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Big Ten Offseason Update

October 29, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Offseason News Update

by Alan Rubenstein

After a season dominated by freshman, the Big Ten will look to grow up in 2003-04. 2003 marked the first time in five years, the Big Ten failed to land a Final Four berth. A respectable 8-5 NCAA Tournament record came on the heels of six Final Four appearances in four seasons. Michigan State paced the Big Ten brigade on the national stage. The Spartans fell one game shy of a fourth final appearance in five years with a loss in the south regional final to Texas in San Antonio.

As the 2003-04 season approaches, the Big Ten race appears to be a three pronged race. Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin are the prohibitive favorites. Northwestern and Penn State should bring up the rear with the other six teams forming the middle of the pack.

I know what you did last summer

Many of the Big Ten’s outstanding returnees spent the summer playing on U.S. national teams. At the Junior World Championships in Thelesoniki, Greece, four of the top six scorers will compete in Big Ten uniforms this winter. Dee Brown of Illinois finished second in scoring with 17.3 ppg and also contributed 4.3 assists. Illinois teammate Deron Williams led team USA in assists with 4.8 per game. Paul Davis of Michigan State led the team in scoring and rebounding with 17.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg. Davis’ Spartan teammate Maurice Ager was the team’s sixth leading scorer at 6.6 ppg and also contributed 3.0 rpg. An upset loss to Australia in the quarterfinals was the only blemish the Young Americans suffered in the tournament. They did manage to bring home a Gold Medal at the Global select games that preceded the Junior Championships.

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo coached Team USA at the Pan American games in the Dominican Republic this summer. He brought State point guard Chris Hill with him as the USA came home with a disappointing fourth place finish. This marked just the second time in Pam-Am history that Team USA was unable to bring home a medal. The Americans also failed to win a medal in Cali, Columbia in 1971. Hill only played 24 minutes in five games, averaging 1.4 ppg.

Off the court and into the courtroom

Michigan might finally be able to put the Ed Martin scandal behind them. Martin passed away from a pulmonary embolism in February. The off-season brought about several developments that should allow blue nation to get back to concentrating on developments on the court instead of in one.

In May, the NCAA called the case “the largest cash scandal” in NCAA history. July brought about an out of court settlement with former fab five phenom Chris Webber. After admitting to lying before a grand jury, Webber pled guilty to a reduced charge of criminal contempt a day before jury selection was scheduled to begin in his perjury trial. Part of the settlement will require Webber to volunteer at a six-week summer literacy program. He must work at least 150 hours during the summers of 2003-04. As part of the settlement U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds delayed sentencing for two years. Webber’s father Mayce was cleared of any wrong doing.

The Wolverines also announced they will return money earned from the 1997 NIT championship. Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock were considered ineligible after receiving money from Martin. This comes on the heels of returning $450,000 from the 1992 and 1993 NCAA tournaments to the NCAA a year ago as a result of Webber’s involvement with Martin. Michigan did not disclose the amount they returned to the NIT.

The best news to come about for Michigan was that their self-imposed two year postseason ban was reduced to one. Michigan is now eligible for the 2004 NCAA tournament. The NCAA cited Michigan’s “unique level of cooperation” as the reason for reducing probation.


It was an off-season of change for the Illini. After three very successful years in Champaign, Bill Self moved on to what he called his dream job at Kansas. Self helped rebuild the Illini back to among the Big Ten’s elite programs. Two sweet 16 appearances, two Big Ten regular season championships and a tournament championship highlighted Self short tenure.

Bruce Weber will take over the reigns as the Illini leader when they tip off their season at home November 22 with a visit from Western Illinois. Weber migrates to Champaign from Southern Illinois after leading the Salukis to the Missouri Valley conference title in 2003 and an NCAA sweet 16 appearance in 2002. The one constant for the Illini will be assistant coach Wayne Mc Clain. The Illinois legend who led Peoria Manual to three consecutive state championships in the mid 1990’s gives Weber a superb recruiter who knows the state extremely well.

Weber will bring in two new assistant coaches. Chris Lowery will follow Weber from Carbondale, while Jay Price joins Weber’s staff after ten years assisting Gene Keady at Purdue.

