College basketball fans in Illinois have long wanted a statewide tournament, and with March Madness canceled, the opportunity finally arose. Kind of.
I’ve been desperate for any semblance of March basketball, and I know many of you have felt the same way. So I decided to make up a statewide Illinois championship bracket with all 13 teams, seeded according to The Catch and Shoot’s Illinois Rankings, and simmed all four rounds using What If Sports, a website that allows you to run custom simulations complete with box scores and play-by-plays.
And after four exciting days of tweet updates, we’ve crowned a champion: the DePaul Blue Demons! That’s right. DePaul’s brief March resurgence, where the Blue Demons upset Xavier in the Big East play-in round before COVID-19 ended the (real-life) 2019-20 season, was the real deal.
As the No. 3 seed, the Blue Demons earned the final bye to the quarterfinals, where they benefitted from a first-round upset. No. 11 seed SIU-Edwardsville knocked off No. 6 seed Southern Illinois in the final game of the play-in round, but the Cougars couldn’t continue their Cinderella run as DePaul cruised by two the semifinals.
As an underdog against Loyola Chicago, DePaul knocked the Ramblers off their pedestal as the kings of today’s Chicago basketball scene with a resounding 74-52 win.
In the championship, DePaul drew Bradley, which delivered the most shocking result of the tournament in the semifinals: an 84-63 beatdown of top-seeded Illinois.
Bradley fared better than Loyola against the Blue Demons buzzsaw, but DePaul still came out on top in a 73-70 thriller for the title. Sophomore shooting guard Flynn Cameron, of all people, drained the game-winning three with 41 seconds left.
It seemed as if coach Dave Leitao was being overly cautious with starting shooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands, who had four fouls, by pulling him from the game entirely with under two minutes to go. But apparently it was just great coaching!
Despite Cameron’s late heroics, DePaul point guard Charlie Moore earned the Tournament MVP award, averaging 23 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.6 steals. Joining him on the All-Tournament team were:
Darrell Brown, Bradley
18.5 ppg, 5.8 apg
Paul Reed, DePaul
8.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg
Elijah Childs, Bradley
14.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg
Jalen Coleman-Lands, DePaul
12.7 ppg, 40 3P%
Honorable mention to Northern Illinois’ Eugene German (27 ppg, 61.5 eFG%) and Loyola’s Cameron Krutwig (17.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.5 apg).
No. 9 Illinois State 68, No. 8 UIC 62 (OT)
No. 4 Bradley 76, No. 13 Chicago State 53
No. 5 Northern Illinois 66, No. 12 Western Illinois 62
No. 10 Eastern Illinois 82, No. 7 Northwestern 80
No. 11 SIU-Edwardsville 80, No. 6 Southern Illinois 71
No. 1 Illinois 81, No. 9 Illinois State 78
No. 4 Bradley 98, No. 5 Northern Illinois 69
No. 2 Loyola 71, No. 10 Eastern Illinois 68
No. 3 DePaul 70, No. 11 SIU-Edwardsville 56
No. 5 Bradley 84, No. 1 Illinois 63
No. 3 DePaul 74, No. 2 Loyola 52
No. 3 DePaul 73, No. 4 Bradley 70
Now, let’s hope we don’t have to do this again next year. Stay healthy and safe, everyone.