Jim O'Donnell: For local college hoops, March tourneys are uncertain and the end always near

  • Loyola fans cheer for a 3-point basket from the Ramblers Friday against Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh.

    Loyola fans cheer for a 3-point basket from the Ramblers Friday against Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament in Pittsburgh. Associated Press

Updated 3/19/2022 7:50 AM

WHEN BIDDING ADIEU, the great Phil Georgeff was fond of borrowing from Shakespeare to puckishly say, "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

But then, "The Voice" would always add, "Still, I'll see you in my dreams."


The phrases were perfect melancholy bookends for the end of a golden segment of Loyola's men's basketball this weekend.

The Ramblers added brutally deflating dimension to the word "flat" during their 54-41 departure from the NCAA men's tournament at the clawing hands of Ohio State.

THE FIRST HALF WAS foreboding. The final 20 minutes were an exercise in au revoir, Pee-wee.

On CBS, Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner tried to be as gentle as Jesuits holding unopened envelopes from major donors.

(Harlan's game prep, incidentally, was so platinum-plus that it underscored once again why he is one of America's top play-by-play announcers.)

On the floor, Lucas Williamson and the Ramblers were making it haphazardly clear that the mystical Final Four run of 2018 might as well be as far in the past as LU's historic 1963 national championship.

WITHIN MINUTES OF THE FINAL BUZZER, the Columbus Dispatch -- a farm-to-table regional notorious for Bucky Babbitt overkill -- posted the wounds-salting headline: "The Loyola Chicago hype train got way out of hand."

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Indeed it did. Which was why sentimental speculators who declined to follow the flow of money that made the Ramblers an asterisked game-time favorite could temper their disappointment with dollars saved.

NOW THE FUTURE BECOMES jigsaw-worthy for the markedly upstreaming D-I dribblers of the extended Chicago area.

Loyola rambles on to the Atlantic 10 next season, where the competition will be steeper and the braying congregations at road stops a bit more devilish.

DePaul continues its perpetual new-mill quest for relevancy. Northwestern needs a sustained run of enchanted miracles. Of DeKalb, they ask: Will the "do not resuscitate" sign ever be lifted at Northern Illinois?

And whatever happens on those pricey, upgraded practice courts of Champaign, the simmering Brad Underwood-to-LSU rumors simply reinforce the notion that nothing but awkward transitions and blurry goodbyes seem permanent around University of Illinois men's basketball.


IT IS MARCH, it is madness.

And in these basketball parts, it is far too frequently about squeezing some sort of sweetness out of far too many predictable partings.

STREET-BEATIN': For "SNL" worthy bathos, it was hard to top the CBS/Turner panel's funereal reaction to the first-round ouster of John Calipari and Kentucky by the commuters of tiny 15-seed St. Peter's (N.J.). Were Seth Davis, Rex Chapman, Frank Martin and all forgetting that Kentucky is the state that's given America Mitch McConnell, Churchill Downs Inc. and all of the white peach-basket excesses of Adolph Rupp? ...

Speaking of excesses, estimates of the total potential tab at ESPN/ABC for its new glut of "Monday Night Football" talent are touching more than $200M through the 2026 NFL season and Super Bowl 61. That includes; $18M per for Troy Aikman, $15M for Joe Buck and roughly $15M to be split by Peyton and Eli Manning for each year of their limited-run "Manningcast." ...

Also at ESPN, mounting hints that NFL reporter Adam Schefter is not a forever thing. There's no question he lacks the all-crevices reportorial net of the web's NBA flash Adrian Wojnarowski. ...

Jason Benetti is spring training for the White Sox season this weekend alongside Will Perdue in Milwaukee. The duo are calling NCAA men's games for Westwood One. ...

The great Taylor Bell, on the passing of Craig Lynch: "A treasure, a great loss." (For years, Bell assigned Lynch's freelance prep contributions to the Sun-Times; the blind journalist was amazing and had a knack for rubbing people the right way.) ...

From the oops file, Dick Vitale's Final Four: Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Gonzaga. (Been there, done that -- just dandy that Dickie V is energized and pickin'.) ...

Joakim Noah has joined the pitchman roster for BetRivers. (No word on whether the deal includes Noah's circus-peanut duds from NBA Draft Night 2007.) ...

Kenny Smith, to Charles Barkley on the vagaries of size in men's fashion: "I go to the tailor to have my suits taken in." ...

And dour Doris Burke, apparently suggesting that an NBA big man could score around the basket: "He's a vertical threat at the cup."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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