Jim O’Donnell: Is relief for the ’23 bracket blasted just a Selection Sunday away?

BASKETBALL PICKERS at all levels received a valuable cosmic text from the 2023 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

The beat will go on beginning one week from today. That's Selection Sunday and if the past is any indicator of the future, some degree of normalcy will return.

Last year, the total number of the seedings in the Final Four was 23. The scroll included Danny Hurley and eventual national champion Connecticut (4), runner-up San Diego State (5), Miami (5) and the who-dem? Owls of Florida Atlantic (9).

THAT 23 WAS THE SECOND-HIGHEST TOTAL since NCAA masters began seeding the tournament in 1979.

In 2011, the sum was a record 26. Jim Calhoun and UConn — a No. 3 — won over Brad Stevens and Butler (8). John Calipari and Kentucky (4) and young Shaka Smart and VCU (11) didn't see Monday night.

Since 1980, there have been five Final Fours equal to or greater than 20. In the four prior to last year, every following tournament had a culminating quartet less than 10 (an average of 7.2).

So the good news is that bracketology should return to being a more predictable pursuit this month.

The rougher news is that even the fleetest feet in the pre-tourney shopping aisles at Costco are likely to remain as bustable as ever.

* * *

THE CORRIDORS OF INTRIGUE at Halas Hall remain more sleuth-worthy than ever.

The altered-path McCaskey Bears continued a quaking week with the announcements that Meka White Morris will be the organization's exec VP of revenue/chief business officer and Tanya Dreesen will assume duties as senior VP of strategic and global affairs and chief of staff.

Both are allies of team president Kevin Warren from Minnesota. Morris was an exec VP of the Twins (and is the daughter of basketball great JoJo White). Dreesen served most recently as the Vikings' VP of partnership activation and — gasp — has a deep background in newspapers.

THE RUMOR THAT WON'T go away is that the futures of Tom Thayer and Jeff Joniak as radio play-by-play team have been “under review.”

Semantically, that can be categorized as a cursory annual ritual. But given the culture of change suddenly mushrooming in Lake Forest, it recalls Jim Finks' downright sacrilegious sacking of Jack Brickhouse and Irv Kupcinet after 24 seasons on WGN-AM (720) following the 1976 season.

Thayer has been a Bears game analyst since 1997. Joniak hopped on board in 2001 and is on target to match Brickhouse's record tenure this fall. They are considered one of the NFL's better audio duos.

Regarding Bears radio, one unquestionable certainty is that the team's association with free-flopping ESPN-AM (1000) is an open-barn door embarrassment. The dormant outlet brings nothing to the Bears brand.

The fact that AM-OUGHT ZERO began a bizarre status as the team's rights holder last year is as if Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) was being picked up for tonight's Oscars in a pedicab.


Eddie Olczyk and Darren Pang are among likely candidates to win a future Foster Hewitt Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame. Previous recipients of the game's highest broadcast honor include Lloyd Pettit (1986) and Pat Foley (2014). Favorite for the 2024 accolade is Montreal's Pierre Houde. …

John Henry Steinmiller is beginning his second month as the Cubs senior director of media relations. His eight years with the Blackhawks (2016-24) included digging a lot of imaging pucks out of dark corners. He's the son of the late John Steinmiller, the Mount Prospect native who had a magical 52-year run with the Milwaukee Bucks before his sad passing in October 2022. …

Eloy Jimenez is telling all who will listen that he wants to hit 40 or more home runs for the White Sox this season. The fragile caballero would give himself a big boost toward that goal if he'd stay healthy for more than 100 games. Five years in, Jimenez has the best part-time job in Bridgeport. …

Apparently it's only a matter of days until some Chicago sports talk types petition the Vatican to begin the process to have Jason Benetti canonized. Sox TV successor John Schriffen is receiving far too much first-sniff parsing. At point of entry, Schriffen's greatest safety net is that as long as he's in the same broadcast scheme as Len Kasper, he'll never be the most grating play-by-play presence. …

Palatine High stalwarts Bob Tomaso and Johnny Burke reported that 10 student fan buses left the school Friday morning for the Pirates' 4A boys semifinal in Champaign. PHS hadn't been involved in that sort of unexpected sports theatrics since Mike Miller and host St. Viator no-hit Dave Hasbach and the Pirates back on Thursday, April 4, 1968. (Bob Frisk covered the mini-masterpiece.) …

And Sir Walter Ruston, speculating on the title of the tune Taylor Swift will compose about Travis Kelce once their romance is over: “I'm leaning toward 'Tight Eras Tequila.'”

Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears each week on Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.