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North Carolina Vacation – Day One

Day one was a 17-hour roadtrip that took us through six states (IL, IN, OH, KY, TN and NC) from Villa Park, IL to Raleigh, NC. Highlights of the day were my first taste of Skyline Chili in southern Indiana (cinnamon in chili, really?), a sign for a Stinking Creek in Tennessee and views of roughly 50 Waffle Houses, 10 pro-Jesus billboards and one giant aluminum cross.

We didn’t go through Cincy, but we still found a Skyline in southern Indiana.

I had to get the 5-way. Verdict: Not too bad, but the cinnamon threw me off.

Crossing the Ohio River, going from Indiana to Kentucky.

In Tennessee. Sounds like a wonderful vacation spot.

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Do-It-All Draymond: Handing Out End of the Year Awards in the Big Ten

Draymond Green led the Spartans to a Big Ten regular season title.

FIRST TEAM

F Draymond Green, Michigan State: 16.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 3.6 apg

Day-Day has done it all this season for the Spartans, and done it all well. Green is a shoo-in for first team All-America and is probably third in the race for national Player of the Year – behind Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. More on Green later.

F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: 17.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.1 apg

Ohio State hasn’t had the dominant season many expected, but Sullinger has still had an outstanding season. The slimmed-down sophomore is hard to stop on offense. He is tied with John Shurna for the highest offensive rating (117.5) among Big Ten players who have used at least 24 percent of their teams’ possessions. He also ranks 13th in effective field goal percentage (56.7) and 11th in true shooting percentage (61.1). Sullinger has been one of the conference’s elite rebounders, ranking second in the Big Ten in both offensive (12.0) and defensive rebounding percentage (25.6). His defensive mark is good for 25th in the nation.

F John Shurna, Northwestern: 20.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 apg

As mentioned above, Shurna is tied with Sullinger for the highest offensive rating (117.5) in the conference. His shot may be ugly, but Shurna makes things happen on offense. The senior leads the Big Ten with 20.1 points per game, and ranks 15th in effective field goal percentage (56.3) and 14th in true shooting percentage (59.4). The 6-9 forward has excellent range, making .425 percent of his three-point attempts. Shurna has also been one of the Big Ten’s better shot-blockers, ranking seventh in block percentage (5.3).

F Robbie Hummel, Purdue: 16.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg

It’s been odd watching Hummel play this season without his old running mates JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore (both are currently on the Boston Celtics). But despite playing without those stars and having to recover from two season-ending ACL injuries, Hummel has had a strong finish to his Purdue career. The 6-8 forward has the third best offensive rating (116.0) among Big Ten players who have used at least 24 percent of their teams’ possessions. The fifth-year senior leads the Boilermakers with 16.8 points per game, but Hummel has also been valuable on the defensive end. Hummel ranks fifth in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding percentage (20.8) and 10th in block percentage (4.7).

G Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: 14.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg

Taylor came into the season as a preseason All-American, but he just squeaked onto the Big Ten’s postseason first team. It was a tough call between Taylor and Michigan freshman Trey Burke, and really, there isn’t a wrong choice. I gave Taylor the edge due to his aversion to turnovers, and the fact that the Badgers would be NIT bound, or worse, without him. Among Big Ten point guards, Taylor ranks fifth in assist rate (27.2) and first in turnover rate (12.0).

Michigan’s Trey Burke is one of two freshman on the second team.

SECOND TEAM

F Cody Zeller, Indiana: 15.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg

F Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: 15 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.9 apg

G Aaron Craft, Ohio State: 8.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.5 apg

G Trey Burke, Michigan: 14.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.8 apg

G Tim Frazier, Penn State: 18.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.3 apg

John Shurna gets all the attention in Evanston, but Drew Crawford has been great for the Wildcats.

