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Big Ten Notebook

December 3, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments



Big Ten Notebook

by Chris Burke

Ready for the challenge?
There appears to be a pretty solid line already being drawn between the top and bottom teams in the Big Ten conference.

Indiana has looked as good as advertised. No Jared Jefferies? No problem. The Hoosiers went down to Maui and took home the Maui Invitational championship with impressive wins over Massachusetts, Gonzaga and Virginia, using basically the same formula they had used last year — good shooting, good rebounding and solid defense.

Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and Iowa have also yet to suffer losses. But on the other end of the spectrum, Michigan and Penn State are winless while Michigan State and Ohio State have limped out of the gate. And now comes the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The teams that are contenders will have a chance to prove it, while the teams that aren’t will have a chance to get a decent win over a decent opponent.

The Maryland at Indiana matchup on Tuesday is no doubt the highlight of the entire Challenge. The rematch of last year’s national championship tilt could be one of the best regular season college games all year, let alone this week. Indiana may have found a new star in Bracey Wright, who put up 21 in the Hoosiers’ 84-58 thumping of North Texas on Sunday. Wright is essential for the Hoosiers in trying to overcome the loss of Jeffries after last year.

North Carolina travels to Illinois in what also should be a tremendous game. The Tar Heels are 5-0 after a Preseason NIT title, while the Illini have run up three wins over poor opponents, so the Tar Heels will offer a real challenge finally. Brian Cook’s attempts to get into the lane against the young bruisers of North Carolina will definitely be worth watching.

The complete Big Ten – ACC Challenge schedule:

MONDAY
Iowa at Florida State, 9 p.m. (Eastern)

TUESDAY
Ohio State at Duke, 7 p.m.
Penn State at Clemson, 7:30 p.m.
Maryland at Indiana, 9 p.m.
North Carolina at Illinois, 9:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY
Georgia Tech at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Northwestern at N.C. State, 7:30 p.m.
Virginia at Michigan State, 9 p.m.
Wake Forest at Wisconsin, 9:30 p.m.

More problems in Ann Arbor

It’s bad enough that Michigan gets pounded by Michigan State twice every year, but now the Wolverines have lost two straight to Western Michigan after a 56-52 defeat in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

To top things off, point guard Avery Queen was dismissed from the team last Wednesday for undisclosed reasons, one day after the Wolverines had returned from an 0-3 trip to the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands — a trip that featured losses to Virginia Tech and Kansas State, arguably the worst teams in their respective conferences.

With a trip to Duke slated for Saturday and a trip to UCLA on Dec. 28, things are turning ugly already for the on-probation Wolverines.

The Queen dismissal was simply the latest in a long line of player problems that have cost the Wolverines the services of players like JaQuan Hart, Kevin Gaines, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Smith and others. Tommy Amaker’s job was difficult enough without Queen’s antics – and the 0-4 start could increase the chances that the NCAA Infractions Committee will extend the Wolverines postseason ban when the Ed Martin case is heard in either December or February.

Hawkeyes off and rolling

Sure, the wins were against sub-par opponents. Sure, the talent level isn’t at its highest. But the Iowa Hawkeyes — picked to finish way down the Big Ten standings this year — will still take a 3-0 start to the year with a trip to Florida State on Monday night presenting another winnable game.

The Hawkeyes are desperate for offensive stars after losing much of last year’s team — namely Luke Recker, the heart and soul of the Hawkeyes. But the Hawkeyes put an 84 spot on Tennessee State in their last game, an 84-51 victory and had four different players finish in double-digits.

After Florida State, the Hawkeyes have several winnable games in a row before traveling to Tulsa and hosting Missouri to close the non-conference season. It’s possible that the Hawkeyes could be looking at a 7-3 or better mark in the non-conference season, which would leave them very much alive for at least an NIT berth.

Spartan slump

The bracket at the Great Alaska Shootout seemed to be set up perfectly for a 3-0 Michigan State trip and a title. But a stunning 81-73 loss to Villanova in the semifinal ended any title hopes, and a 64-61 loss to Oklahoma State in a game the Spartans had no business losing ended any hopes of a successful trip.

Michigan State looked in control against Oklahoma State in the second half of their tussle, but the Spartans sunk just one basket in the game’s final 4:30, allowing the Cowboys to rally for the three-point win. Kelvin Torbert cramped up and was unable to play at all in the second half, Chris Hill fouled out late with Tim Bograkos and Paul Davis also in foul trouble most of the second half.

After the game, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was furious, calling the loss “ridiculous,” and claiming that he felt the game was in the Spartans’ hands with as little as six or seven minutes left. The 1-2 Spartans host a solid Virginia team in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

     

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