By Dan Irvin
Good news and bad news over the weekend for the local college men’s basketball teams.
I guess the Titans now move on to Naperville for a grudge match on Saturday, and hopefully we’ll still have Redbird basketball in the N.I.T. or certainly one of the other alphabet soup post-season tournaments.
February and March is so full of high school and college tournament activity it always jogs my memory about the times in my life I’ve taken a deep dive into these three or sometimes four day orgies of competition.
It’s great that the Missouri Valley Conference went to the single site neutral court version of the tournament, though I do remember those old conference title games at Horton Fieldhouse. You sacrifice that atmosphere for the possibility of immersing yourself in the personalities of eight or ten teams for a weekend.
Before my time, the old IHSA sweet sixteen actually brought all those teams together down in Champaign for some comprehensive boys’ basketball. And I also remember Wesleyan playing out in Kansas City in 16-team championships when they were in the NAIA.
I recall in high school driving over to Pekin for their holiday tournament a couple of times. We’ve got the State Farm Holiday tournament here now, which has to be about the biggest tournament festival anywhere with 64 teams.
Over the years private groups and now the local sports authority have done a great job bringing us a sampling of tournaments in other sports, too. I’m mindful of the Junior Girls Softball World Championships.
And I might also say, Josh Weitzkin, the chess prodigy in the book and movie versions of Searching for Bobby Fischer won his first national junior chess tournament in Bloomington. Just a couple of examples, there are scores of others.
Just another way we’re blessed here. Fortunate in the opportunities life offers for entertainment and preoccupation. May they continue and be accessible to more and more of us.
Dan Irvin is Secretary of the Board of the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, Vice-President of the Bloomington Public Library Foundation Board, and a member of the Heartland Community College Foundation Board.
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