Between Roger Clemens' continual denial about his use of performance-enhancing substances and now Kelvin Sampson's reoccurring recruiting violations, it's been scandal after scandal these days in sports, whether at the professional or collegiate level.
After all, on Tuesday night, it was Indiana who was receiving a list of alleged violations from the NCAA after school officials learned earlier this season that Kelvin Sampson and his staff made several impermissible phone calls during 2006 and 2007.
Three freshmen that were all being considered by many as the No. 1 recruit in the country last year.
But standing in the background all along was Indiana's Eric Gordon, waiting for his opportunity to shine.
And within a month's time, he's already showing with a team-leading 24.3 points per game that he's arguably just as good as any of those three and certainly just as important to his team's success as anyone else in the country.
So after sitting out last weekend's dominating 70-51 win over Kentucky with a bruised tailbone, Gordon will return to the court Saturday night to lead the 13th-ranked Hoosiers against Western Carolina.
NEW YORK -- So who needs Billy Gillispie after all?
Texas A&M sure doesn't.
Not after the way the 16th-ranked Aggies played Friday night in the NIT Season Tip-off championship against last year's NCAA runner-up Ohio State.
"I wasn't expecting this," Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon admitted after the Aggies' dominating 70-47 win. "I was expecting a high-scoring game out of them. They're so hard to guard. I thought we did a really good job of taking our defensive game plan and sticking with it."
He's seen this scenario before, and he's been dealing with it for most of his career.
Because if there's one thing Matta has come to do best in becoming a head coach, it's been his ability to rebuild teams in a hurry.
After all, he's been doing it ever since he took over for Barry Collier at then-mid-major Butler seven years ago, when he led the Bulldogs to 24 wins and an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Oh Coach Izzo, you thought you were so smart. You thought you were so clever.
You thought when UCLA took a timeout with 35 seconds remaining Tuesday night and the score knotted at 63-63 that your 2-3 zone -- after playing man-to-man the entire night -- would confuse the Bruins, that it would disrupt their offensive flow and force someone to score other than Kevin Love.
And you thought you had them when UCLA inbounded the ball, saw the zone and failed to penetrate it as Love struggled to find positioning on the block.
Then suddenly, your grand defensive scheme got burned to pieces.
What is up with college sports in the state of Michigan these days?
First, it's Michigan football losing its season opener to DI-AA "power" Appalachian State in the Big House, and now, it's the other Michigan school who's started off the year with its own catastrophe on the hardwood.
So much so, that when I woke up this morning and logged on to CSTV.com to briefly check up on the rest of the news from Friday night, my eyes almost bugged out my head.
CHICAGO -- Michigan State guard Travis Walton was a freshman the last time the Spartans were picked by the media to win the Big Ten in the preseason.
He can still remember that like it was yesterday.
Michigan State didn't win the Big Ten regular season or Tournament titles and it still reverberates inside Walton's head. But if everything happens for a reason, then that was a lesson well learned for the Tom Izzo, Walton and the Spartans.
CHICAGO -- A few days ago from Birmingham, Ala., I wrote about Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings' qualms for the new NCAA-wide rule that bans cursing on the sidelines.
In that blog, I quoted Stallings as saying it is hard for him to curb his potty mouth when he learned the game from longtime Purdue coach Gene Keady. Keady apparently taught Stallings much of what he knows, including his penchant for a good swear every now and then.
So, of course, I wondered what Keady thought about one of his former protege's using his mentor as an example of why it will be hard NOT to curse.
CHICAGO -- While the schedule said teams would be showcased in an orderly, one-at-a-time fashion for 10 minute intervals, the reality of Big Ten Media Day has been vastly different.
Chaos is the best word to describe what is taking place at this moment in the media interview room.
With players and coaches going in and out for TV spots and other reasons, and with all teams and coaches -- men and women -- all appearing in the interview room at the exact same time, it truly is a chaotic scene here at the Marriott O'Hare Chicago.
After losing his two best scorers from last season in Big Ten Player of the Year Alando Tucker and Chris Rock look-alike Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan knew that there would need to be some adjustments made for the 2007-08 season.
But not having Michael Flowers wasn't one of those adjustments he was originally planning for.
After starting in all 36 games last season, the senior guard will be taking a temporary leave of absence for medical reasons, according to school officials Thursday.
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were supposed to change the face of the NBA this upcoming season.
Looks like Durant's going to be doing it on his own now. And aren't the Seattle Supersonics grinning wide.
The two lottery picks who took over the college basketball spotlight last season and were sure to make an immediate impact at the next level got dropped to one after the Portland Trail Blazers announced Thursday that Oden, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, is expected to miss the entire 2007-08 season.
After coming up one win short of a national championship last season, two-time Big Ten champ Ohio State has finalized its schedule for the upcoming 2007-08 season.
While the Buckeyes will tack on two additional conference games to their 18-game Big Ten schedule, they'll also have a challenging non-conference slate that features games at Tennessee, Butler and Cleveland State.
CHICAGO - We all knew Ohio State had the talent to repeat as Big Ten champions. They had a very heralded recruiting class (which Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney was quick to note at the beginning of the trophy presentation) and added the newcomers to several key players from last season's team. But there were some unknowns. How soon would Greg Oden play, if at all, and how effective would he be? How quickly would the freshmen develop? Would there be chemistry issues with freshmen coming in and playing a lot of minutes?
Even head coach Thad Matta admits he wasn't sure what to expect coming in.
"I really didn't know what to expect," said Matta. "I thought that we could have a really good basketball team. To be sitting at 30-3 and have won 17 straight games and two of our losses to No. 1 seeds that were ahead of us, one without Greg Oden, the other he had been playing for three weeks, the other one at Wisconsin, I'm pretty excited with where we are today."
The season has hardly been perfect for Ohio State. As they won early, questions swirled about just how good they were because they didn't play the toughest of schedules and lost games at North Carolina and Florida. Then the loss at Wisconsin in January looked to some like a statement that the Badgers were the team to beat and the Buckeyes weren't ready yet. It turns out, that's the last time anyone beat them, as they now ride a 17-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. That streak has been capped thus far by a great defensive effort, and one that didn't have Oden as the dominant force. Sure, Oden blocked four shots, but he only played six minutes in the first half and the Badgers shot just 33 percent from the field.
CHICAGO - The Big Ten championship is over, and Ohio State has taken home the title going away with a 66-49 victory over Wisconsin. Certainly, it wasn't the kind of score many may have expected, but give the Buckeyes credit for playing a solid game all around, especially at the defensive end. Wisconsin just never got untracked on offense, and once Ohio State started to break the game open, that meant they couldn't make a comeback attempt.
We'll be back with more from the ceremony and the post-game press conferences after the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, as that will come before Ohio State addresses the media.
CHICAGO - The play of the day happened with about 6:40 left. After Jamar Butler had the ball poked away into the backcourt, he picked it up, saw that the shot clock was running down, put it up from well beyond NBA three-point range and it hit all net to give the Buckeyes a ten-point lead.
Not to be outdone, a couple of minutes later Greg Oden was one of two Buckeyes back on a fast break, and he not only took the ball-handler, but altered his shot going to the hoop and grabbed the rebound. You didn't hear it here first, but let it be said right now: Greg Oden is good.
