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Sportswriters #117: Playing in Peoria — or not?

So, the IHSA boys state basketball tournament returns to Peoria for another weekend, this one with the Class 3A and 4A championships representing the big schools. We bring in Michael O'Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times, since six of the eight teams are from Chicagoland, to break down what to watch. And then we venture into the problems plaguing tournament attendance. After 23 years in Peoria, is it time for the tournament to move elsewhere? Why? Why not? And if so, where?


Sportswriters #116: Original March Madness

We're at Carver Arena for the first weekend of the Illinois boys state basketball championships -- trademarked as "America's Original March Madness." We talk with the IHSA's Matt Troha about a major change to student cheer sections, and we try to pick who's going to win the Class 1A and 2A titles by the time it's over Saturday night.


Sportswriters #115: Arch Madness and the Commish

With the Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament tipping off Thursday, we talk with MVC commissioner Doug Elgin about the Arch Madness event, the state of the league, Loyola's chances for an NCAA at-large bid, the Valley's stance on the CBI and CIT postseason tourneys, potential expansion and more.


Sportswriters #114: Weekend frenzy in the Valley

Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, only three things are settled regarding Arch Madness, aka the Missouri Valley Conference tournament: 1 - Loyola is the No. 1 seed; 2 - Bradley will play in the 4-5 game, and 3 - Evansville and UNI will meet in the 8-9 play-in game. Otherwise, everything is up in the air. So we talk it out with Todd Golden, who covers Indiana State for the Terre Haute Star-Tribune. The Sycamores have a chance to avoid the play-in round if they can win at...


Sportswriters #113: Want to join an AAU basketball program? Here's how

The most certain route to a college basketball scholarship begins through participation on an AAU team. Gavin Sullivan, the director of the Illinois Irish AAU basketball program, discusses the process for a prospective teenage player to become a part of the Irish program. Some players are recruited, but anybody can try out. And the tryouts are coming up soon.


Sportswriters #112: Bradley vs. Illinois State revisited

With the Bradley-ISU rivalry scheduled for Part 2 Wednesday night in Peoria, we try to sort out what's going on with both teams coming off lopsided losses. Jim Benson of the Bloomington Pantagraph joins the discussion, which ventures off to other fun places and memories in college basketball.


Sportswriters #111: Crazy days in the MVC

Two-thirds through the conference season, six games left. Loyola is alone in first, while UNI and Valpo are separating themselves at the bottom. But the rest of the Missouri Valley basketball race is clear as mud. So we try to cut through the mess with veteran basketball journalist Harry Schroeder from


Sportswriters #110: Rocky Vonachen retires

Rocky Vonachen, who stepped down as the Peoria Chiefs' longtime president on Wednesday, sits down with Dave Eminian to look back at his years with the team and what is next for him.


Sportswriters #109: Riffin' on the Ramblers

Our Valley Views segment digs into the Loyola Ramblers, who are blowing away their opponents — 18 points average margin the past five games — and threatening to run away with the MVC regular-season championship. But first, they visit second-place Bradley on Wednesday night. To find out what makes Loyola go, we talk to Chicagoland college hoops journalist Eli Hershkovich.


Sportswriters #108: All about the Winter Throwdown

Peoria High School is hosting a boys basketball shootout in an effort to revive the excitement around Peoria-area basketball. Modeling the Winter Throwdown after the long-standing River City Shootout, PHS athletic director Brien Dunphy and founder of Peoria Area Elite AAU, Gale Johnson, discuss this year's field, how it came about and future plans and ideas.


Sportswriters #107: Missouri State's peaks and valleys

Back in the Missouri Valley Conference with "Valley Views," talking the Missouri State Bears with their longtime beat reporter Lyndal Scranton. The Bears, who play at Bradley on Tuesday night, were the preseason Valley favorite, but inconsistent guard play has left them struggling on the road. Get more of the scoop.


Sportswriters #106: An SPHL All-Star Dream Team and memories of the bus crash

Peoria Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel, co-owner and COO Bart Rogers, and play-by-play announcer Brad Kupiec join Journal Star hockey writer Dave Eminian for another edition of The Journal Star Sportswriters podcast.Trudel and Kupiec discuss their SPHL All-Star dream team,and Rogers joins them to share memories of that terrible but ultimately triumphant day one year ago when the Columbus Cottonmouths bus crashed on the way to Peoria.


Sportswriters #105: About that I-74 rivalry ...

Our Valley Views special edition focuses on Round 1 of the Bradley-Illinois State rivalry, which resumes Wednesday night at Redbird Arena in Normal. Our guest is beat reporter Jim Benson from the Bloomington Pantagraph, and in addition to the BU-ISU game, we try to figure out what’s going on in the MVC, where home teams are struggling to hold serve and a .500 record probably won’t keep you out of the dreaded play-in game at Arch Madness.


Sportswriters #104: Jim Thome and the Baseball Hall of Fame

The 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced in 12 days. The Journal Star staff discusses Jim Thome's chances of becoming the first Peorian to be selected among other Hall of Fame topics.


Sportswriters #103: Scouting the Salukis

Another special Valley Views edition: SIU comes to Peoria on Tuesday night to play Bradley in a game between teams locked in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Missouri Valley race. We get the lowdown on the Salukis from Todd Hefferman, beat reporter for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper.


Sportswriters #102: Fond memories and bold predictions

Before 2017 fades from memory, the Journal Star sports reporters offer up their favorite moments from the sports year, give each other some well-deserved grief — and go big and bold with predictions (and daring dreams) for 2018.


Sportswriters #101: Valpo beat writer Paul Oren of the Times of NW Indiana

We journey back into the Valley again, talking men's hoops with Paul Oren, Valparaiso beat reporter for the Times of Northwest Indiana. After an 8-0 start, the Crusaders have lost six of seven, including their first two conference games in their debut season in the Missouri Valley. They visit Peoria to play Bradley on Wednesday night, so what can we expect to see?


Sportswriters #100: Valley views with UNI beat writer Clay Cunningham

With the Missouri Valley Conference basketball season underway, we start a series of weekly chats with MVC experts. Our debut guest is Clay Cunningham, UNI beat reporter for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. He gives us the lowdown on the Panthers, what makes them tick and what has thrown them off kilter so far, as they prepare to visit Bradley on New Year's Eve for a 1 p.m. game at Carver Arena.


Sportswriters #99: All about the State Farm Holiday Classic basketball tournament

Eleven teams from the Journal Star-area will play in the State Farm Holiday Classic during holiday tournament week. Dave Oloffson is on the tournament committee in charge of tournament operations. He joins high school sports writer Aaron Ferguson to discuss this year's field, how teams are selected and all that is a part of the 64-team field. The tournament runs from Dec. 27-30 and tickets can be purchased at each venue. Ticket information can be found at


Sportswriters #98: Teaching communication skills to Bradley student-athletes

You expect college athletes to get better as they journey from freshmen to seniors, but the real fun is watching them grow up, mature and become better people. Bobby Parker, Bradley's associate athletics director for communications, and Heather Moles, director of academic services for BU student-athletes, join us today to talk about their special program for freshmen. From handshakes to mock press conferences, they've got it covered.


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