Will Richmond's Cinderella story come to an end?

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Will Richmond's Cinderella story come to an end?

Thursday, March 24, 2011Posted: 4:45 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

This year's NCAA Tournament has already had its share of thrillers--Kentucky's first-round escape over Princeton, Arizona's pair of slim victories (against Texas and Derrick Rose's beloved Memphis Tigers, respectively), Wisconsin outlasting Kansas State (and Chicagoland native Jacob Pullen's valiant effort), San Diego State's double-overtime second-round marathon over Temple, to name a few--but now it's time for the annual event's meat and potatoes, the Sweet 16.

With shockers like Morehead State over Louisville (picked by yours truly in the CSNChicago.com Bracket Challenge) out of the way, the contenders have mostly separated themselves from the pretenders, evidenced by last season's national runner-up, Butler, taking out not only sleeper candidate Old Dominion in the first round, but upsetting top-seeded Pittsburgh in a second-round heartbreaker. Speaking of the Big East, after a tournament-record 11 teams from the conference made the Big Dance, only two--Connecticut and upstart Marquette--are still alive, while Virginia Commonwealth, a school many believed should have been excluded on Selection Sunday, dispatched not only Georgetown, but highly-regarded Purdue, and convincingly so.

Some of the best individual performances thus far have been turned in by the likes of the aforementioned Pullen (the Proviso East High School product scored 38 points in his final collegiate outing), Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight (the latest in the line of John Calipari's star point guards hit the game-winner for his only first-round field goal, then scored a career-high 30 points in the second round), as well as continued excellence by the likes of Kansas' Morris twins (junior forwards Marcus and Markieff). North Carolina star freshmen Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall (the latter's poised playmaking has been the key to the Tar Heels' late-season surge) have also shone, as well as Arizona forward Derrick Williams, Duke guard Nolan Smith, Ohio State freshman big man Jared Sullinger and the two consensus top players in the country, high scoring guards Kemba Walker of Connecticut and Jimmer Fredette of BYU.

Two schools with local ties, Illinois and Notre Dame, each made it past their first-round matchup before falling in the second round. In a season marked by inconsistency, Illinois got by UNLV and one of its former coaches (Lon Kruger) before succumbing to another ex-head coach, Bill Self and top-seeded Kansas. Meanwhile, second-seeded Notre Dame expectedly cruised by Akron in the first round, but was then surprised by 10th-seeded Florida State, unable to deal with the Seminoles' length and rugged defense.

When it comes to the Sweet 16, however, while a lot of people's brackets aren't completely broken (three No. 1 seeds are still playing), the eliminated teams and nature of the games have seemingly put things up for grabs. With no further adieu, here are my predictions:

In the East region, Ohio State's combination of experience and Sullinger's inside dominance should be the difference against a young Kentucky team, while North Carolina's sheer talent should overwhelm undersized Marquette. In the Elite Eight, the Buckeyes' toughness will make life too tough for the Tar Heels, preventing yet another Final Four appearance, as well as the players cashing in on alum, Bulls legend and Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan's pledge of free sneakers.

UConn, riding Walker's season-long hot hand, should have enough to beat San Diego State--the Aztecs have talent, but are new to this territory, despite having a former national championship-winning coach in Steve Fisher--while Duke should also march past youthful Arizona in the West, despite the brilliance of Williams. However, look for UConn's charmed path to continue with an upset of the defending champs in the Elite Eight.

In the Southwest region, Richmond's Cinderella story should end against powerhouse Kansas, but VCU's run should somehow continue against an up-and-down Florida State team with an injured star in Chris Singleton. Kansas, regarded by many as the favorite to win it all, will go to the Final Four after a relatively easy romp through its bracket.

Finally, in the Southeast, Butler's run will end at the hands of a disciplined, well-rounded Wisconsin squad, while Florida evens the score against undersized BYU in a rematch of last season's double-overtime tournament upset. However, the school that produced Joakim Noah will fall to the Bo Ryan-coached Badgers in the Elite Eight.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

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Photo at top: La Rue Martin poses for a photo at a National Basketball Retired Players Association event. (Photo courtesy of La Rue Martin)

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

By Elan Kane
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

LaRue Martin Jr. thought his future was set. The Portland Trail Blazers had drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1972 NBA draft. Money and fame awaited.

Fifteen years later, he started work as a UPS driver, struggling to find uniform pants that fit his 6-foot-11 frame.

"There is life after sports," Martin said. "Period."

It's been 45 years since the draft and Martin, a former Loyola University star, is now the UPS Illinois district public affairs and community services manager. He is labeled by many as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, but he is fine with that designation.

"I don't believe in saying anything negative, you have no control over that," Martin said. "I took care of my family, did what I had to do and I'm the type of person I can't dwell off the negatives. I can't. I kept my head up high and moved onto a positive mode of life and it has treated me very well."

Martin averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in just four seasons with the Trail Blazers. He blames his low numbers on his lack of playing time, but many believe he was just not good enough.

"He didn't get playing time because he [stunk]," said Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the NBA for decades. "[Former No. 1 overall draft pick Michael] Olowokandi didn't do much but I think he did more than that."

Martin is used to the criticism.

"As a young man, reading the papers all the time, that bothered me, I must admit that," Martin said. "But I hold my head up high now because I've been very successful in the corporate world."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.