We're at the last media timeout, and Ohio State leads Wisconsin 62-45 with 3:23 left to play.
CHICAGO - Wisconsin has played better defense and has come within six or seven a couple of times, but the offense hasn't been able to get through. Kammron Taylor missed badly on a three, and when Greg Oden blocked a stickback try, it drew the ire of the fans and Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. A foul was committed by the Badgers, leading us to the under-8 media timeout. Ohio State leads 47-38 with 7:37 left.
CHICAGO - Wisconsin scored six straight points after the timeout to get right back in it, and it sure got the fans going as well. After a Greg Oden basket, Kammron Taylor, who was born in Chicago, hit a three from the top of the key to get them within four. We've reached the under-12 media timeout, and Ohio State has a 41-35 lead with 11:47 left.
A couple of minutes ago, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi held off Northwestern State for the Southland championship. Congratulations to the Islanders on getting to the NCAA Tournament their first season in a conference.
CHICAGO - After a good little ice cream snack, we're underway in the second half. A few halftime stats of note:
Ohio State shot nearly 46 percent from the field, while Wisconsin shot 33 percent.
Wisconsin had a 21-11 edge on the boards, continuing a yo-yo of performances on the glass by the Buckeyes to this point.
Wisconsin had 12 turnovers in the first half, which Ohio State turned into 12 points.
Mike Conley, Jr. leads the Buckeyes with 12 points on 5-7 shooting, while Wisconsin got seven each from Alando Tucker and Jason Boahannon.
As I write this, the Buckeyes have started strong in the second half, and after a dunk off a rebound by Greg Oden, they lead 34-23 with Wisconsin taking the 30-second timeout that extends to a media timeout at the 17:50 mark.
Halftime entertainment was the San Francisco Red Panda Acrobat, a lovely lady who did quite the balancing act on the unicycle. The only complaint was a bad toss from the Badger mascot to her that was a little too low to handle. As good as some of the halftime shows were in these four days, it's this writer's opinion that today's was the best of them all.
CHICAGO - We've reached halftime in the Big Ten Championship game, and Ohio State leads Wisconsin 26-20. The Badgers came alive late in the half, so it looks like we'll have quite a finish in this one.
CHICAGO - Wisconsin had been struggling for much of the half, but they've come to life in the last minute or so. The Badgers have struggled to shoot the ball, much to the dismay of one vocal fan behind me, and that along with the good 2-3 zone Ohio State is playing has helped the Buckeyes build a lead. Even some of the rare open looks they're getting having fallen.
Mike Conley hit a three-pointer with just over four minutes left to grow the lead to double digits at 21-11. Right after that, Alando Tucker got his first points of the game on consecutive possessions to get the Badgers right back within striking distance at 21-15. A little transition has helped them get chances, as they just got another run-out and got a foul before the under-4 media timeout.
CHICAGO - We've reached the second media timeout here at the United Center, and so far it's not exactly a shootout and not just because of an emphasis on defense. Neither team is making the best decisions with the ball and even open shots aren't falling. The score was stuck on 6-2 in favor of Ohio State from the first media timeout until just over 12 minutes left, when the Badgers made it 6-4 on a breakaway layup by Jason Bohannon. With 10:18 left in the first half, Ohio State leads 11-7 and Mike Conley, Jr. is set to go to the line for two free throws.
Ron Lewis, Greg Oden and Ivan Harris are set to check in for the Buckeyes when play resumes.
CHICAGO - We're just about ready to go here at the United Center. There's now a pretty good crowd on hand, although a good chunk of some sections in the balcony is empty, and there's a good deal of red in the place (and that's not including the red golf shirt yours truly is wearing).
The starting lineups have been announced and the tip-off is coming.
As I finish this, I see that North Carolina finished off NC State to take home the ACC title. Give Sidney Lowe and his team credit for making it this far and assuring themselves of an NIT bid with a very thin roster.
CHICAGO - It's 30 minutes before the tip-off, and the stage is a little more set for this one. More fans have made their way in and both bands are hard at work preparing for the game.
Literaly a minute after the last blog, Ohio State's players started to take the floor to warm up. At the same time, the music began playing over the loud speakers here, and a couple of minutes later, Wisconsin headed to the locker room. The Badgers are back on the floor and the Buckeyes ran back out just moments ago.
Probable starting lineups look like this:
Ohio State: Mike Conley Jr., Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis, Ivan Harris, Greg Oden
Wisconsin: Michael Flowers, Kammron Taylor, Alando Tucker, Marcus Landry, Jason Chappell
CHICAGO - Welcome to the United Center for today's Big Ten Championship game between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Wisconsin. It's about 65 minutes before tip-off, and the Badgers are on the floor already and the Wisconsin band and cheer teams are already practicing as well. I actually saw the Badgers enter the arena about 25 minutes earlier, looking ready to go.
Thus far, only a small contingent of fans has made it in, but I expect that this place will be a sea of red before long since both teams have red as their primary color.
Game notes can be found at the following links: Ohio State and Wisconsin. (Note: The Wisconsin notes are unchanged from the beginning of the tournament.)
CHICAGO - We're all set for the final tomorrow between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Wisconsin. There are plenty of noteworthy points about this game, which we'll save for before the game tomorrow. For now, a few notes on today's games, then it's off to watch the rest of the Big West final at this hour.
CHICAGO - Kammron Taylor has come alive shooting the ball, and with that Wisconsin is starting to break this game open as we reach the under-8 media timeout. Badger fans can start to feel it. Taylor now has 14 points after scoring just two in the first half. With 7:06 left, the Badgers have a 49-37 lead.
CHICAGO - As we reach the under-12 media timeout, the game has been back-and-forth with the Badgers still leading by more than a possession. It's been a physical game to this point and the crowd has been quite lively, especially on some calls they didn't like. With 11:37 left, Wisconsin is up 37-30.
During the under-16 media timeout, they showed people in the stands attempting to dance once they were on camera. As always, there were some comical scenes that all ensued once the fans realized they were up on the video board, like the cute little girl who waved and then hid her face.
CHICAGO - Wisconsin has now opened a 23-16 lead over Illinois, as the Illini have gone cold at the offensive end. We're at the last media timeout in the first half.
Alando Tucker is carrying his team in the first half today, after doing it in the second half yesterday. Tucker has 14 points so far and has certainly had a hand in helping the Badgers open up this lead.
A couple of offensive fouls against the Illini brought out the boo birds. The first one, they might have had a legitimate beef since the defender was under the hoop; the second one was an easy call since Shaun Pruitt put his arm out on the post.
CHICAGO - We've got a good one going here so far in the second semifinal. As we reach the under-12 media timeout, the Badgers and Illini are tied at 12. There's quite an atmosphere here, not unlike last night's final game. The Illini have switched to their navy jerseys for this one after going with orange last night.
Wisconsin's Alando Tucker has surpassed Michael Finley as the school's all-time leading scorer. He entered the day needing one point to tie and two to have the record.
CHICAGO - It's over in Chicago, and Ohio State has moved on to the championship game with a 63-52 victory over Purdue. The Boilermakers gave a valiant effort, and give coach Matt Painter credit for the job he's done this season as they could be in the NCAA Tournament.
