $20,000 annually. The negative is obvious. Many of the local pundits are predicting years of hard times as the new doormats of the Big Ten. Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton, whose father, Keith, played for the New York Giants, is excited about the new opportunity. “At the end of the day, business is business,” Hamilton said after practice. “This is business. We are just out here working hard and trying to get better and be the best team we can be.” Rutgers struggled last season, posting a 6-7 record in a season where the defense — especially the secondary — was poor and the offense started quick and then struggled when Gary Nova went in the tank. Chas Dodd finished the season and the Scarlet surprised the experts playing very well in a 29-16 loss to Notre Dame in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Flood has to decide on a quarterback over the next few months. Nova is back for his senior season and will be challenged mostly likely by redshirt freshman Chris Laviano. Philip Nelson, who transferred from Minnesota after starting 16 games over the past two seasons, will be eligible for 2015. The defense has to be shored up and he needs to get his running backs healthy. Paul James and Savon Huggins are limited. He also wants to see more consistency. Flood admits the going to the Big Ten will force Rutgers to get more depth. “We have always, in the last nine seasons, played competitive football in the leagues we’ve been in,” Flood said. “There were good football teams in all those leagues and I think in the postseason that has played out. The challenge of this league is the week after week physicality of the league. To me that is going to be the challenge for us as a football team. It don’t necessarily change the way you recruit, but as we go though it we’re going to have to be conscious of it.” Flood had a conversation with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at the Pinstripe Bowl about the physical nature of playing Big Ten teams and he was advised to make sure he had enough linemen. Rutgers will return its offensive line and it has two of the four starters on the defensive line. Right guard Chris Muller of Perkiomenville, Pa., was recruited by Penn State and a couple of other Big Ten schools. A lot of his buddies attend Big Ten schools, so he knows the talent level. “I feel Rutgers is just as competitive as any of them,” Muller said. “I play against Darius (Hamilton) every day in practice and he is one of the best in the country.” Most of the Rutgers players said it’s too early to be concerned about the new league. They have work to do over the next couple of months. What happens on the field will answer the questions. “My personal opinion, they should be scared of us, because they have to play against us,” left guard Kaleb Johnson said. “The offensive line, we’re not scared of nothing. We’re going to do what we have to do.” Senior safety Lorenzo Waters was ready for the move. “This is a great opportunity for us and this program,” Waters said. “Making this step to the Big Ten is an opportunity for us to show everybody that we can play with the best of them. When you come from what is perceived as a lower level conference, you don’t think we played at the same levels as the other teams. This is a chance for us to show everybody we have as (many) good guys as anybody else in the country.”

     
  • Wisconsin in Final Four after 64-63 OT win Mar 29, 2014 10:56 PM
    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Frank Kaminsky carried Wisconsin to the Final Four with 28 points, including six in overtime, as the Badgers defeated Arizona 64-63 in a physical West Region final Saturday night. Kaminsky had 11 rebounds and scored from all over, including three 3 pointers, for the No. 2 seed Badgers (30-7). It’s Wisconsin’s first Final Four appearance since 2000, and first for 69-year-old coach Bo Ryan, who earned his 704th career victory. Nick Johnson had the ball with a chance to win, but he missed a shot that came just after the buzzer for Arizona (33-5), the top-seeded team that has yet to win a West Region final in Anaheim in four tries. Johnson led the Wildcats with 16 points, and Aaron Gordon had 18 rebounds in the relentlessly physical game. Johnson stood with his hands on his hips, staring straight ahead, while Kaminsky and the rest of the Badgers rushed to celebrate. Traevon Jackson added 10 points for the Badgers, and Kaminsky was chosen as most outstanding player of the West Region. Kaleb Tarczewski scored 12 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 points for the Wildcats, who were trying to get coach Sean Miller to the Final Four for his first time. Instead, Miller was sent to the sidelines on the same day his younger brother Archie’s Dayton Flyers lost to Florida in the South Region final. The first 40 minutes were a back-and-forth struggle between the only 1-2 seeds remaining in the regionals, with neither team leading by more than three points over the final 12:09 of regulation. Overtime was even more dramatic, with Arizona having an answer for just about everything Wisconsin did. Ben Brust hit a 3-pointer to put the Badgers up at the start of the extra session; Gordon answered with a 3 to tie it up again at 57. Kaminsky scored inside and Gordon dunked at the other end for another tie. Kaminsky’s jumper and a free throw by Josh Gasser gave Wisconsin a 62-59 lead. Tarczewski’s two free throws and Jordin Mayes’ tip-in drew the Wildcats to 64-63 with 58 seconds left. T. J. McConnell’s jumper missed, but Arizona got the offensive rebound and found Johnson, who missed and got called for the push-off on Gasser with 3 seconds left. Wisconsin inbounded on the baseline, but turned the ball over in a play reviewed by the referees. That set up the final play, with Pac-12 player of the year Johnson unable to bail out the Wildcats.

