By Dan Bernstein —
670TheScore.com senior columnist
(670 The Score) With apologies to Loyola, Chicagoans may feel like they’re sitting out this season of college basketball.
The 16-4 Ramblers just don’t connect with people on that level anymore, so it’s up to Northwestern and Illinois to make the area feel at all a part a sport that seems right now to be something happening everywhere but here.
And they aren’t exactly getting it done. The Illini are dead last in the Big Ten at a woeful 0-8 and are 10-11 overall in Brad Underwood’s first campaign. Last March, athletic director Josh Whitman announced the hiring of his new coach by boasting that Underwood was “a proven winner” who he expected to “build upon our proud tradition while developing an unmistakable identity for Illinois basketball.”
Winless is unmistakable and is a kind of identity, I guess.
Meanwhile, Northwestern is the bigger and more confounding disappointment, having returned almost all of the team that soared to a first-round NCAA win last year. Being forced to play in Rosemont during home court renovations may be a factor in the Wildcats’ 3-5 conference performance that has them tied for ninth place, but it’s no excuse for a team that was ranked in the top 25 at the outset of the season. Chris Collins has talked about building a sustained winner and not just celebrating the nice story of ending the tournament drought, and yet the same energy is clearly just not there, nor are the results.
It’s another lost year for any Chicago area basketball fans who need a significant local association for it to matter.