For the next game, here are the game notes links - they are unchanged from yesterday, but here in case you don't have them handy: Illinois and Wisconsin.
CHICAGO - We've reached the last media timeout, and Ohio State may be putting Purdue away at last. The Buckeyes have gone up 58-47 with 2:25 left, including a great dunk off a rebound by Greg Oden and then another one the last time down that didn't count since the whistle had blown.
CHICAGO - It's turned into a back-and-forth game here, as Purdue has gained the lead a couple of times along the way. Ohio State has had their chances to break this open, but haven't taken advantage and they continue to let Purdue hang around. At the under-8 media timeout, it's 50-45 Ohio State with 7:26 left to play.
A good portion of the arena is now full and we've got a good atmosphere for this one, which looks like it could come down to the final couple of minutes.
Big Ten: Halftime Stats Show Buckeyes Winning Inside
CHICAGO - Both coaches apparently had a lot to say to their teams, as neither team re-entered the court until there were about 3 minutes left in intermission.
Halftime stats have arrived as we get ready to start the second half. Purdue shot 46 percent from the field, including 4-11 from behind the arc, while Ohio State shot just 34 percent. Ohio State is winning the battle inside, as they have a 25-15 edge on the boards (a contrast to yesterday when Michigan had a 47-25 edge on the Buckeyes), a 14-2 edge in second chance points and a 20-8 edge in points in the paint.
The second half has begun, with the teams trading hoops in the first minute to make it 31-30 Ohio State.
CHICAGO - At the half, Ohio State has regained the lead 29-28 over Purdue. Each team has been led by their best players, as Purdue has relied on Carl Landry and David Teague, while Ohio State has 10 points and eight rebounds from Greg Oden.
More on the halftime stats will come in just a bit.
Halftime entertainment is being provided by a group of young girls called the Firecrackers, from Cincinnati. (Idle thought: a year ago at this time, I was in Cincinnati at the Atlantic 10 Tournament.)
CHICAGO - We've reached the last media timeout of the half, and Purdue has grabbed a 24-21 lead on a three-pointer by Marcus Green. The Boilermakers are certainly competing and looking like an NCAA Tournament team.
CHICAGO - At the second media timeout, Purdue is right there with Ohio State, trailing 13-12 with 11:35 left in the first half. The Boilermakers got out to an early lead, with David Teague (6) and Carl Landry (4) carrying them thus far.
Mike Conley, Jr. really knows the game. That might seem obvious, but the more you watch him play, the more noticeable it is. That's always been the best thing about him even back in his high school days, and it shows because his teams have won a lot of games. On the last possession, a loose ball got tipped out to him, and he calmly made a nice entry pass inside for a layup.
CHICAGO - It's almost time to get going here at the United Center with Purdue and Ohio State in the first semifinal. There's a decent crowd that has already made its way in here, and if the ride over here is any indication, there will be a pretty full crowd before it's over. Last night's session was a sellout, and with Illinois playing later, that certainly helps for attendance.
CHICAGO - Neither team scored for almost two minutes, then it was all Illinois. They got stops defensively, then a key offensive rebound by Pruitt, who has been playing with four fouls. Indiana couldn't get any shots to go, but there was still a cliff-hanger as Trent Meacham missed the first free throw with the Illini up 55-52 and 8.3 seconds left. He made the second, the Hoosiers got a quick layup with 3.2 left.
With 2 seconds left, Meacham was at the line again for two, and he made both to put the Illini up 58-54 - the final.
CHICAGO - We're headed to overtime, as Indiana's Armon Bassett waited quite a while to make a move and missed a tough jumper, then time expired right after it. We're tied at 50 at the end of regulation. It's a fitting end to this back-and-forth game.
CHICAGO - Just before the last media timeout, Indiana got another three-pointer from A.J. Ratliff, this time as the shot clock expired, to put the Hoosiers up 46-42.
During this timeout, the officials checked to see if an Indiana foul called right at the timeout occurred before or after a three-pointer by Chester Frazier that went in. They ruled that it did, which naturally made the Illinois contingent happy and brought out the boo birds among the Hoosier faithful.
With 1:43 left, Indiana leads 50-46 with Illinois' Warren Carter at the line for two after being fouled.
CHICAGO - Continuing the exciting back and forth play, Indiana has regained the lead at 43-41 on consecutive three-pointers by A.J. Ratliff (who only had three points the entire game beforehand) and freshman Armon Bassett, who's been a nice find for the Hoosiers. We're under five and a half minutes to go and Illinois just took a 30-second timeout.
CHICAGO - Illinois has all the momentum and the crowd behind it as we reach the under-12 media timeout. They gained the lead for the first time in the half at 34-31 on a three-pointer by Trent Meacham, and are hanging on to a 34-33 lead after Xavier Keeling got a post basket for the Hoosiers.
CHICAGO - Neither team shot well in the first half, with Indiana checking in at 39 percent and Illinois below 36 percent. The only noticeable edge in the stats is Illinois' 12-6 edge in points in the paint. No player has reached double figures, which isn't surprising in a half where only 45 points were scored.
The second half has begun, no points in the first minute and a half.
CHICAGO - It's halftime in the final game of the day, with Indiana holding a slim 24-21 lead over Illinois. The Illini had the chance to get the final shot, but fumbled the ball around in the corner as time expired without a shot.
CHICAGO - The pace of the scoring has slowed a bit, but Indiana still has the lead and has grown it slightly to 22-16 as we reach the under-4 media timeout. The place is still a live atmosphere, and will only get better if it stays close.
CHICAGO - We've got a packed house for the last game as Indiana takes on Illinois. The geographic proximity certainly helps, but this is going to be a rivalry for a little while thanks to one Eric Gordon.
Gordon, as you will recall, committed to Illinois but allowed Indiana to still recruit him, before finally signing with the Hoosiers in November. He could have nipped a lot of things in the bud by simply de-committing along the way, but he's not the only one who commits and doesn't let his word mean anything these days. So Kelvin Sampson got his first high-priority recruit in Indiana, and it shows a real problem with kids committing to schools too early these days.
Meanwhile, there is a game going on with a great atmosphere. At the under-12 media timeout in the first half, the Hoosiers have a 12-8 lead.
CHICAGO - Wisconsin is off to the semifinals, as they held on for a 70-57 victory over Michigan State. Alando Tucker took over in the final minutes when the Badgers needed him to, first with the aforementioned plays and later with free throws to seal it. As is his wont, he has filled the stat sheet.
We'll have stats from this game a little later. For now, check out the game notes for the next game: Indiana and Illinois.
CHICAGO - Alando Tucker is showing why he was the Big Ten Player of the Year. With Michigan State closing in on the Badgers, Tucker hit two big three-pointers, then found teammate Kammron Taylor all alone under the basket for an easy layup, and the Badgers were back up nine. Then at the five-minute mark, he hit a three-pointer as the shot clock expired to put them up 58-46.
With 5:53 left, Raymar Morgan fouled out for the Spartans. The talented freshman forward had 11 points, but wasn't a factor on the glass as he didn't have a rebound. Instead, it's Goran Suton who's keeping them in it, as he now has 14 points and seven rebounds.
At the last media timeout, Wisconsin leads 58-48 with 3:58 left.
