Which Big 10 school should be considered "our school?"
On Thursday at 3:30 p.m., Northwestern will play its first NCAA tournament game in history when the Wildcats take on Vanderbilt.

This has been a big story nationally, but it doesn't seem to be as big in Rockford. My guess is that if you took a poll, more sports fans locally follow Illinois rather than Northwestern. Even Wisconsin might have a bigger fan base here.

If you look at which of those Big 10 schools pay attention to Rockford, well Northwestern should be considered our team. I don't have a list of every single athlete from our area that made a splash at Illinois and Northwestern, but my list is better than anyone else's.

Here's a list of locals who made an impact at Northwestern in the major sports since 1950:

Football - Bobby Anderson (Auburn), Mitch Anderson (East), Todd Jenkins (Freeport), Dean Lowry (Boylan), Zeke Markhausen (North Boone), Ray Robey (Auburn), Tim Scharf (Boylan), Lenny Williams (Guilford)
Men's basketball - Bill Cacciatore (West), Andre Goode (East), Mark Sibley (West), Greg Wells (West)
Women's basketball - Stacy Neal (South Beloit)
Baseball - Dick Noffke (Boylan)

Here's the competing list of local players who excelled at Illinois since 1950:
Football - Marshall Starks (West), Shawn Wax (Harlem), David Olson (Freeport), Bucky Babcok (Stillman Valley), LeRon Hill (Rochelle)
Men's basketball - Tom Carmichael (Rochelle), Damir Krupalija (Boylan), Preston Pearson (Freeport), Perry Range (South Beloit), Skip Thoren (East), John Wessels (West).
Women's basketball - Aminata Yanni (Harlem)
Baseball - Drew Dickinson (Freeport), Matt Vorwald (Freeport)

To be fair, the biggest recruit from the NIC-10 this year was Auburn's Vederian Lowe, who signed with Illinois.

Just for comparison, here are our impact Badgers since 1950:

Football - Ron Carlson (East), Troy King (Freeport), Ira Matthews (East), Jerry Stalcup (East), Steve Stark (Hononegah).
Men's basketball: Pete Anderson (East), Fred Clow (East), Kerry Hughes (Freeport), Kim Hughes (Freeport), Danny Jones (Boylan), Ab Nicholas (West)
Women's basketball - none
Baseball - Rod Myers (East) * Wisconsin no longer has baseball

So while Illinois searches for a replacement for John Groce, we can cheer on Northwestern, the school that looks our way most often.