Sunday Quick Shots column on NCAA tournament, Illinois, Cubs, Blackhawks and more.


Illinois playing in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Stony Brook, N.Y., was pure serendipity; Assembly Hall was booked and the backup gym in Champaign is being renovated. Here’s hoping the NIT tries to recreate that magic atmosphere in the future and give all regular-season conference champs home games in the opening round.

Make Virginia Tech play at Quinnipiac, Mississippi at Troy and Cincinnati at Weber State, instead of the other way around. It’s the best chance smaller schools will ever get to host blue-bloods from the Big Ten, ACC and Big East. And it will make the NIT far more fun.

Obama and the chalk, Part II

Last year, Quick Shots pointed out that the first fan picked no NCAA “upset” more than one seed apart after the first round. This year, President Barack Obama’s NCAA picks for ESPN had four No. 1s and three No. 2s in the Elite Eight. His only “underdog” in the Elite Eight, No. 3 Georgetown, was eliminated in the first round Thursday. Where’s the fun in that? He’s supposed to be a basketball expert, and experts don’t pick by the numbers.

NCAA ignorance is bliss

Quick Shots quit following college basketball after Dee Brown graduated from Illinois, so no more filling out an NCAA bracket in 60 seconds. An hour of study reading the experts last year led to picking Wake Forest as a dark horse champ. The Demon Deacons lost in the first round. This year, everyone saying the Big East was easily the best conference led to four Big East teams picked in the Elite Eight. Georgetown and Marquette went down Thursday. The league would have gone 0-for-4 without the refs bailing out Villanova against Robert Morris. Moral of the story: Forget what everyone else thinks, stick with your gut and never apologize for loving the Big Ten. Well, next year anyway.

Cubs need Jaramillo jolt

It’s tempting to ridicule all the Rudy Jaramillo stories as a replay of the idea that Rod Marinelli would transform the Bears’ defensive line. Except Quick Shots was part of that Marinelli hype. And I do believe a new batting coach can improve the Cubs. But Jaramillo has his work cut out for him; Cubs hitters are typically undisciplined and Jaramillo (like Marinelli with the Bears) is the Cubs most significant offseason addition.

Blackhawks play the right way

Quick Shots already misses Olympic hockey. Hockey played according to the written rules is a beautiful sport, but the NHL is more brutal than beautiful. That point was driven home again this week when Anaheim complained about James Wisniewski’s eight-game suspension for cheap-shotting the Blackhawks’ Brent Seabrook. The NHL peaked when Wayne Gretzky played in Edmonton. The Blackhawks aren’t Gretzky’s Oilers, but they’ve got more flair and less thuggishness than most NHL contenders. Here’s hoping they can avoid opposing goons and stay healthy.

Another one who got away

D.J. Cooper led Seton Academy to the 2009 Class 2A state title, and a win over Winnebago in the semifinals. Thursday, he had 23 points and eight assists and made 5 of 8 3-pointers to carry Ohio over No. 3 seed Georgetown. He averaged 13.4 points, 5.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds as a freshman. One more recruit Bruce Weber missed at Illinois.

Matt Trowbridge’s Quick Shots on Sports appear Sundays. He can be reached at 815-987-1383 or