CHICAGO - Just when it looked like Michigan State might be ready to mount a serious rally, the Badgers come right back to bring the lead back into double digits. Then the Spartans start another little rally to keep it interesting, aided by a technical foul on Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan (Drew Neitzel made both free throws for his first points of the game).
With 10:28 left at the under-12 media timeout, Wisconsin leads 45-40.
CHICAGO - We're back, and famed hypnotist Tom Silver did not practice his craft on me, so I'm here 100 percent.
Wisconsin shot 50 percent from the field, while Michigan State shot just 40 percent. There's not much more to it than that; the Badgers are simply in control. Michael Flowers (8), and Kammron Taylor and Joe Krabbenhoft (7 each) lead the way. Michigan State's Drew Neitzel was scoreless on three field goal attempts in the first half, but had five assists at the half and just added another one as I wrote this, passing against the direction he was moving to Raymar Morgan for a nifty reverse layup that he turned into a conventional three-point play.
CHICAGO - It's halftime in the third game of the day, and Wisconsin is in control with a 36-21 lead. For good measure, they got a stickback at the buzzer by Greg Steimsma to finish the half. Joe Krabbenhoft gave them a nice lift off the bench in the latter part of the half as he scored seven points.
Halftime stats will be coming shortly, that is, if I'm not in hynosis when they are distributed.
CHICAGO - Michigan State is back in it, thanks largely to the play of Goran Suton. He has ten points and two rebounds up to now, including a tough shot one time down where he wasn't even facing the hoop and almost got fouled when he went up. At the under-8 media timeout, with 6:06 left it's 23-17 Wisconsin.
CHICAGO - Wisconsin started the game by scoring the first 10 points of the game, and they haven't let the Spartans get going on offense. Less than four minutes in, Michigan State called a timeout down 10-0. As we reach the first media timeout, the Badgers lead 10-2.
In this first timeout, they're taking volunteers for the halftime show involving hypnotist Tom Silver. This should be interesting, to say the least.
CHICAGO - As we get ready for the night session, which starts shortly with No. 7 Michigan State taking on No. 2 Wisconsin, we have some key states, notes and quotes from the afternoon games. We're about to hear the announcement of the starting lineups, with a pretty good crowd on hand.
CHICAGO - Purdue takes this one going away and helps their chances at an NCAA Tournament bid. The final is Purdue 74, Iowa 55. We'll have stats, notes and quotes coming up a bit later as we break between sessions.
The next game has No. 7 Michigan State taking on No. 2 Wisconsin. Here are the game notes links for this one: Wisconsin and Michigan State.
CHICAGO - It's looking more and more like Purdue will pull this one out. As we reach the last media timeout with 3:29 left, the Boilermakers hold a 65-53 lead. Carl Landry has reached 20 points, and the Hawkeyes just haven't been able to get going on offense all game.
CHICAGO - At the under-12 media timeout, Purdue has a 53-40 lead. They looked to be on the verge of running away with it, but Iowa got some life again. Marcus Green has scored all seven of his points in the half for Purdue to support Carl Landry and David Teague.
As I finish this, Iowa just cut the lead back to 10 on a three-pointer by Adam Haluska, who has 12 points and three assists in the game, then Landry scored to make it 55-43 Purdue with 10:36 left.
CHICAGO - Halftime stats have just arrived. Purdue shot over 58 percent in the half, while Iowa was below 36 percent. It's really that simple, as a number of other categories are fairly even. The Boilermakers' hot shooting includes going 5-7 on three-pointers. Carl Landry is the game's only double-digit scorer thus far with 11.
CHICAGO - Halftime has arrived and Purdue has a 43-30 lead over Iowa. Hawkeye coach Steve Alford isn't the happiest man in the arena for obvious reasons, although his ire has been directed at the official a couple of times. Just now, he had a legitimate beef, as they didn't call a pretty obvious travel on Carl Landry on Purdue's last basket.
CHICAGO - Purdue broken the game open, running the lead to 26-14 behind a balanced attack before Iowa got a couple of baskets to make it 26-18. On the last play before the under-8 media timeout, Purdue's Carl Landry wasn't looking when a pass came his way on a fast break, and Iowa turned it into their last two points to get the lead back into single digits.
CHICAGO - It's a game of runs early on, as Purdue ran out to a 9-3 lead before Iowa got going with consecutive hoops. David Teague has the hot hand early with eight points as Purdue goes into the first media timeout with an 11-7 lead.
CHICAGO - Just as Michigan got close, Ohio State slammed the door shut as we reach the last media timeout. Greg Oden scored five straight to start a 10-2 run to get the lead back into double figures at 62-51. With 3:55 left, it's 66-56 Ohio State.
Ohio State's mascot, Brutus, has been active all game long getting the Buckeye faithful going right behind us.
CHICAGO - Michigan is still going. They got within 52-49 on a three-pointer by Lester Abram, but Greg Oden just scored inside and got fouled as we head to the under-8 media timeout. Ohio State is hanging on with a 54-49 lead with 7:24 left.
CHICAGO - Just as Ohio State opened up a 45-33, Michigan came to life. The Wolverines started out 1-9 from the field in the second half, but have since gone on an 8-1 run to get within 46-41 as we reach the under-12 media timeout.
Halftime stats have arrived, and one stands out right away: Michigan has a 21-8 edge on the boards, including 10 offensive. They've cashed them in for 11 points, a prime reason they're close. The Wolverines only shot 41.7 percent for the half and have nine turnovers, while allowing the Buckeyes to shoot over 54 percent. That's not the kind of defense the Wolverines need to play if they're to win.
Ohio State cashed in the nine turnovers for 11 points. Ron Lewis leads the Buckeyes with 10 points on 4-5 shooting, while Greg Oden has seven and Mike Conley, Jr. has six.
Lester Abram leads the Wolverines with seven, while DeShawn Sims has again given them a boost off the bench with six.
CHICAGO - It's halftime at the United Center and Ohio State has a 34-29 lead over Michigan. Michigan got within one at 26-25 on a three-pointer by Dion Harris, but Ohio State came right back to push the lead back to six. We'll be back shortly with some halftime stats.
CHICAGO - There's a screaming kid sitting right behind us on press row, right behind the Ohio State bench. Not only is it grating on my nerve, but half the time the screams come as the shot by Michigan is at the rim - a little late, in other words. And here I thought it was bad to have a screaming kid near me on a long flight (let's hope that doesn't happen Sunday night).
There are a few to be heard at the other end of the floor as Ohio State shoots, but they're not as obnoxious. It must be that thing called proximity.
Even though there is a pretty good crowd here right now, the arena is still silent at a number of moments. Some Wisconsin fans have entered and more Iowa fans have made it as well, among the ones I can easily observe.
As we reach the under-8 media timeout, Ohio State is up 20-14.
CHICAGO - The day has started out with a little more offense than yesterday, although Michigan has been a bit sloppy thus far with a couple of turnovers. As we reach the first media timeout, Ohio State is up 11-6 and will get the ball back after drawing a charge on Michigan's Dion Harris.