     
  • Michigan State outlasts Virginia 61-59, heads to Elite 8 Mar 29, 2014 12:15 AM
    Branden Dawson had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Michigan State beat top-seeded Virginia 61-59 on Friday night to advance to East Regional final. The fourth-seeded Spartans (29-8) will play Connecticut (29-8) on Sunday with a Final Four berth at stake. The seventh-seeded Huskies beat third-seeded Iowa State 81-76 earlier Friday.

     
  • Michigan holds on late to beat Tennessee 73-71 Mar 28, 2014 9:19 PM
    Jordan Morgan scored 15 points and Nik Stauskas had 14 including a key free throw to help Michigan hold on for a 73-71 victory over Tennessee in Friday’s first Midwest Regional semifinal. The second-seeded Wolverines now play either Louisville, who they lost to in last year’s national championship game, or 2012 national champion Kentucky Sunday. The Wolverines (28-8) led by 15 with 10:55 to go, but committed four turnovers in the final 97 seconds. Tennessee (24-13) cut the lead to 72-71 and had a chance to take the lead, but Jarnell Stokes was called for an offensive foul with 6 seconds left. Stauskas then made 1 of 2 free throws and Tennessee’s long desperation heave was off the mark. Jordan McRae scored 24 to lead the 11th-seeded Vols. For most of the first 36 minutes, Michigan was in firm control. Then came a stunning turnaround by Tennessee, a bubble team that had to win a first round game just to get into the round of 64. When Stauskas, the Big Ten player of the year, knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:37 to go, the Wolverines led 70-60 and looked like they would cruise. Instead, Tennessee gave up just one more basket and steadily took advantage of Michigan’s miscues. When McRae completed a three-point play with 1:56 left, the Vols trailed 72-67. Richardson’s layup made it 72-69 with 24.6 seconds left and when the Wolverines threw away the ball on the next possession, McRae’s layup cut Michigan’s lead to 72-71. Another turnover on an inbounds play gave Stokes the chance to put Tennessee ahead. But Stokes, who contended he did not commit the foul, was called for the charge and the Vols’ comeback was over. Michigan should be getting used to these sorts of finishes in Indianapolis. Two weeks ago when they were in Indy for the Big Ten tourney, the Wolverines had to hang on twice after seemingly having comfortable leads against Illinois and Ohio State. Eventually, they wound up losing to Michigan State in the title game. Their inability to put a team away nearly did them in Friday. It sure didn’t look like it would come down to the final shot when Michigan shot 61.5 percent from the field in the first half and led by as much as 13. Or even in the second half when they led by as much as 15. But Tennessee buckled down defensively and rallied to cut the lead to six with 6:41 to play before the closing rally.

     
  • Family plays key role in Colter’s union push Mar 28, 2014 4:31 PM
    Kain Colter’s grandmother often spoke about rights and equality, values she brought home from her job managing an office of a Colorado law firm. Those conversations planted a seed for Colter, who would go on to become a quarterback at Northwestern University — and the face of an exploding movement to give college athletes the right to form unions and bargain.

     
  • Wisconsin routs Baylor 69-52 Mar 27, 2014 9:06 PM
    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Frank Kaminsky scored 19 points and blocked six shots, and Wisconsin romped into the West Regional final with a dominant 69-52 victory over Baylor on Thursday night. Ben Brust hit three 3-pointers and scored 14 points for the second-seeded Badgers (29-7), who jumped to a 14-point lead in the first half and never let up on the overmatched Bears (26-12). The 7-foot Kaminsky and his disciplined teammates shredded the Baylor zone defense that played so well in the first two games. Wisconsin also methodically shut down Baylor’s talented offense while moving into its second regional final in 13 years under Bo Ryan, who has never reached a Final Four in a 700-win coaching career. Cory Jefferson scored 15 points for the sixth-seeded Bears, who did little with their third Sweet 16 trip in five years.