Weber led Illinois on a six game tour of Scandinavia in August. The Illini returned with a 6-0 record and gave Weber a chance to view his team in competition. Five Illini finished the tour averaging double figures. Dee Brown paced the scoring at 21.5 ppg, Roger Powell pulled down 8.7 rpg, while Deron Williams contributed 4.7 assists.


Like many of the College Basketball programs across the country, Indiana had developments this off-season in the courts. IU’s problems with Bob Knight continue to linger. Monroe County Indiana Circuit Judge Kenneth Todd dismissed a law suit by Knight contesting his firing. Knight was seeking $2 million in damages from IU following his September 2000 firing citing a breach of contract. This decision could be the one IU was looking for to finally put the Knight era behind them. Four lawsuits involving Knight have cost IU $583,587 in legal fees.

Indiana has named Thad Fitzpatrick to replace Jim Thomas on the Hoosier bench to assist Mike Davis. Fitzpatrick arrives in Bloomington from Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Davis and Fitzpatrick previously worked together at Alabama as assistants under David Hobbs.

Budget overruns have caused Indiana to discontinue the practice of providing complementary season tickets to 190 full time athletic department employees. The tickets valued at $800 per pair will add at least $120,000 in revenue to the Hoosier athletic department. Employees will still be able to purchase tickets for $630 per pair, a 20 percent discount. The IU athletic department lost $1.6 Million dollars last year.


The Iowa Hawkeyes bonded on a trip to Australia to prepare for the upcoming season. The Hawkeyes finished the trip 4-1. The lone blemish on their record was a 133-124 loss to the Wollongong Hawks who made it to the final four last season in the Australian National Basketball League. The trip was highlighted by a 100-99 overtime victory over the Sydney Kings. The Kings won the ANBL last season. A Jared Reiner tip in with four seconds left proved to be the difference. Reiner paced the Hawkeyes with 14.2 ppg and 10.4 rpg on the trip.


The Wolverines used their fall break as a time to get an early gauge on this season. Michigan finished 3-0 in a short three game trip across the boarder into Windsor, Ontario. When he arrived at Michigan, Tommy Amaker stressed the importance strong support by the student body. Through an anonymous donation of $55,000, hundreds of Michigan students will attend Wolverines home games for free this season.

The scandal with Martin has also mandated that Michigan is going to have to eliminate all references and records of former greats Webber, Taylor, Traylor and Bullock. The foursome received as much as $616,000 from Martin. The NCAA committee on infractions informed Michigan they must disassociate themselves from Webber, Taylor, Traylor and Bullock for at least ten seasons.

Michigan State

The off-season was one of transition and growth for Michigan State. Paul Davis’s success playing on Junior Team USA should stamp his as one of the players to watch in the Big Ten this year winter. Ager contributed important minutes to Team USA as well. Chris Hill will look to bounce back after a disappointing stint for Izzo at the Pan-AM games. In the spring, Hill earned third team academic All-American honors.

After losing two assistant coaches, Tom Izzo had to reshuffle his staff. Brian Gregory is on his way to front the Dayton program to replace Oliver Purnell. Purnell left Dayton to take the Head Coaching position at Clemson. Mike Garland will stay in green, but is moving on to succeed the retiring Rollie Massimino at Cleveland State.

Michigan State enters the 2003-04 season with an exciting schedule to look forward to. Thanksgiving weekend, the Spartans will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of their first national championship. De Paul, Penn and Indiana State will travel to East Lansing for a reunion of the 1979 final four participants. MSU and Indiana State will meet in one game with Penn facing De Paul in the other match-up on Saturday night. The MSU-ISU game ensures a rematch of the title game.

Michigan State will also be hosting the inaugural Basketbowl. Michigan State and Kentucky will play in front of 75,000 people at Ford Field in Detroit. The crowd would establish a new world record for basketball attendance. Michigan State already holds the world record for hockey attendance when they faced off with Michigan in front of 74,554 at Spartan Stadium in 2001.


After being repaid by Michigan for ineligible players, the NIT might next be setting their sites on Minnesota. The NIT is reportedly seeking between $100,000 and $200,000 for appearances in the 1996 and 1998 NITs. The academic scandal that spread throughout the university resulted in the vacating of the Gophers appearances from the 1994, 1995 and 1997 NCAA tournaments.

