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SportsMonday: Illinois Team Secretly Makes Sweet 16

People have been complaining about sports sections not covering women's sports for a long time. Some of those complaints have merit, some don't.

But this morning was ridiculous.

You wouldn't know it from either the Sun-Times website (which I was actually able to scroll through relatively smoothly - have they actually, finally managed to achieve basic operational competence with that thing? It's a technological miracle!), or its printed sports section this morning, but there was a team from Chicago that had a thrilling weekend at its top tier NCAA basketball tournament.

This team was seeded sixth in its regional and took care of business in the first round on Friday, overwhelming James Madison 97-67.

Then on Sunday afternoon, the DePaul women's basketball team stepped up huge. They earned a spot in the Sweet 16 with a pulsating 73-72 upset victory over No. 3 Louisville.

The win was more impressive than any of the upsets in the men's tournament second round because in order to boost attendance, the NCAA has the top-seeded teams in each of its women's basketball regional quarterfinals host the games. So not only did DePaul knock off a higher-seeded team, it did so on that team's home court.

The star of the game was the awesomely named Jessica January, the DePaul guard who scored 18 points in the first half alone and finished with a season-high 25 overall. She hit the free throw that broke a 72-72 tie with 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter and then the Blue Demons held on. Ashton Millender and Chanise Jenkins each scored 12.

The Blue Demons then had to survive an extremely nervous final few moments. Louisville star Myisha Hines-Allen was able to drive into the lane and was about to put up a shot when she ran into several DePaul defenders. The whistle blew and the call was "offensive foul." After running out the last second-and-a-half, the Demons had survived and advanced.

Yes, that was a proper reference to the fourth quarter by the way. The women's game switched to four 10-minute quarters this year after decades using the classic two 20-minute halves.

Let's be clear about one more thing: This was an upset but not a surprise. Doug Bruno has spent 30 years building a great program at DePaul that just keeps getting better. His teams go to the tournament virtually every year including three trips to the Sweet 16 since 2010.

So maybe just maybe a competent sports editor would have allowed for something special happening and at least carved out a little space for a decent story on the victory.

In fact, given general fatigue with the unrelentingly stupid Adam LaRoche story and with the Hawks losing and the Bulls not playing, a prominent story was obviously warranted.

Instead, the Sun-Times print sports section had nary a word about the triumph. You have to dig deep into the innards of the paper just to find the box score that the paper barely managed to squeeze into its last page of agate.

The Tribune print sports section at least managed a headline near the bottom of page 4. But it was followed by boilerplate wire service copy. The game doesn't seem to appear anywhere on the Trib's website, though if you look hard enough you can find a link to a Chicago Now blog post from last Thursday asking "When Will DePaul Women Get Their Due As NCAA Contenders?"

The DePaul women return to action on Saturday against Oregon State in a Dallas Regional semifinal. The local papers are probably way too cheap to send a full-time writer to cover the game but it shouldn't be too tough to find a freelancer who will be in Dallas that day to churn out some decent original copy.

Hey local sports sections, maybe the team will even win again and you'll have another chance to celebrate a triumph by Chicago's most accomplished basketball team - by far - this season. Heck, maybe you can even find space on your website or lead a page with it.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our SportsMonday correspondent. He welcomes your comments.


1. Addendum from Jim Coffman via an e-mail conversation:

There isn't even anything about the DePaul women on the ESPN Chicago homepage. The game was televised on ESPN 2.

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