THIRD TEAM

F Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan: 14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg

C Meyers Leonard, Illinois: 13.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg

G Drew Crawford, Northwestern: 16.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.1 apg

G Lewis Jackson, Purdue: 10.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.2 apg

G Matt Gatens, Iowa: 15.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg

Honorable Mention: William Buford, Ohio State; D.J. Byrd, Purdue; Keith Appling, Michigan State; Brandon Paul, Illinois; Branden Dawson, Michigan State

AWARDS

Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Michigan State

As one would expect from the nation’s best conference, there have been a lot of great individual performances in the Big Ten this season. However, picking Draymond Green as the conference’s player of the year was a no-brainer. Green has done everything for the Spartans this season, as evidenced by the number of categories in which he ranks among the top 20 in the Big Ten. The senior forward ranks seventh in offensive rating (108.3), 18th in offensive rebounding percentage (8.3), first in defensive rebounding percentage (27.1), 13th in assist rate (22.8), 16th in block percentage (3.2) and 10th in steal percentage (2.8).

Cody Zeller will lead the Hoosiers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008.

Freshman of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana

Trey Burke would be the best freshman in a lot of conferences across America, but Cody Zeller happens to also play in the Big Ten. Zeller has had a tremendous season for the Hoosiers, and it was hard leaving him off the first team. His offensive rating of 127.9 is first in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation among players who used at least 20 percent of his team’s possessions. Zeller has been an efficient scoring machine for Indiana. The freshman is the third in the Big Ten and 19th in the nation in effective field goal percentage (63.4), and first in the Big Ten and 10th in the nation in true shooting percentage (10th). He has also been a solid rebounder, ranking fifth among Big Ten players in offensive rebounding percentage (10.7) and 15th in defensive rebounding percentage (16.7). Zeller was also the Big Ten’s ninth best shot-blocker, posting a block percentage of 4.8.

Big Ten guards have nightmares about Aaron Craft.

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Craft, Ohio State

Craft might be the best on-ball defender in college basketball. The sophomore averages 2.41 steals per game and ranks first in the Big Ten and 16th in the nation in steal percentage (4.61). Craft’s defensive prowess is more than steals, he has the ability to take an opposing team’s best guard out of the game.

Izzo did it again and the Spartans are a final four contender.

Coach of the Year: Tom Izzo, Michigan State

Michigan State was unranked in pre-season polls, and after the Spartans started the season 0-2, expectations were low in East Lansing. But, Izzo did his thing – again – and the Spartans are now regular season Big Ten champs, ranked in the top-five and in line for a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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College Hoops Outlook: Which Teams Will Fade and Which Teams Will Soar Into March?

Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone, its time to turn our eyes to the beautiful game of college basketball. I’m doing my part to get familiar with this season of college hoops by writing a series of blog posts. I started yesterday with my piece on a few under the radar stars.

My second installment is on some teams that started off the conference season slowly, but are poised to finish strong. I’ll also touch on some teams who might fade in the second half of conference play.

On The Upswing?:

Indiana (18-6, 6-6)

Remaining Schedule:

vs Illinois

vs Northwestern

at Iowa

vs North Carolina Central

at Minnesota

vs Michigan State

vs Purdue

First off, congrats to Tom Crean, who won his first Big Ten road game against a team other than Penn State this weekend by defeating in-state rival Purdue. It only took three and half years.

Kidding aside, Indiana has a pretty favorable schedule down the stretch. They’re done with Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, and five of their final seven games are at home, where they have knocked off two top five teams (Kentucky and Ohio State) this season.

The Hoosiers did lose to Minnesota at home earlier this season, so their trip up to the Twin Cities will not be a cake walk. The Hoosiers are 2-5 in Big Ten road games this season, so their game against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City won’t be a gimme either. As a Badger fan who happened to be at the Kohl Center this past New Year’s Eve, I can tell you that the Hawkeyes do have some talent.

Indiana should be able to win at least five of their seven remaining games, and they have a decent chance of winning six.

