The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: March 16, 2024

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Sports Editor Matt Daniels with a look at what's going on around the area:

Three reasons we love sports today

➜ 1. It wasn't always pretty for the Illinois men's basketball team on Friday night. But thanks to , Terrence Shannon Jr. and Coleman Hawkins, the Illini outlasted Ohio State 77-74 to advance to the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

➜ 2. Congrats to Tuscola girls' basketball coach Tim Kohlbecker on his retirement. Hard to find a more competitive, yet good-natured, coach in the area. No matter the level.

➜ 3. Former Unity standout Elyce Knudsen, who is the all-time leading scorer in Millikin women's basketball history, will play Saturday in the NCAA Division III All-Star game presented by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association in Columbus, Ohio. Cool honor for Knudsen.

Numbers game: 32

NJCAA Division II national men's basketball tournament games that will unfold next week, starting Monday, at Mary Miller Gymnasium on the Danville Area Community College campus. The 20-team event includes seventh-seeded Parkland, with the 28-4 Cobras opening up against 10th-seeded St. Clair County (Mich.) (25-6) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a second-round game.

Crowd control

Three events I'm paying attention to

➜ 1. Illinois vs. Nebraska men's basketball. The Illini's Big Ten tournament semifinal opponent sure played a heck of a lot better than Illinois did on Friday night, with the Cornhuskers routing Indiana 93-66. A 2:30 p.m. tip on Saturday awaits both teams from Minneapolis.

➜ 2. Purdue vs. Wisconsin men's basketball. If Wisconsin can somehow solve the Zach Edey equation, the Badgers are playing Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten tournament title game. Much, much easier said than done before this noon tip on Saturday in Minneapolis.

➜ 3. Selection Sunday. Where will the Illini men's basketball team wind up when the 68-team NCAA tournament bracket is revealed starting at 5 p.m. Sunday?

Coach's corner

Three questions with Centennial boys' track and field coach Josh Sterling, who helped guide the Chargers to a third-place finish during last year's IHSA Class 3A state meet.

➜ 1. My favorite sports teams are ... North Carolina, Illinois, Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cubs.

➜ 2. Three coaches I'd like to have dinner with are ... Deion Sanders, Carl Lewis and Shaka Smart.

➜ 3. My biggest pet peeve is ... people who do not take accountability for their actions.