CHICAGO - We're a few minutes to the opening tip, with the teams ready for the introduction of the starting lineups. There's a good deal of red in the building, and I don't mean empty seats - although there are some of those. There is actually a pretty good crowd that has made it for this 11 A.M. local start. I can see some Illinois fans as well as some Iowa and Purdue fans who have made it to check this game out before their teams battle it out in what's largely viewed as an NCAA elimination game following this one.
CHICAGO - Welcome to the United Center for the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. It's a little under 40 minutes to tip-off, Ohio State and Michigan are both warming up as we speak, and a decent number of fans could be seen trickling in. There was plenty of activity outside the arena with fans arriving and some trying to buy/sell tickets for today's games.
CHICAGO - We're about to head over to the United Center for the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Before that, a quick wrap-up of the first day of action is in order.
Day one of the Big Ten Tournament saw the higher seed win all three games, all of them close. None were offensive clinics, although Michigan State shot 58 percent in their win over Northwestern (they had 16 turnovers), and all featured late rallies that fell short. All three teams who lost are done, as none will see the NIT.
CHICAGO - Don't look now, but Penn State has come back, as it's a one-possession game with 1:35 left and Penn State calling timeout after a layup by Jamelle Cornley. Illinois is clinging to a 59-57 lead.
CHICAGO - Illinois can thank Chester Frazier for the lead they have as we reach the last media timeout, as he's come alive shooting the ball in the second half and has just set a new career high scoring total as he has 19 points (his previous was 17, which he did twice). 14 of those points have come in the second half.
Even so, Penn State won't go quietly, as Mike Walker has also come alive in the second half and has 13 of his 16 points in the second half, including a nice four-point play to bring the lead back into single digits at 54-45 at the time. With 3:37 left, Illinois has a 57-48 lead.
CHICAGO - Penn State is mounting a comeback after falling behind 41-25. The Nittany Lions ran off eight unanswered points to get back within single digits, and as we reach the under-8 media timeout, the Illini's lead is down to 43-36 courtesy of an 11-2 run. Illinois has slowed down on offense, allowing Penn State to get back in it.
CHICAGO - Illinois has started strong in the second half and is looking to break open the close halftime game. They've scored seven of the first eight points of the half to open up a 34-23 lead as we reach the first media timeout of the second half. If they can keep this going, that might put the Nittany Lions away early.
CHICAGO - We've reached halftime in the third and final game of the day, with Illinois holding a 27-22 lead. Both teams shot around 40 percent from the field, with Penn State committing 11 turnovers. The Illini were 4-17 from three-point range. Warren Carter and Brian Randle have eight points each, while Penn State is led by Geary Claxton's five points and four rebounds.
CHICAGO - Illinois now has the lead, having gone up 14-13 on a three-pointer by Warren Carter. That made it a 12-0 run after Penn State was off to a fast start. The run would eventually reach 16-1 for an 18-14 Illini lead. Brian Randle and Carter lead the charge, with Rich McBride handing out five assists from the wing thus far.
As we reach the last media timeout of the half, Illinois has a 24-20 lead.
CHICAGO - Illinois has come to life, as the Illini go into the second media timeout with a run of eight unanswered to cut the Penn State lead to 13-10 with a Shaun Pruitt free throw coming. Pruitt was all alone under the basket and Rich McBride spotted him and fired a quick pass in for a layup.
CHICAGO - Penn State is off to a fast start, scoring the game's first five points while Illinois has hurt themselves offensively. The Nittany Lions are off to an 11-2 lead at the first media timeout as they have knocked down three three-pointers.
CHICAGO - Down three, Northwestern got the stop they needed in the final minute, but threw the ball away. Travis Walton got fouled on the ensuing possession and made two free throws to seal the game for the Spartans, a 62-57 win. Craig Moore rallied the Wildcats in the last minute with some clutch shooting, but it wasn't enough. We'll be back with more shortly.
For the next and last game of the day here, Illinois game notes are here and Penn State game notes are here.
CHICAGO - Northwestern isn't going quietly, as their defense forced Michigan State into some struggles around the halfway point and they kept the lead in single digits. The Wildcats got it down to 47-43 with 8:20 left, leading to Michigan State taking a timeout that extended to a media timeout. It worked, as they got a quick post field goal from Raymar Morgan coming out of it, then a three-pointer the next time down from Neitzel.
We're now at the under-8 media timeout, with the Spartans leading 52-45 with 5:35 left.
CHICAGO - We're a little late with the halftime stats as the box just came a couple of minutes ago. Michigan State shot nearly 67 percent in the first half, including 5-6 from three-point land, and they have a 16-9 edge on the glass. Drew Neitzel leads the way with 12 points on 4-4 shooting from long range, while Goran Suton came off the bench for four points and seven rebounds while blocking two shots. Craig Moore and Vince Scott each have six for Northwestern, which shot just 32 percent in the half. Nine Michigan State turnovers have helped keep the Wildcats within striking distance.
We've just reached the first media timeout of the second half, and lead is the same: Michigan State 38, Northwestern 29.
CHICAGO - We've reached halftime in the middle game of the day, with Michigan State holding a 32-23 lead over Northwestern. The lead was 13 at one point, but the Wildcats have brought it back down to single digits with a couple of late baskets. We'll come back shortly with some key stats.
CHICAGO - If you leave Drew Neitzel open, you will pay. He's already buried four three-pointers and has out-scored Northwestern all by himself in leading the Spartans to a 21-11 lead at the under-8 media timeout.
Neitzel's development into a First Team All-Big Ten player this year is the prime reason the Spartans are where they are. Previously a floor general who didn't look for his offense, he's the team's leading scorer and has continued to improve his shooting.
CHICAGO - Just like the first game of the day, Michigan State/Northwestern isn't exactly an offensive showcase at the beginning as we reach the first media timeout. Michigan State has started coming to life offensively, as their five points have come in the last minute and a half to give them a 5-2 lead.
CHICAGO - Michigan has held on to take the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, beating Minnesota 49-40. They complete a three-game sweep of the Golden Gophers this season.
That does it for this game, and we'll have some final stats and notes on this one in a bit. For the next game, Michigan State game notes are here and Northwestern game notes are here. (The links work fine now, apparently my Acrobat was acting up earlier.)
CHICAGO - Give the Golden Gophers and interim head coach Jim Molinari credit, they're hanging right in there, having cut the lead to six on two occasions recently as we reach the last media timeout. Michigan still has a 45-37 lead. Minnesota's Kevin Payton fouled out without scoring, but he made the best pass so far today back in the first half as we mentioned earlier.
Michigan junior wing Ron Coleman had a hard landing on one of his hands on the last play, as he stayed down on the floor and was holding the hand or wrist. The official stopped play and Coleman headed to bench after a few seconds.
CHICAGO - Michigan has opened the lead into double digits as we reach the under-8 media timeout, but Minnesota is trying to get back in it as they've cut the lead to 40-30. Dan Coleman has been on the bench with four fouls, which isn't good news for Golden Gopher fans.
On another note: although the arena is filling out, there's not much of an atmosphere - it's rather quiet, especially when play stops and there's no public address announcement being made of a basket, foul or substitution.
CHICAGO - Michigan has started strong and has opened up a 29-21 lead as we reach the first media timeout of the second half. Dion Harris hit a three early on and the Wolverines have kept up the defense.