Alabama (15-7, 4-4)

Remaining Schedule:

at Auburn

at LSU

vs Florida

vs Tennessee

at Arkansas

vs Mississippi State

vs Auburn

at Mississippi

After just missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season, Alabama came into this season ranked and poised for a break-out year. However, the Crimson Tide got off a slow start in conference, dropping four of their first six SEC games.

Bama has won their last two conference games to get back to .500 in SEC play, and their schedule the rest of the way is very manageable.¬†Ken Pomeroy has the Tide (24th in his rankings) favored to win in each of their remaining eight games. They’re done with Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and only play Florida and Mississippi State at home. Their toughest road tests will be at Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Michigan (17-7, 7-4)

Remaining Schedule:

at Nebraska

vs Illinois

vs Ohio State

at Northwestern

vs Purdue

at Illinois

at Penn State

Michigan dropped four of their first five Big Ten road games, with their only win coming against Purdue (who also dropped home games to Wisconsin and Indiana). While the Wolverines still have four Big Ten road games left on their schedule, they’re all definitely winnable. Illinois will be the toughest road test, as the Illini have beaten Ohio State and Michigan State in Champaign this season. However, the Illini are a mess right now, and I’m not sure they’ll figure things out anytime soon (More on that later on). I think the Wolverines should win at least three of their final four Big Ten road games.

Michigan is undefeated at home this season, but their toughest test will come in two weeks when the rival Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor. Michigan played Ohio State tough in Columbus, and I think they’ll pull off the upset at the Crisler Center. Michigan has a good chance of entering the Big Ten Tournament having won six of their final seven games.

Pittsburgh (15-9, 4-7)

Remaining Schedule:

at South Florida

at Seton Hall

vs West Virginia

vs South Florida

at Louisville

vs St. John’s

at UConn

If there’s one thing we should have learned over the last decade, it’s that you should never count out a team coached by Bo Ryan or Jamie Dixon.

After suffering through an eight game losing streak, Pitt has started to recover and may now have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers are on a four game win streak (including wins over Georgetown and West Virginia), and their remaining schedule is not too rough.

They’re done with Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati. I could see the Panthers entering their game in Louisville on an eight game winning streak, and it’s not unreasonable to think Pitt could end the regular season by winning 11 of their final 12 games. If they do, the Panthers should be dancing once again in March.

Teams That Could Fade Down The Stretch:

Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4)

Remaining Schedule:

at Minnesota

at Michigan State

vs Penn State

at Iowa

at Ohio State

vs Minnesota

vs Illinois

The Badgers recovered nicely from their 1-3 start in Big Ten play by winning six straight games. If they had beaten Ohio State this weekend, they would have moved into first place in the Big Ten. Alas, they lost to the Buckeyes at the Kohl Center for the first time in the Bo Ryan era.

Things won’t get any easier for the Badgers. Four of their next five games are on the road, including tough trips to Michigan State and Ohio State. The road games against Minnesota and Iowa will not be easy either. Tubby Smith has done pretty well against the Badgers, and Iowa beat Wisconsin in Madison earlier this season.

The Badgers have already lost four times at the Kohl Center this season, so the home games against Illinois and Minnesota (two possible bubble teams) will not be gimmes.

The Badgers could easily go 2-5 or 3-4 down the stretch. But, Bo Ryan is still the head coach of Wisconsin, so he’ll probably work his magic to avoid that.

Florida (19-4, 7-1)

Remaining Schedule:

at Kentucky

vs Tennessee

at Alabama

at Arkansas

vs Auburn

at Georgia

at Vanderbilt

vs Kentucky

After losing to Tennessee in their conference opener, the Gators have racked up seven straight SEC wins. However, their seven game win streak is pretty hollow. Five of those seven wins have come in Gainesville, and just three have come against teams ranked in the top 100 of the KenPom ratings.

Florida will be tested in the coming weeks. The Gators will travel to Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. They also host Kentucky on the final weekend of the regular season. Five of their final eight games will be on the road. The Gators are 2-4 on the road this season, including losses to two sub-100 teams, Rutgers and Tennessee.

