Jim O'Donnell: NCAA tourney masters dodge half of a buzzsaw with Loyola advance

  • Lucas Williamson celebrates with his Loyola teammates after beating Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday in Indianapolis.

    Lucas Williamson celebrates with his Loyola teammates after beating Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday in Indianapolis. Associated Press

Updated 3/24/2021 7:03 PM

NO ONE IS EVER GOING to accuse the nattering nabobs who rule the NCAA of particularly enlightened thought.

But the stiff-suited Babbitts who indenture teenage servants from sea-to-shining-$$$ almost hung themselves on Weekend One of their 2021 men's basketball tournament.


Why in the name of all that is smart product distribution would the NCAA Selection Committee risk losing TV Chicago and much of its surrounding region by bracketing Loyola and Illinois in such close quarters?

Had the Ramblin' Wrecks from Georgia Tech downed Porter Moser and his dream weavers last Friday and then upset Kofi Cockburn and Illinois in Round Two, bye-bye Lake Shore Drive, so long East Green St., Champaign, Ill.

Instead, America got a tremendously revealing college basketball match tucked in a Sunday "Mimosa Marquee" of an opening six-day NCAA "weekend."

LOY-ILL was the third most-viewed telecast of the 52-game marathon, scoring 6.1 million at the zapper.

Only Syracuse-West Virginia (7.8M) and Baylor-Wisconsin (7.7M) did better.

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Notably, all three were second-round Sunday presentations on CBS.

Conversely, Illinois' first-round scrimmage against Drexel was the fourth least-watched game, pulling only 791,000 viewers on TBS.

(Biggest thud-sicle was "Count-the-Silverware" Kelvin Sampson and Houston's hop-along over Cleveland State on truTV. A meager 421,000 watched.)

In the end, first-week audience draw for the tournament was off close to 5% from 2019, the last time the event was held.

Weekday afternoon games on Monday and Tuesday didn't help.

Even if the risky and wasteful tightroping of Loyola and Illinois did.


The Dash-the-'Stache rosary idol from Algonquin Jacobs will once again be high-post center stage when Loyola tips vs. 12th-seed Oregon State in the Sweet Sixteen Saturday (CBS, 1:40 p.m.; Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner.)


A concerted Daily Herald archaeological dig discovered some compelling facts about the "Roots of 'Krut,' " many from the fabled Arlington Heights-Rolling Meadows corridor:

• Father Kevin Krutwig is a Rolling Meadows High grad (Class of '78);

• Mother Lori Krutwig is a utilization review nurse with a degree from the University of Iowa;

• Grandparents Ray and Carol Krutwig raised sons Kevin and Keith within hailing distance of Northwest Community Hospital and were members of Our Lady of the Wayside parish.

Grandpa Ray -- who passed in 2010 -- was a coach and booster in area youth sports.

He was also said to enjoy the occasional afternoon at Arlington Park, where he was a huge fan of Earlie Fires, Joe Bollero and Phil Georgeff.

In a final note -- thoroughly for the Bruce Wolf-Rick Kogan file -- Grandpa Ray was also a star two-way end at Taft High School in the late 1940s, playing for legendary Chicago Public League coach Joe Kupcinet.

Coach Kupcinet was the older brother of iconic Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet.

"Kup" the columnist once told a Sun-Times insouciant: "Joe was 'da brains in 'da family."

And that's why Ivan Bunny was born.

STREET-BEATIN': News that Ryne Sandberg is joining the Marquee Sports Network took the city by calm. (Great player, toothy grin, all the spark of Len Kasper at a "Dark Shadows" fan-vention.) ...

That battle sub-royale between ESPN AM (1000) and WSCR-AM (670) for sports talk supremacy in Chicago creaks along like a diced vs. baby carrots referendum at a seniors home. In the latest Nielsen Audios, "The Score" was 17th in the market; AM-1000 was 30th and a well-deserved dead last. ...

Longtime Chicago sports lieutenant Connie Kowal is circling USC's Drew Petersen -- a Libertyville High alum and transfer from Rice -- as a player to watch this weekend. (The sixth-seeded Trojans play No. 7 Oregon on TBS Sunday at 8:45 p.m.) ...

The Fort Wayne-spawned "Go Fund Me" for brutalized sportscaster Bill Hazen continues to show what kind of heart some people have. Now if only Chief Val Talley and his Maywood Police Department would wiki-wiki on their investigation of the felonious Lyft carjacking. (Google "bill hazen gofundme."). ...

Credible speculation that Bill Carstanjen's throat-latched Arlington Park may be charging $50 general admission for some "special days" this valedictory summer. Meaning tickets may be worth more than some of the horses. ...

And Jay Mariotti -- really applying some deep-heating rub to the chagrined of Champaign: "The No. 1-seeded Illini, you might say, were nun-and-done."

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

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