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Thursday, November 4, 2010
Chicago coaches like local tourney idea

By Eamonn Brennan

Chicago-area college basketball is not, shall we say, experiencing its finest era. Sure, Northwestern is going through perhaps its best two-year stretch of all-time; the Wildcats have a second-straight legitimate chance to make the NCAA tournament this season. But if that's the barometer -- and the rest of the college hoops programs in the city are aspiring to be on Northwestern's level -- it's obvious you don't exactly have a regional power struggle on your hands.

Chicago is a crowded sports town, and for all its hoops programs' issues with recruiting or facilities or whatever, one main hurdle is interest. How do you compete for eyeballs with Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls?

I'm not sure you do. But you can start by manufacturing a little local competition. According to ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers, that's exactly what Chicago's coaches want to do. New DePaul coach Oliver Purnell even gave this theoretical competition a name:
Alongside the coaches of Chicago State, Loyola, Northwestern and UIC at a press conference in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, Purnell offered up "The Chicago 5" as a potential invite name, playing off the college alliance of the "Philadelphia Big 5."

UIC coach Howard Moore has only been on the job since August, but he has already started looking into uniting the Chicago-area teams for such an event. Moore believed the best format would be a one-day invitational much like the one that was created this year between Butler, Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue in Indiana.

I'm not sure what to think here. After all, we're talking about five pretty downtrodden programs. Are casual college hoops fans going to get too riled up for the Chicago Five? (If that's what we're calling it.) Probably not. Are Chicago fans going to care? Maybe. Kind of doubtful, though.

Still, if the only people who end up caring are the pre-existing fan bases of these teams, then it's probably worth doing anyway. It has not been a good decade or so for any of them. If a little inter-city competition sells a few extra tickets and gets a few mentions on local sports radio between breathless Bears updates ("This just in: Bears offensive line tryouts to be held at Soldier Field Sunday morning ...") then the tournament, or invitational, or whatever it will be will have been worth it. The question isn't "why?" It's "Eh, why not?"