I was sitting at home last weekend just trying to process everything going on in the world today.

Is my family going to be OK? How soon can Brooke get back home from college in Ohio? How bad will this pandemic be?

The least of my worries was having all the sports events canceled and having nothing to watch on TV. No IHSA state tournaments, no March Madness, no MLB, no NHL or NBA.

Then I started to think more about it. Sports are the fabric of our lives. We live and die with our school and pro teams. Sports signals a sense of normalcy in our daily lives.

So, I came up with an idea. How about a mythical all-time Bureau County boys basketball March Madness of our own?

I sat down at the kitchen table, my new office for most of the past week, and made a list of teams, starting with all the state tournament teams from Bureau County. Then I added some Sweet 16 and other teams for consideration.

I enlisted the help of some fellow Bureau County historians for some guidance — Tommy Dobrich of DePue, Kenny Wilcoxen of Princeton (Walnut) and Charlie Waca of Princeton. I gave them the list I created and asked them to rank them.

There have been 11 state tournament teams in Bureau County history. Each will draw an automatic berth. Five teams will received at-large berths to fill out our mythical Sweet 16.

The teams are listed in chronological order.

Next week, I will run a Sweet 16 bracket and begin to pick the winners along the way. I hope you enjoy and find this helps to take all our minds off the March madness that is going on around us.

Automatic berths

1953-54 Princeton (28-4) - The Tigers were the first Bureau County team to reach the state tournament, at the time a Sweet 16 field in the one-class system. They lost to Quincy 64-60.

1954-55 Princeton (32-3) - Don Sheffer’s Tigers returned to state, led by all-staters Joe Ruklick and Lew Flinn, finishing fourth in the one-class state field.

1974-75 Western (29-1) - The Rams were undefeated going to the Class A state tournament, led by all-stater Bobby Sprowls, losing to Watseka 63-57 in the state quarterfinals.

1975-76 Western (31-2) - Chips Giovanine’s Rams once again marched to Champaign undefeated (31-0) behind Stick Happach and gang. They lost to eventual state champ Mt. Pulaski 74-56 in the semifinals and placed fourth.

1982-83 Tiskilwa (28-2) - Bob Prusator’s Indians reached the Class A Elite 8 for the first time, falling to state runner-up Flanagan and 7-footer Bill Braksick 51-33.

1985-86 Ohio (29-3) - Tiny Ohio had a true Cinderella story, led by all-staters Brad Bickett and Lance Harris, aka Thunder and Lightning. After a furious comeback in the state semifinals, they fell to Teutopolis 82-45 in the state finals.

1996-97 Hall (27-6) - The Red Devils finished as the Class A State runner-up, losing in OT to Warsaw 92-85.

1997-98 Hall (32-1) - Eric Bryant’s Red Devils returned to state ranked No. 1 in Class A and remained undefeated until falling to Nauvoo in the state finals 45-39. Hall all-stater Shawn Jeppson cut his shooting hand in an unfortunate pregame run-in with a TV camera.

1999-00 Bureau Valley (26-6) - BV took state by Storm, placing third in Class A.

2000-01 Bureau Valley (33-2) - The Storm returned to state, placing third once again in Class A.

2001-02 Bureau Valley (31-4) - Brad Bickett’s Storm brought the third-place trophy for the third straight time, unprecedented in state history. They lost to eventual state champ Pleasant Plains 65-36 in the semifinals.

At-large candidates

1946-47 DePue (29-2) - Considered by many DePue locals to be the best team in school history. Lost to L-P by one point in one-class regional finals.

1951-52 DePue (27-3) - The Little Giants reached the sectional finals in one class, falling to Ottawa 59-55.

1973-74 Hall (18-10) - Red Devils reached the Sweet 16 for the first time, falling to Palos Heights Chicago Christian 49-40 in the Class A supers.

1979-80 DePue (27-3) - Eric Bryant’s hometown Little Giants had a tough draw in the Sweet 16, falling to eventual state champ Luther South 64-55

1984-85 Princeton - The Tigers were ranked high in Class A, but lost by one point in regional finals to St. Bede.

1984-85 Ohio (26-3) - The Bulldogs were beginning to warm up for their ‘86 magical run, reaching the super-sectionals, only to fall to Harvard 75-62.

1990-91 Hall (20-9) — The Red Devils returned to the Sweet 16, falling to Rockford Lutheran 81-70 at DeKalb.

1991-92 Princeton (25-6) - Roger Lowe’s Tigers (25-6) won PHS’ first sectional in 37 years before falling to red-hot St. Edward 85-73 at the DeKalb Super-Sectional.

2002-03 Princeton (20-11) - The Tigers returned to the Sweet 16 after 11 years, falling to Lisle 52-51 at the buzzer in the first super-sectional held at the new Convocation Center in DeKalb.

2008-09 Princeton (25-6) - After upsetting Peoria Manual for the sectional title, the Tigers lost to Winnebago 69-41 at super-sectionals.

2018-19 Bureau Valley (21-11) - The last Bureau County team to reach the Sweet 16, the Storm lost to Chicago Corliss 60-45.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.

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