     
  • Colter: ‘We know what we’re doing’ with union idea Mar 27, 2014 8:43 PM
    Kain Colter is not completely sure what the landscape will one day look like if college athletes are allowed to unionize. He’s just more convinced than ever that it’s become necessary. The former Northwestern quarterback, now essentially the face of the movement that could completely reshape college sports, said Thursday that a federal agency’s decision to allow the Wildcats to form a union was an expected victory — but also represents just the first step in what he knows will be a lengthy process. “There’s so many different components,” Colter said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But what this does ... it ensures that players have a voice and whatever route this goes and whatever structure comes from college sports, we have input. We’re out there sacrificing so much. We’re a big part of what college sports is today and the revenue that’s generated off of it. We deserve to have a say in that. We deserve a seat at the table.” A two-page online letter that he wrote might have made it all happen. Colter, 21, wasn’t the first to question why athletes feel like their rights in college are limited, but it was an online rant that he sent to the National College Players Association that started the roll of this now-enormous snowball. From that note, an idea was born, and the notion got legitimized Wednesday when a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board said Northwestern’s players should be allowed to unionize. The university will appeal. Colter isn’t worried. “You saw how strong of a ruling it was and that we won every single claim,” Colter said. “It’s going to be something that’s really hard to overturn.” At the root of Colter’s argument for change is that he believes college athletes lack basic protections, such as the guarantee of medical coverage and the promise of a four-year scholarship at most institutions. It’s common for scholarships to be renewed annually, and athletes have long felt that they could be vulnerable in situations like a change in coaches or philosophy. He stresses, though, that he enjoyed his time at Northwestern. He raves about Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald, calling him the best in college football. His experience was not a bad one, but Colter still can’t understand why his attempts to talk to the NCAA about possible changes were repeatedly turned down. “You can have the best employer in the world and you still deserve basic protections and basic rights,” Colter said. “That’s what this is all about. ... It wasn’t a complaint. It wasn’t us filing this out of abuse or mistreatment or anything like that. This is what it is.” For that, he actually thanks Northwestern. “With any big change there’s going to be people who are unsure and it’s too much, we’re not going to be able to do this, we’re not going to be able to do that,” Colter said. “But at Northwestern, especially at Northwestern, I’ve been taught to think outside the box, be a great thinker, free thinker, be a leader, make change. That’s just what we’re doing. That’s what Northwestern prepared us to do, to tackle this challenge.” It would be very simple for the 6-foot, 190-pound Colter to just worry about himself right now. He accounted for 5,023 yards and 50 touchdowns — 18 passing, 28 rushing and four receiving — in his four years at Northwestern, and plans to try to make the NFL as a receiver. He’s not expected to be drafted, and if he gets picked it almost certainly won’t be until the latest rounds. He’s preparing for a pro shot at IMG Academy on the southwest coast of Florida, where he said his training regimen Thursday was “business as usual.” Which it was, except for a few rounds of interviews and having a car service get him to all the stops on his media tour of sorts. In between it all, he was working out, and he said football is his top priority — even with all this legal talk swirling around him. He insists, his group has a plan, and knows exactly how to proceed. “My father played, my uncle played, I’ve been around all their teammates and their friends,” Colter said. “I’ve seen the pitfalls in the system and I went through it. For me to represent those guys and almost make things right and hopefully change things for the future generations and leave the game better than I found it, I’m honored to do that.”

     
  • Will union decision shake up college sports? Mar 26, 2014 10:40 PM
    In a stunning ruling that could revolutionize a college sports industry worth billions of dollars and have dramatic repercussions at schools coast to coast, a federal agency said Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the nation's first union of college athletes.

     
  • Illini eliminated from NIT Mar 23, 2014 4:42 PM
    Rod Hall made a driving layup with 9.3 seconds left to lead Clemson to a 50-49 win over Illinois in the NIT. Tracy Abrams airballed a 3-pointer for Illinois with 1.7 seconds left. The Tigers (22-12) struggled to get the ball inbounds and threw it into the front court. Hall saved the ball from going out on the other endline and the clock ran out. Clemson will host Belmont on Tuesday and the winner will go to New York for the NIT semifinals. K.J. McDaniels led Clemson with 12 points, while Landry Nnoko had 11 points and eight rebounds. Illinois (20-15) led just once on Jon Ekey’s 3-pointer that put the Illini ahead 49-48 with 2:06 left. Ekey had 11 points, while Rayvonte Rice led Illinois with 15 points.

     
  • Lawmakers want another Big Ten university in Illinois Mar 21, 2014 5:11 PM
    Two suburban Republican are pushing to make another public Illinois university a Big Ten Conference school in hopes of keeping students from traveling out of state to go to college. Another suburban lawmaker calls the idea futile and a distraction from the legislature's pressing business. And the Big Ten says lawmakers have no say on which universities are admitted.

     
  • Nebraska falls in first NCAAs since ‘98 Mar 21, 2014 7:27 PM
    Nebraska coach Tim Miles couldn’t fix the cold shooting or sloppy passes. The Big Ten coach of the year did see one thing he could correct: an overlooked shot clock error. Nope. These Huskers weren’t even going to get that right. Miles was instead ejected while trying to alert officials to the mistake, and 11th-seeded Nebraska would soon join their coach out of the NCAA tournament, falling to No. 6 seed Baylor 74-60 in the second round Friday.

     
  • Undercover horse-racing video tough to watch — but absolutely necessary Mar 21, 2014 5:30 AM
    People in the horse racing industry often say they wish they would get more coverage, more publicity. Well, ready or not, here it comes, and it’s most definitely not the type of pub they were hoping for.

     
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