Now that we know it's a Wisconsin-Ohio State showdown at 2:30 Sunday in the United Center, what's been a thrill already this weekend for three Badgers and two Buckeyes can be capped off by cutting down the nets in the building where they watched and rooted for the Bulls growing up in the area.
Wisconsin kept its mastery over Indiana in Saturday's opening semfinal, 68-56, with the help of three Chicagoans. Junior guard Ben Brust scored a dozen points, a shade above his season average, in knocking off the Hoosiers. Brust was a second-team All-Stater at Mundelein. Redshirt freshman guard George Marshall of Brooks Prep contributed six points - also slightly above his season average - in only 10 minutes of action.
6-foot-11 sophomore Frank Kaminsky was scoreless in 15 minutes Saturday, but the second team All-Stater his senior year at Benet Academy was a disruptive factor in the paint, grabbed three rebounds, and dished out three assists as one of just three players (along with Marshall) Bo Ryan used off the bench.
On the other side, Thad Matta boasts two starters who'd love to take home a conference trophy in The House That Michael Built. Guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. helped Zion-Benton to a second-place finish in the state as a sophomore in 2008. The two-time first team All-Stater averaged 10 points and five rebounds for the Buckeyes, but managed just two points Saturday.
Whitney Young stands just a few blocks away from the United Center, and it's where Sam Thompson played his prep ball and helped lead the Dolphins to the 2009 4A state crown before losing in their return trip to the title game to freshman Jabari Parker and Simeon a year later. Thompson tossed in eight points in the 61-58 victory over Michigan State Saturday.
Oh, you can even throw in a couple more Badgers. Walk-on Dan Fahey from St. Ignatius has gotten into 10 games, while 6'8 junior Duje Dukan (son of Bulls executive Ivica) from Deerfield has yet to see game action.
With the tourney back at the United Center for the first time in six years, these kids are living out a dream playing in that building. And at least two of them will walk out as champions.