CHICAGO - We've reached halftime in the first game of the day, with Michigan holding a 20-16 lead over Minnesota. Neither team is putting on an offensive clinic, with Michigan shooting just over 30 percent from the floor and Minnesota checking in below 29 percent and both teams committing eight turnovers.
CHICAGO - There's still not much scoring as we reach the last media timeout of the first half. Minnesota took a 30-second timeout with under five to play, and it seemed to work as they got a basket from Spencer Tollackson right after it, then forced a turnover and got a jumper from Lawrence McKenzie to tie it at 16 and force a 30-second timeout by the Wolverines. The game is still tied at 16 with free throws to come for Michigan.
CHICAGO - We've reached the second media timeout, and it's getting better after a sloppy start. Unforced turnovers ruled the first few minutes and players were unable to get their hands on rebounds and passes. Courtney Sims is starting to assert himself inside for Michigan, while Minnesota got a basket off a broken play with a great pass by Kevin Payton after he went to the floor to get a loose ball. Minnesota has just taken a 9-7 lead.
CHICAGO - The teams have finished warming up and we're closing in on the opening tip. The starting lineups are being announced as we speak. We'll check in during the game with notes on how the game play is proceeding, usually at media timeouts in addition to halftime and the end of the game.
CHICAGO - Welcome to the United Center, site of the 2007 Big Ten Tournament. This is the last time for at least six years that the tournament will be held here, as it will be held in Indianapolis from 2008-2012. It's a little over a half hour to tip-off of the opener between No. 9 Minnesota and No. 8 Michigan, and as can be expected with an 11 A.M. start, fans have been a bit slow to arrive. The Minnesota band and the cheer and dance teams have already been seen courtside and are currently preparing as we speak.
HARTFORD - In some regards, Indiana’s 77-73 win over UConn, was nothing more than the result of some intuitive scheduling by the Hoosiers and first-year coach Kelvin Sampson.
“When I first saw (this game) on the schedule, to be honest with you, I wasn’t enthralled,” said Sampson, who inherited some of the dates, including this one, from the prior Mike Davis regime. “But I told our kids after the (71-64 win over Iowa on Tuesday) this game was a great opportunity for us. Good bad or indifferent, this was a great opportunity and I think that attitude helped us approaching this game.”
It certainly must have, as the Hoosiers came out on fire, hitting on their first five 3-point attempts and jumping out to 19-6 lead, less than six minutes into the game. UConn recovered, tied the game at the half and kept it close throughout the second stanza. But in the end, it very well may have been the schedule that won out.
HARTFORD - An absolutely spectacular inter-conference, mid-January tilt resulted in a frenzied finish and a skin-of-their teeth 77-73 win for Indiana.
Uconn fought from behind all game and couldn’t ultimately overcome the free throw shooting (20 of 21) or 3-point shooting of Indiana (9 of 18 from beyond the arc).
. . .At 2:10 a foul call on the Hoosiers was charged erroneously to Wilmont, then re-credited to the proper fouler DJ White. Wilmont proceeded to come down and nailed a deep three to make it 69-67. He followed on the next possession with a running jumper in the lane to put IU up 71-70.
The rebounding edge was 38-21 in UConn’s favor, they also had 46 points in the paint (to 20 for IU) and registered a shutout on second chance points, 20-0.
. . . IU shot 50 percent form 3-point land 9 of 18 and UConn had just five attempts from beyond the arc. IU was also 20 of 21 from the line (UC was 17 of 28)
HARTFORD - The game has slowed considerably from the ragged pace UConn tried to instill in the latter parts of the first half. UConn has lingered and lingered, bringing the game back to even, 56-56, with just over nine minutes left. Now, at the under-8:00 media timeout, IU leads, 60-58.
A pretty move dow low on Thabeet by DJ White gave the Hoosiers a two point advantage as he scored his 20th and 21st points of the game, after the Huskies had pulled even.
The rebounding edge, which was 10 at the half, has bumped up to 13 (32-19) in favor of the Huskies. Jeff Adrien has nine boards and Stanley Robinson has seven (and 15 points) for UConn.
HARTFORD - The Hoosiers came out with five points in the first 54 seconds of the second half, to go up 44-39, leading to an immediate timeout from Jim Calhoun. The Hoosiers have now maintained that lead with 15:28 left in the game, 49-44.
With Thabeet back in the line-up and Jeff Adrien getting some rest, DJ White has been having to contend with the seven-footer on both ends of the floor.
. . .Leftover first half stats: IU had 13 points off turnovers to eight for UConn; Huskies led 12-0 on second chance points; largest leads of the half were 14 for IU and 5 for UC.
HARTFORD - Somehow, the UConn Huskies have managed to play better without their seven-footer, Hasheem Thabeet, than they were able to with him on the floor.
A Doug Wiggins three with two seconds left in the half knotted the game, 39-39 and culminated an impressive first half comeback by Calhoun’s bunch (which included a 24-5 run). Thabeet went out at about the 12 minute mark with two fouls, but UConn‘s bench provided a huge spark (outscoring the Hoosier reserves 12-3).
DJ White leads all scorers with 17 points and Stanley Robinson has 11 for UConn.
. . . UConn, which came out sluggish and a bit sloppy, made a ferocious sport form about the seven minute mark and played exactly the type of basketball that Jim Calhoun expects. The Huskies hold a 22-12 halftime rebounding edge and have dominated in the paint with a 26-8 edge in the lane.
HARTFORD - A re-energized Husky team got settled down in the second half of the first 20 minutes in stanza one, and cut the Hoosier lead down to two with 3:34 left, 29-27. The comeback came with Thabeet on the bench, but Curtis Kelly asserting himself inside on the offensive glass and the Huskies buckling down on the defensive end.
. . . The Huskies now hold an impressive 18-9 edge in rebounding, led by Adrien and Johnson, who have four each.
. . .The Huskies brought it to 28-20 with 7:30 left in the half and then allowed the fans to get back into it, which in turn led to a Curtis Kelly put-back that cut the lead to six and then to four on the next UConn Possession, 28-24.
Sampson called another timeout to stop the flow with 5:39 left.
HARTFORD - The crowd was in this one at the tip and for a time (maybe 30 seconds), it was the best home court atmosphere the Huskies have benefited from yet this season.
But Indiana’s Armon Bassett quieted the crowd early and often with three 3-pointers in the games first four minutes. And a DJ White power dunk (and foul) with 14:39 left, made the score 18-6.
IU jumped out to 7-2, then 11-4 on its way to the 12 point cushion as UConn had some early game jitters and snafus in trying to get into its half court offense, including two quick turnovers (they now have four turns that have led to nine points).
HARTFORD - If the pre-game stats monitor is to be believed, sophomore guard AJ Price will be replaced in UConn's starting line-up by freshman Doug Wiggins. Price, who has been a horrible shooting funk, will miss his first start this season, having been in the starting five for all 17 games this far. It means Jim Calhoun will start four freshmen.
UConn adds sophomore Jeff Adrien to the frosh, Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson and Hasheem Thabeet to its first five. Indiana will go with Armon Bassett, DJ White, Roderick Wilmont, Mike White and Earl Calloway.
