Jim Rossow

Jim Rossow

Melton takes stage

   DAYTON, Ohio  A year ago, you might have caught Brett Melton ducking into a janitor''s closet at Mahomet-Seymour High School to watch first-round NCAA tournament games.

   Champaign''s Nate Mast was another guy who always could find a Champaign Central classroom with a TV during tournament time.

Mother of all fandom

DAYTON, Ohio – They are the nicest bunch you'll ever meet, hugging and laughing and smiling and cheering from the opening tip until the final buzzer.

Unless some wiseacre in Row 12 has something unflattering to say about their sons. That's when Illinois' mother lode turns as serious as Sergio McClain.

Demons' shot blocker impresses Illini

DAYTON, Ohio – Two hours in front of the TV convinced Illinois that Northwestern State is no slouch.

The Illini watched Tuesday's play-in game as a group and were particularly impressed with shot-blocking freshman D'Or Fischer.

Third-team nod still a treat for Illini point guard

CHAMPAIGN – Frank Williams isn't big on recognition.

That's why the Illinois point guard greeted Tuesday's unveiling of The Associated Press All-America team with a shrug.

Illinois has work cut out to dump its drought in Sweet 16

Good thing Illinois is on spring break this week. Otherwise, Cory Bradford would hear about his team's Sweet 16 slump between every class.

"We know all about it, that Illinois hasn't gotten past the second round in so many years," Bradford said. "We hear it all the time. We have an opportunity to break that."

Champaign ref packing his bags for East Regional

CHAMPAIGN – After a long season of officiating, Champaign's Sam Banks was looking forward to spending this weekend with his family.

Then the NCAA called wanting to know if he'd be available to referee first-round tournament games in Uniondale, N.Y.

Ticket rush is overwhelming

By about noon Monday, Billy MacLellan had received dozens of calls from Illinois, New York, Tennessee and even some from Canada.

As an athletic ticket assistant at Charlotte, MacLellan and his department were very popular with folks scrambling for NCAA tournament tickets. Charlotte plays at the same Dayton site that will host Illinois, Syracuse, Tennessee and others.

Remember the Alamodome

The stakes get higher – and more seats become available – if Illinois reaches the Sweet 16.

The NCAA tournament from A to Z

Sports editor Jim Rossow's alphabetical look at the eight-team Midwest Regional bracket at Dayton, Ohio:

A is for aberration, which fans in Dayton are used to seeing. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, two No. 1 seeds have lost second-round games there: Michigan in 1985 (Villanova) and Kansas in 1992 (UTEP).

Dayton ends UI's string of long tourney trips

CHAMPAIGN – Cameras caught the Illini jumping for joy when their named popped up as the Midwest Regional's top seed Sunday night.

But their celebration was mild compared to the one at the Williams' household in Peoria, where friends and family of the Illini's point guard hit the roof.