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Big Ten Notebook

February 7, 2008 Conference Notes No Comments

Big Ten Conference Notebook

by Nils Hoeger-Lerdal

Now the season begins. At the midpoint of the conference season, we can begin to see the eventual shape of the league, which teams have postseason life, and the players to keep an eye on down the stretch.

With that, a look at my mid-season report.

Barely Breathing

11. Northwestern (7-12 overall, 0-8 Big Ten)

Not much to look forward to for Bill Carmody’s squad. Getting leading scorer Kevin Coble back for the Big Ten season hasn’t been enough to bring the Wildcats out of their comfortable basement chair.

Team MVP: Coble
Signature win: at Western Michigan
Worst loss: Michigan

10. Michigan (5-16, 1-8)

John Beilein had to know he was walking into a difficult situation, but 5-16 is as low as this program has been in a long time. Granted, these aren’t Beilein’s players, and they certainly aren’t tailored to run his style. Still, 5-16?

Team MVP: Manny Harris
Signature win: Brown
Worst loss: at Harvard

Big Name, Big Disappointment

9. Illinois (10-13, 2-8)

This is truly disturbing. The Illini were the class of the Big Ten a few years ago, and now are merely a speed bump for the majority of the conference. The offensive struggles have been documented. Questions about Bruce Weber’s coaching ability have been raised. We’ve heard about the potential recruits Weber has in hand for a couple years down the road, but those recruits can’t help this sorry bunch. Now we know the opposite of a meteoric rise – it’s a big Orange “I”.

Team MVP: Shaun Pruitt
Signature win: Arizona State
Worst loss: Tennessee State

The Soft Underbelly

8. Penn State (11-10, 3-6)

Once again, PSU will finish a season without Geary Claxton. It looked bleak after his injury, but the Nittany Lions notched the biggest Big Ten upset of the year Saturday by shocking Michigan State. Freshman guard Talor Battle has been a pleasant surprise for Ed DeChellis. Still, we need to see more before PSU can really be taken seriously.

Team MVP: Jamelle Cornley
Signature win: Michigan State
Worst loss: at Central Florida

7. Minnesota (13-7, 3-5)

Minnesota has had its chances for a big win with home games against Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin. They just haven’t won one. The schedule softens from here on out, but there aren’t enough – really, there aren’t any – quality wins on the Gophers’ resume. It would take a miraculous run for Tubby Smith to continue his NCAA streak.

Team MVP: Lawrence McKenzie
Signature win: at Iowa State
Worst loss: at Florida State

6. Iowa (11-12, 4-6)

Iowa has done what Minnesota has not: squeezed out some big conference home games. They held Michigan State to 36 points in a January win and most recently humbled Ohio State. It’s clear Iowa’s strength is defense, but with a horrible non-conference showing, the Hawkeyes can only hope for an NIT bid.

Team MVP: Justin Johnson
Signature win: Michigan State
Worst loss: Louisiana Monroe

On the Cusp

5. Ohio State (15-7, 6-3)

The Buckeyes look to be on pace for another NCAA bid, but could use a couple big wins on the way in. Jamar Butler has been nothing short of spectacular, leading the conference in assists and keeping the ball out of the opposition’s hands. Kosta Koufos has performed as expected, and OSU can turn to a number of role players for help when needed.

Team MVP: Butler
Signature win: Syracuse
Worst loss: at Iowa


4. Michigan State (19-3, 7-2)

The Spartans are at the top of the categories you’d expect them to be: rebounds, assists and field goal percentage. That’s Tom Izzo basketball. Rarely have they looked out of sorts, and they are never run off the court. With Drew Neitzel, as strong a senior leader as any in the country, a bevy of athletes on the wing and a stable of big-bodied bruisers, this team is built for a deep tournament run.

Team MVP: Raymar Morgan
Signature win: Texas
Worst loss: at Iowa

3. Indiana (18-3, 7-1)

The wins are there for Kelvin Sampson’s squad, but the quality wins are not. The opportunities will be there during the second half of the conference season, however, as the Hoosiers have six more games against the conference’s top five teams. Eric Gordon is explosive and poised, and nobody in the league can handle D.J. White when he’s on his game. Am I concerned about the lackluster resume? Not much.

Team MVP: White
Signature win: at Southern Illinois
Worst loss: UConn (other two are at Xavier and at Wisconsin)

The Wild Card

2. Purdue (17-5, 8-1)

Matt Painter’s got his group of youngsters playing as well as any team in the league right now. Bottom line: their only conference loss is a three-point heartbreaker at Michigan State, and they’re they only club to have beaten Wisconsin thus far. Nobody on this team scares you, although E’Twaun Moore is getting close, but the Boilermakers are deep (they have nine players averaging over 15 minutes a game) and talented. Of their top seven scorers, none are seniors.

Team MVP: Moore
Signature win: Wisconsin
Worst loss: Wofford

The Front-Runner

1. Wisconsin (18-3, 8-1)

The Badgers had the most impressive week of any Big Ten school last week, holding Indiana to 49 points (28 below their season average) and Minnesota to 47 (25 below theirs). This is the team to beat. No team plays with more discipline defensively, and they’ve proven they can shut anybody down. Trevon Hughes will be one to watch over the next couple years, and it’s hard not to love glue guys Michael Flowers, Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry. They’re nearly unbeatable at home, and they avoid a trip to Michigan State this year as well. The Big Ten title, it appears, goes through Madison.

Team MVP: Hughes
Signature win: at Texas
Worst loss: Marquette (a rare home loss)

Mid-Season Awards

Player of the Year: D.J. White, Indiana
Newcomer of the Year: Eric Gordon, Indiana
Most Improved: Trevon Hughes, Wisconsin
Defensive POY: Damian Johnson, Minnesota
Coach of the Year: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

All Conference First Team
G Drew Neitzel, Michigan State
G Eric Gordon, Indiana
G Jamar Butler, Ohio State
F D.J. White, Indiana
F Raymar Morgan, Michigan State

All Rookie Team
G Eric Gordon, Indiana
G Manny Harris, Michigan
G Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
G E’Twaun Moore, Purdue
C Kosta Koufos, Ohio State


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