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            In a sign of burgeoning interest, the Big Ten men's basketball tournament, to be held at the United Center on March 14-17, is a sellout, conference officials announced Thursday.

            That's a big boost for the league. The buzz for the tourney has been declining lately, but the Big Ten is enjoying a resurgence this year, and fans are noticing. It's also a positive for Chicago, which is hosting the tourney for the first time since 2007.

            After its five-year run in Indianapolis, the tourney will alternate between Chicago (2013 and 2015) and Indy (2014, 2016) for four years.

            A big reason for the renewed interest is the resurgence of Indiana and Michigan, who are enjoying their best seasons in a while, combined with the continued strong play of perennials Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

            Illinois and Iowa also have been playing well lately, encouraging their supporters to look more closely at the conference tournament.

            Here's the full announcement from the Big Ten: 


BIG TEN ANNOUNCES SELLOUT

FOR 2013 MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Men's event returns to the United Center in Chicago from March 14-17

 

Park Ridge, Ill. - The conference office announced today that the 2013 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament, scheduled for March 14-17 at the United Center in Chicago, is now sold out. After the original allotment of general public tickets for the 2013 event sold out in January, the conference office made a limited number of additional all-session packages available on Feb. 1, but all tickets have now been sold.

 

The 2013 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament returns to Chicago, which hosted the inaugural event in 1998 and will serve as the site for the eighth time in the tournament's 16-year history. The conference tournament averaged 18,882 fans per session when the event was last held at the United Center in 2007. The men's tournament set total and average attendance records while in Chicago in 2001 with 109,769 fans in attendance for an average of 21,954 patrons per session.

                                

The Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament features 11 games over four days, beginning with four games on Thursday, and the top four teams will receive byes into the quarterfinal round on Friday. Six different programs have won the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State and Ohio State have won the title three times. Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin have each won the championship twice, and Purdue has won the tournament once.

 

Several fan events surround this year's men's tournament, including the Daley Plaza Hoops Fest, Tip-Off Luncheon, Big Ten Youth Fitness Program, Big Ten Books for Baskets and Restaurant Pairings Program. For more information on ancillary events, go to bigtenchicagohoops.com.

 

Seven different Big Ten teams have been ranked among the nation's top 20 this season, including five programs currently among the top 20 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls, more than any other conference. Indiana is currently the nation's top-ranked team, joining Michigan as the second Big Ten school to appear atop the national polls this season. Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State have also appeared among the top 10 this season, while Wisconsin has been ranked among the top 20.

 

For more information, including a full bracket and lodging information, go to the men's basketball page on bigten.org.

 

Notice to Secondary Market Ticket Buyers: The Big Ten Conference and the United Center can only guarantee the validity of Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament tickets purchased from university ticket offices, Ticketmaster or the United Center Ticket office. Fans who obtain tickets from unauthorized dealers or from other fans run the risk of buying lost, stolen or counterfeit tickets which will not be honored for admission, and will not be eligible for any type of refund or exchange.

 

            It's no surprise that Billy Gonzales has left Tim Beckman's football staff. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen announced Wednesday that his former Florida Gator colleague will be joining him in Starkville.

            Rather, the surprise is that Gonzales didn't leave earlier.

            A highly regarded recruiter, Gonzales was lured away from LSU a year ago to be an offensive coordinator. As it turned out, Gonzales wound up being Illinois' co-offensive coordinator, Chris Beatty.

            But Beatty ended up being  the senior co-coordinator in responsibility, and sources said Gonzales never settled into a comfortable role in Champaign. Beatty took the fall for Illinois' sluggish offense, and was dismissed by Beckman to make room for fired Western coach Michigan Bill Cubit, who looks like a very promising addition.

            The hiring of Cubit, a veteran with a good track record of reviving ineffective offenses, left Gonzales even further from the coordinator role he coveted.

            To make room for Gonzales and his recruiting upside, Mullen bumped his tight ends coach to coordinator of scouting, and moved receivers coach Tim Brewster to tight ends. Which was Brewster's position when the former Minnesota head coach was a star on Illinois' 1983 Rose Bowl team. Brewster also received an assistant head coach title.

             ``I've had the chance to work with Billy, and the opportunity to add him to our staff was one we couldn't pass up,'' Mullen said in a statement released Wednesday. ``His experience in developing receivers speaks for itself and he has consistently and relentlessly recruited top players at every stop of his career.''

            The coaching-staff ball once again is in Beckman's court.

            Only Tuesday, Beckman welcomed in Greg Colby as defensive line coach to replace respected Zook holdover Keith Gilmore, who left for North Carolina, where he'll be reunited with Vic Koenning and Dan Disch, who also were on Zook's Illinois staff.

            A Danville native who was a three-year starter in both football and baseball in the early '70s at Illinois, Colby was an Illinois assistant from 1988 to 1995, when he worked with outside linebackers and special teams.

            For the last five years, Colby has been head coach at Millersville (Pa.) University, a Division II school.

 


 

            Tal Brody, the point guard on Illinois' 1963 Big Ten championship team who went on to become a sports legend in Israel, will be honored before Illinois' game with Purdue on Wednesday. Brody's No. 12 jersey will be the 33rd honored jersey to be displayed at Assembly Hall.

            ``This honor closes a missing link that I can add in the chain of my basketball career,'' Brody said. ``After my Trenton (N.J.) High School jersey No. 12 and Maccabi Tel-Aviv jersey No. 6 were hung up on the rafters, and now the Fighting Illini No. 12, I have immense feelings of pride that I have made a difference to all three teams that I have played for in my basketball career and the many thousands of fans that enjoyed sharing our success.''

            Despite being the 12th selection by Baltimore in the 1965 NBA draft, Brody decided to accept the request of Israeli government officials, who wanted him to lift the profile of basketball in the Jewish state.

            After leading the U.S. team to a gold medal in the 1965 Maccabia Games, Brody, 69, embarked on a long professional career in Israel. In 1977, he led Maccabi Tel Aviv to its first European Cup championship, a title run that included a celebrated upset of the Soviet Union's Red Army team.

            After that win, Brody said, ``We are on the map. And we are staying on the map--not only in sports, but in everything.'' It was a phrase that has endured,  and continues to inspire, in Israel, where it still is often used.

            In 1979, Brody, who's often referred to as the Mr. Basketball of Israel, received the Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honor. He is one of 13 international-wing finalists for selection to the Naismith Hall of Fame this year.

            Brody, who averaged 15.1 points a game, ranks 38th among Illinois' all-time leading scorers, with 1,121 points.

 

About the blogger

Herb Gould started with the Sun-Times in 1977 and has covered several teams, including the Blackhawks. He is a long-time beat reporter covering the Fighting Illini and the Big Ten for the Sun-Times.

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