Watching two proud parents during Northwestern's one-point victory over Vanderbilt in the NCAA Tournament's first round on Thursday showed the true emotion and joy of March Madness.

Doug Collins and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were nervous wrecks during the closing seconds. That was almost as good as the game itself.

Collins, the greatest player in Illinois State history, is calm and cool during NBA telecasts for ESPN. He had ice in his veins during the 1972 Olympics when he sank the two most pressure-packed free throws in history with three seconds left that should have given the United States a gold medal against the Soviet Union.

Yet the Collins who was under control Thursday was Northwestern coach Chris Collins, Doug's son. The elder Collins and his wife, Kathy, also an ISU graduate, were basket cases in the stands.

"I'm sort of the grandpa of the program," said Collins when he was back in Bloomington-Normal in January. "I have a different relationship with these young guys. It's never about Xs and Os. Chris and his coaches got that covered. It's about the mindset and going through the ups and downs and monitoring the feelings you have from day to day."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus' son, Charlie Hall, is a sophomore walk-on guard for the Wildcats. The famous actress from "Seinfeld" and "Veep," who attended Northwestern, wasn't cracking any jokes during the tense final minute.

Instead, she was just a mother who was pulling for her son. While Charlie Hall rarely plays for the Wildcats, anyone who knows how much sweat these guys pour into practices realize it is just as important to them as the star players.

Northwestern's stay in its first-ever NCAA Tournament might not be long. The Wildcats face No. 1-ranked Gonzaga on Saturday.

Some Wildcat parents might not be able to take too much more excitement. 

PGA Tour: Arnold Palmer Invitational (NBC, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday): The man all golfers refer to as "The King" won't be there to give a handshake to the winner on the 18th green. Yet Arnie's presence is sure to be felt all weekend at his beloved Bay Hill.

NIT: UCF at Illinois State (ESPN, 6 p.m. Monday): The Redbirds channeled their NCAA Tournament snub into a 14-point first-round win against UC Irvine. Now they need to shoot high over 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall.

NIT: Boise State at Illinois (ESPN, 8 p.m. Monday): Wouldn't it be something to see the Illini make their first-ever appearance at Redbird Arena in the quarterfinals on Wednesday? A win here might do the trick.

 

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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