. . . In our three visits to the HCC this season, this is by far the marquee game and as such, has the Civic Center a bit of a buzz with 10 minutes til tip.
We walked through a host of IU fans in the HCC lobby and there’s a good amount of maroon/red already scattered throughout the seats. We ran into at least two groups of intrepid IU fans who drove the 15 or so hours from Bloomington.
Game time temperature, outside the HCC was 25 degrees, in case you’re wondering and the IU fans were complaining.
HARTFORD - Welcome (back) to the Hartford Civic Center for today’s CBS broadcast of a rare, mid January, interconference match-up between the host UConn Huskies (13-4, 2-2 BIG EAST ) and the visiting Indiana Hoosiers (13-4, 4-1 BIG TEN).
It's 30 minutes from tip on the game clock and Indiana players are currently stretching on the half of the floor that will be in front of the Huskies bench. They are in their maroon shooting jerseys and candy-striper pants.
Lots of intrigue and compelling storylines in this one, but chiefly it’s the need for UConn to get a quality win on its resume before rejoining the fray of the bruising Big East. To say that UConn’s season is teetering might be an exaggeration. But it has elements of truth to it.
Indiana, meanwhile, under first-year coach, Kelvin Sampson, has reeled off four straight, eight of nine and is looking like an upper echelon Big Ten team.
. . . This is Hang Time’s third trip to the Civic Center this season and we still can’t get over the Purple People Ushers here at the HCC. The entire usher crew wears some prominent article of clothing in the Barney purple color.
. . . Consider this the warm-up to the New England Patriots vs. Indianpolis Colts AFC Championship game which kicks off on CBS Sunday at 6:30 p.m., and has basically gripped New England in the throes of playoff fever.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - In the aftermath of getting out-Spartaned by the Boston College Eagles 65-58, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo sought out Eagle co-captain (and 30-point scorer) Jared Dudley, for a few choice words.
“You’re one of my favorite guys,” the 12th year State head coach said to the senior, Dudley, “and I hate your guts.”
Recalling the brief conversation in the post-game, Izzo laughed at his own joke.
CHESTNUT Hill, Mass. - BC's defensive performance and energized play is jujst the type of effort that Coach Tom Izzo has beocme known for with his recent State teams.
But on this night, Izzo got out-Izzoed by Al Skinner's inspired BC club that received great minutes up and down the roster in a 65-58 win for the Eagles. Jared Dudley had 30 to lead BC (six shy of his career high) and Goran Suton paced MSU with 18, a career high for the sophomore.
To its credit, Michigan State never quit fighting and brought the Eagles lead down to nine with under three minutes to play, and eight with under two minutes left. But BC controlled the contest and was impressive in doing so.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Jared Dudley has been Mr. Do-Right all night long for the Eagles, hitting huge shot after huge shot (most of the 3-point variety) and at the 9:29 mark of the second half had 25 points. MIchigan State had just 10 more than that as a team.
BC, at the under-8:00 media timeout now holds a commanding 52-36 lead and seems well on its way to giving the ACC its fifth win of the Challenge. With Virginia Tech leading Iowa by a similar margin, Hang Time is projecting another ACC win, in this the eighth challenge. We repeat, Hang Time is projecting an ACC win in the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Someone call Cronkite!
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - MIchigan State had been keeping things close, but a surge by BC has put the Eagles ahead 41-32 with 11:48 left in the game.
Drew Neitzel's first field goal of the game came at 12:22 and out of the timeout called by Izzo. At the under 15:00 mark, Neitzel had come down on a fast break and missed an open 3-pointer that would have been huge for him and his team. On the other end, Dudley answered with a transition two (almost a three) to keep BC comofrtably ahead.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Hang Time has to admit our surprise at the Eagle's 26-18 halftime lead. BC has out-rebounded the Spartans 21-15 and equalled the beefy Spartans in paint-scoring (14 for each).
MSU's leading scorer Drew Neitzel (17.7 ppg) has been held scoreless in the first half, while Jared Dudley paced the Eagles with 13 points and six rebounds.
BC has managed 11 points of the 11 State turnovers and MSu has turned nine BC turns into five points. Maybe the most telling stat of the half is BC scoring half of its points off second-chance opportunities (10 of the Eagle's 21 renounds have been on the offesnive end). State has just four offensive boards.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - BC senior co-captain Jared Dudley has been showcasing his skills that have NBA scouts seriously considering his value at the next level. Dudley, at 6-foot-7, 225-pounds, isn’t asked to shoot much froim the outside, has been crashing the boards and generally controlling the offense for BC. He is an intriguing NBA possibility because of his nose for the ball, but many scouts are still wondering about his outside shooting ability.
Dudley has 13 in the first half to lead all scorers as the Eagles lead 26-18 at the half.
Dudley’s probably a second-rounder at this point, but with a strong season could find himself in the mix for a first-round pick.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - It’s been pretty much what you’d expect from two teams who don’t see each other often. The game has been an FX production, strictly Nip ‘n Tuck, and at the under-4:00 timeout, BC leads 21-18.
Michigan State has found success in the paint against BC’s defense, as its big men are highly skilled in the post. BC continues to struggle form 3-point land.
Jared Dudley is pacing BC with 11 points and Morgan leads MSU with seven.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - BC’s getting one shot and no more on the offensive end, as Michigan State pounds the boards on both ends of the floor. Still, the game is 8-8 at the second TV timeout, with 11:54 left in the first half.
. . . Michigan State’s sophomore center Idong Ibok picked up two early fouls (his second at 15:41), which should remove him from Izzo’s gameplan for the rest of the half. Big Red, junior center, Drew Naymick replaced Ibok.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Watch for the 3-ball to play a big part in the game tonight. Michigan State shoots the 3-poiner at a .446 clip, while BC has struggled from beyond the arc at just .263. The Spartans also defend the 3-ball particularly well (opponents shooting .290) and BC is at .377 in the category.
. . . The traditionally late-arriving BC crowd is, as tradition dictates, late in arriving. Traffic patterns around the Conte Forum are always a nightmare and parking in the area is virtually non-existent. With six minutes before tip, the building is less than one-fifth full.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - We are about 20 minutes from tip and Van Morrison is being played on the PA system, asking us to “come on and dance.”
Speaking of dancing, this is just the kind of match-up you get come Dance Time in March, say in a good Sweet 16 or Elite 8 contest. Two power teams from two power conferences who rarely meet, yet share similar beliefs.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Both teams began shooting around about 5:30 - the Spartans in their all-green warmups, the Eagles with home white shorts and various maroon, white and black tops.
State’s got much more a of a structured pre-game scheudle, including lay-up lines. BC seems to be more loosely structured.
A few of the faithful BC students (face-painters and non) have entered the student seating section in the Hall of Fame endzone of Conte and for a few moments were razzing the Spartans as they went through warm-ups. They quickly stopped when they saw the size of the State frontline. Better wait til reinforcements come.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Welcome to the Conte Forum on the campus of Boston College for tonight’s ACC/Big Ten challenge match-up between 2-2 BC and 6-1 Michigan State.
We’re about 90 minutes from tip and Conte is starting to buzz a bit. Student workers have already placed gold Gold Peak Iced Tea rally towels on all of the seat backs, so expect to see a sea of gold hankies flapping in the background of the game.
