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Big Ten Notebook

January 22, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Notebook

Buckeyes on Fire
The Ohio State Buckeyes are off to an impressive 5-0 start in the Big Ten after Saturday’s 73-67 victory over the previously unbeaten Hoosiers. The Buckeyes, who have always desired to get little respect, are clamoring for some of the accolades that they claim should accompany an eight game winning streak.

“Hopefully we get ranked now,” Brian Brown said. “But if not, it’s all fine. We’re 5-0, we’re No. 1 in the Big Ten, we’re 14-2. You can’t be much better than that.”

Coach Jim O’Brien, who has constantly been forced to address the issue said, “Our guys deserve to get a little bit of respect, there’s a lot of bumps in the road, and there’s a long way to go. Who knows where this is going to take us? But to this point, these guys deserve an awful lot of credit.”

Player of the Week
It should surprise no one that the Big Ten Player of the Week should go to someone on the Buckeye roster, as Ohio State has asserted itself as the league’s strongest team so far this season. With a team that is so clearly dominated by their backcourt, the Buckeye’s strongest guardplay this past week came from senior Brian Brown.

In the matchup against the only other unbeaten team in conference play, Brown scored a career best 26 points to lead the Buckeyes past Indiana. What may have been most impressive in Brown’s performance was his 77 percent shooting from the floor as he tossed in 10 of 13 shots. This, coupled with the 15 points that he contributed in Ohio State’s victory over Penn State earlier in the week made Brown’s third selection as conference player of the week an easy decision.

Something in the Water?
Don’t look now, but there seems to be some kind of correlation between a team’s chance of victory and where they happen to be playing. The home court advantage has always been brought up when discussing Big Ten and how difficult it is to win on the road, but this year has been especially troublesome for the road teams. Overall, Big Ten teams are a combined 9-21 in conference road games.

This is a marked drop compared to last year and includes losses by Illinois at the hapless Boilermakers’ home and the Hawkeyes’ stunning loss to Northwestern in Evanston. Only Indiana and Ohio State have winning records on the road and four teams, including conference powers Illinois and Iowa, have yet to win away from home. It looks like this year’s conference championship might not go to the team that dominates at home, but to the team that is able to scrape up some much needed road wins.

Games of the Week:

Michigan State at Iowa
Michigan State has finally gotten the monkey off their back as they finally came away with a road victory, beating Penn State in Happy Valley. They’ve still only won twice in conference play this year, and will be fighting another squad struggling so far this year as the Hawkeyes have only two conference wins to their credit as well. It’s still early in the season, but both teams were predicted to contend for the top spot in the conference and another loss would make it seemingly impossible to capture the regular season crown. Look for the Hawkeyes to rebound from their three game losing streak with Reggie Evans dominating in the paint.

Wisconsin at Illinois
One of the pleasant surprises in early conference play is the success of Wisconsin. Bo Ryan’s inaugural season as coach of the Badgers has been better than expected as they spoiled Michigan State’s home winning streak and surprised the Fighting Illini in their previous meeting. Frank Williams and the Illini are 9-0 at home this season however, and will not take kindly to another defeat at the hands of the Badgers. Illinois should win if they can control the outside presence of Kirk Penney.

Illinois at Indiana
In what could be one of the more intriguing matchups in the Big Ten this year, the Illini travel east to Bloomington to face off against the Hoosiers in a nationally televised game. Illinois has been somewhat of a disappointment so far in conference play, as they’ve taken two losses in their only road games against Wisconsin and Purdue. Although Madison and West Lafayette are tough places to play, the Hoosiers are armed with a talented team to accompany their home turf. Bill Self’s Illini will not accept a third loss so early in conference play, and will get a big game out of Frank Williams and squeak by in a close one.

Ohio State at Minnesota
The Buckeyes, riding a twelve game winning streak, head to Minnesota where the Gophers are unbeaten. Ohio State’s slashing penetration from their guards could be neutralized by Minnesota’s strong frontcourt tandem of Dusty Rychart and Rick Rickert. The Buckeyes really don’t have the matchup that they would like in the paint. This could prove to be problematic, as Williams Arena will get loud if the Gophers stay close. Look for the upset in this one, as the Buckeye’s won’t score from the inside.

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