J.B. Bickerstaff, who was supposed to return to the Gopher program as the Director of Basketball Operations has resigned his post to become the radio analyst for the Timberwolves. James Ware will replace Bickerstaff. Ware had served as the program coordinator for the Work Study program at Minnesota since January of 2001.

Incoming freshman Wesley Washington has decided to return to Southern California after not being officially into Minnesota. A former California High School player of the year, Washington was considered among the nation’s top 100 freshmen. Minnesota native Dan Coleman is transferring to Minnesota from Boston College. After sitting out this season, Coleman will have four years of eligibility commencing in 2004-05

Coleman’s High School teammate Kris Humphries will also enroll with the Gophers after originally signing a letter of intent with Duke. Humphries with be eligible immediately and should make an instant impact on the Gopher program.


Joe Kennedy, son of Montana head coach Pat Kennedy has joined the Wildcats. Kennedy was an all Chicago Catholic League performer at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Il as a senior in 2001. A transfer from De Paul, Kennedy will become eligible immediately.

Northwestern also announced the Tim Doyle is transferring from St. John’s. After sitting out this season, Doyle will have three years of eligibility remaining. The 6’4 Doyle will likely be counted on to help replace Jitim Young.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes lost two players who decided to transfer over the summer. Zach Williams is moving on to Wright State to play for former Buckeye assistant Paul Biancardi. Williams had been suspended from the team after an argument with head coach Jim O’Brien during the Big Ten Tournament. Williams averaged 8.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg in 2003 and will be eligible for the Raiders in 2004-05.

Emonte Jernigan has also elected to leave Jim O’ Brien’s program. Jernigan averaged 4.1 ppg and 1.7 rpg in 2003. He cited personal reasons in his decision to move on.

Penn State

The biggest news out of Happy Valley in the off season was the addition of a new coaching staff. Ed DeChellis, a 1982 Penn St. graduate and a former Nittany Lion assistant will be the new chief of Penn St. basketball. DeChellis is the fourth Penn State alum to head men’s basketball program. Burke Hermann (1916-17, 1920-32), Elmer Gross (1950-54) and John Egli (1955-68) were the others. De Chellis amassed a 105-93 record in seven years at East Tennessee State.

De Chellis will welcome an entirely new coaching staff to Penn State. Kurt Kanaskie arrives after seven years of running the Drake program, Hilliary Scott comes with De Chellis from ETSU and James Johnson makes the trek North from the College of Charleston.


Tracy Webster will replace Jay Price as an assistant on Gene Keady’s staff. Price left to take an assistant position at Illinois. Webster was an all Big Ten guard at Wisconsin from 1992-94 and is a Chicago area native. Webster joins Purdue alums Todd Foster and Cuonzo Martin on the Boiler staff. This gives Purdue the unique position of having three assistant coaches with Big Ten experience as a player.

Leading returning scorer Kenneth Lowe required surgery on his shoulder this summer. Lower condition is reportedly improving and is expected to be in full health in time for the season opener in November. Lowe has regained his fully range of motion and needs to improve his strength after resting the shoulder for three months.


The Badgers received a crushing blow when it was announced that star sophomore forward Alando Tucker will miss 8-10 weeks with a fractured right foot. Tucker averaged 12.0 ppg and 5.9 rpg and finished first in the Big Ten with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game.

As a reward for winning the past two Big Ten championships, Wisconsin renegotiated Bo Ryan’s contract. Ryan will receive a base salary of $400,000 and receive an additional $350,000 per season from the University of Wisconsin foundation and the Badger Basketball Boosters. Ryan will also receive $1.925 Million if he remains in Madison through the 2009-10 season. The agreement puts Ryan in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is the highest paid Big Ten coach at $1.3 per season.

Former Badger Coach Dick Bennett’s appointment to the Top Job at Washington State cost Ryan assistant Tony Bennett who is going to join his father’s staff in the Pelousse. Gary Close who was an assistant at Iowa for 13 years under Dr. Tom Davis will take his place. Close comes to Madison after coaching at Regina High School in Iowa City for the past three seasons.


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