. . . The game tips at 7 p.m. on ESPN with Sean McDonough and Hall of Famer Bill Raftery on the call. That alone, makes the game worth watching. And we don’t say that lightly.
I'll be checking in Monday morning with posts from the Missouri Valley Conference Centennial Gala and Basketball Media Day at the Renassance Grand Hotel in St. Louis, as the nation's second-oldest conference celebrates its big birthday. To hold you over, here are some parting thoughts from today's Big Ten event -- from their mouths to your eyes:
"That is the thing about sports that drives you crazy. That was a special team: 25 wins, we had just come off the [Big Ten tournament] championship, we had missed the league [regular-season championship] by a game. We were coming off a high and had been consistent all year. We played a game like that -- have two 15-point leads, don't make free throws down the stretch, turn the ball over -- and did things in that game that we hadn't done all year long. The heartbreak was I wanted to coach that team as long as I could. Once it ended, that group of seniors moved on. Now, we are excited again because we have a new team -- but that was hard to sit on for a while." --Iowa coach Steve Alford on last year's season-ending upset at the hands of No. 14-seeded Northwestern State in the first round of the NCAAs
"You've got to walk before you can run. Anytime you can get into postseason play is important. The environment the game was played in was good for us. It did a lot with our student body coming out and supporting the team. Our season tickets have sold very well. It creates some excitement around our program and is good for us." --Penn State coach Ed DeChellis on the importance of last season's NIT bid
"He is unique. He has separated himself in more areas than just on the court. I read some excerpts from interviews he did when he was 15 or 16 years old. I could tell he was special from his response. His responses were always about going to school for the right reasons. You very rarely hear him use the words 'I' or 'me' in a response; it is always about the team. That is what really impressed me about him." --Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson on Ohio State rising freshman Greg Oden
I've since retreated to my room at the Chicago Marriott O'Hare to post some last newsy notes over some Gino's East deep-dish delivery. While my pizza-snob friends back in New York insist almost angrily that the product served in Chicago isn't pizza by definition, all I know is that this stuff -- whatever it is -- is a bleeding godsend.
Now that I've whet your appetites, on to the fodder:
The Big Ten non-conference season opens on Nov. 8 when Brown travels to East Lansing to face Michigan State.
Wisconsin's Alando Tucker, the only returning member of last season's All-Big Ten first team, will be vying for his second consecutive conference scoring title after leading the Big Ten with 20.0 points per league contest as a junior. The Lockport, Ill., native would be the first Big Ten player to win back-to-back scoring titles since Purdue's Glenn Robinson turned the trick in 1993 (22.5 ppg) and 1994 (31.1 ppg).
Iowa enters the 2006-07 season with the longest current home winning streak in the conference. The Hawkeyes were the only Big Ten team to go undefeated at home last season and have won 18 consecutive contests at Carver-Hawkeye Arena dating back to a loss at the hands of Illinois on Feb. 19, 2005. The current streak is tied with Akron for third in the country behind Gonzaga (40) and Connecticut (19). The Big Ten record for consecutive home victories was established by Michigan State, which won 53 straight games at the Breslin Center from 1998 through 2002.
Seven years into his tenure with the Hawkeyes -- and just months after re-upping for another five -- Iowa City has become an adopted home for Iowa coach Steve Alford and his family.
“I’ve always felt like this was going to be home and, now that I’ve been here seven years, it feels so much more like home,” said Alford, the Franklin, Ind., native who was 34 years old upon taking the Iowa job. “My daughter’s nine years old and she knows nothing but Iowa. She was one when we left Missouri -- she only knows she was born there. My children, they’ve grown up being Hawks just like I grew up following Indiana and following Bob Knight and that’s what I dreamed about doing as a kid.”
Perhaps the most engaging interview of the afternoon came at the Indiana round table, as first-year coach Kelvin Sampson held court with about a dozen reporters, asking the many unfamiliar faces from a different media circuit their names and where they were from. He also took each question as an opportunity to expound on his more general philosophies of the sport.
“We spend a lot of time watching how hard we play,” said Sampson of his approach since assuming the reins in Bloomington. “The first thing that we’re trying to teach these kids is not some tricky offense or some intricate defensive scheme. It’s a foundation: Play hard, compete, play with some emotion, play with some enthusiasm, play with a little passion.
“College basketball is not a ‘cool-daddy’ game. There are some NBA guys that [relax] when they hit around Game No. 42 -- like Game No. 42 is not necessarily the same as the playoffs. In college basketball, every game has to be the Fourth of July, Christmas morning or happy birthday. You try to get kids to play with some enthusiasm and passion.”
Illinois coach Bruce Weber spoke at length about the Big Ten as a “league in transition” -- and his belief that the top-heavy conference is up for grabs beyond the top two teams.
“Wisconsin has the most experience. Ohio State has the big hype from the young kids, and they have [Jamar] Butler who I think is a tremendous point guard,” Weber said. “After that, it’s probably a hodgepodge. Whether it’s us, Indiana or Michigan, even a Purdue or a Penn State. There are a lot of variables that could take place and that would be the difference.”
When pressed for his sleepers, Weber threw support behind the Boilermakers and the Nittany Lions -- neither of whom have been significant players in the Big Ten for quite some time.
The burning question around the Big Ten -- nay, around college basketball -- has surrounded the return of All-World center Greg Oden.
In case you’ve been living in a hole for the past year or so, Oden is the gifted 7-foot center from Lawrence North High who has drawn comparisons to such hallowed collegiate figures as Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell. If not for the new NBA rule precluding 18-year-old players from entering the league’s player draft, Oden would have certainly been the No. 1 overall pick this past June.
As it is, Oden will attend Ohio State (for a year, at least) alongside Lawrence North teammate Mike Conley. Despite having played as many minutes of Division I basketball as your faithful narrator (that is, zero), Oden was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team -- complete with a big, fat N/A in the space designated for his 2005-06 final stats.
But since undergoing surgery on June 16 to repair a ligament injury in his right wrist, an exact return date has yet to be determined.
One of the few interesting tidbits related to the otherwise-unsurprising USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll released Friday -- the first official Top 25 of the 2006-07 season -- had to do with the distribution of first-place votes.
Florida, which returns all five starters from a team that finished 33-6 and won the school's first-ever national championship, received 30 of the 31 first-place votes cast -- making the Gators a near-unanimous selection.
The lone remaining first-place vote went to Ohio State, which ranked fourth behind No. 2 North Carolina and No. 3 Kansas. When asked whether he knew who cast the single vote, Matta didn’t miss a beat.
“My mom,” deadpanned the third-year coach of the Buckeyes to the laughter of a dozen surrounding reporters. “How you don’t vote Florida No. 1, I don’t know. Maybe somebody knows something that I don’t know [about the Buckeyes] after 18 practices.”
Greetings from Big Ten Basketball Media Day at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare. Coaches and players and reporters have been trickling into the hotel over the past hour and the action is expected to get underway shortly.
Ohio State, the defending Big Ten champion returning five letterwinners and one starter from a team that finished 26-6 overall, has been selected as the conference favorite in a vote of the media members attending today’s event. (We were asked as part of our credential application.) Wisconsin and Illinois were tabbed for second and third, respectively.