Illinois (16-7, 5-5)

Remaining Schedule:

at Indiana

at Michigan

vs Purdue

at Nebraska

at Ohio State

vs Iowa

vs Michigan

at Wisconsin

Once again, Illinois has turned a promising season into a mess. The Illini moved into first place in the Big Ten after they upset Ohio State at home on Jan. 10. Since then, Bruce Weber’s crew has lost four of five games, including losses to Penn State on the road and Northwestern at home.

The Illini will play four of their next five and five of their final eight games on the road. Illinois has currently defeated just one Big Ten team (Northwestern) on the road. Illinois still has to play four nationally ranked teams on the road (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin).

One has to believe Weber is coaching for his job right now. If Illinois misses the tournament, Weber will be squarely on the hot seat. Yes, Weber led Illinois to the National Championship game. But it was seven years ago, and it was with Bill Self’s players.

Weber has not shown an ability to recruit elite talent (in a state full of it), and he also has not shown the ability to develop talent. Many of his players (Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis, Shaun Pruitt included) have regressed over their time in Champaign.

When Weber took over the program, Illinois was one of the top teams in the country year after year. Now, the Illini are muddled in mediocrity.

Minnesota (17-7, 5-6)

vs Wisconsin

vs Ohio State

at Northwestern

vs Michigan State

vs Michigan

at Wisconsin

vs Nebraska

First, the good news: Five of Minnesota’s final seven games will be at home. The bad news: Four of those five games will be played against nationally ranked teams (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan), and Trever Mbakwe is still out for the year due to injury.

If the Gophers are to make the NCAA Tournament, they’ll probably need to beat Nebraska at home, Northwestern on the road and win two of their four tough home games (most likely against Wisconsin and Michigan). If they do that, they’ll finish the regular season 21-10 overall and 9-9 in conference. They might be able to sneak in at 20-11 and 8-10.

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Searching For Great Moments In Badger History

I’m currently doing some freelance research work for the Wisconsin Radio Network. My job is to find “shining moments” in Badger history to be featured in commercials for the Marshfield Clinic. Once I find the significant games, I have to assemble a fact sheet and find someone involved in the game to be interviewed.

We just finished the ads for the football season, and they will be uploaded to this site week-by-week.

I had to find significant moments/games against Penn State, Michigan State, Indiana and one other game against a team that UW was not playing this year (I chose the 1981 game against Michigan). Here are the “shining” moments I found:

Oct. 26, 1974: Wisconsin defeats Indiana 35-25

Freshman Mike Morgan rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start as the Badgers defeated Indiana 35-25 in Bloomington.

Morgan filled in for all-Big Ten running back Billy Marek who was sidelined by knee and wrist injuries.

Fullback Ken Starch added 99 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Gregg Bohlig completed 10 of his 17 pass attempts for 160 yards.

The Badgers climbed to .500 in Big Ten play. UW lost their previous two games to powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan.

Wisconsin finished the 1974 season 7-4. It was the Badgers first winning season since 1962.

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: I attempted to get a hold of Mike Morgan to no avail. Since we never got in touch with him, we didn’t use this game and we ended up replacing it with the 1997 UW/IU game. Matt Davenport kicked a field goal with four seconds left to give the Badgers the lead and the win. Davenport would go on to kick another game winning field goal the very next week against Northwestern. (Davenport was interviewed)

Sept. 13, 1981: Wisconsin defeats #1 Michigan 21-14

Former UW Head Coach Dave McClain

“It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never had so much fun coaching as today. I told the squad before the game that nobody outside this locker room thinks we have a chance. Only we know that we can win this game.”

-Wisconsin Head Coach Dave McClain

“Our problems were simple. Our offense wasn’t any good, our defense wasn’t any good, our kicking game wasn’t any good, and our coaching was poor. It’s a miracle we were only beaten by seven points.”

-Michigan Head Coach Bo Schembechler

Wisconsin beat the #1 ranked team in the country for the first time in school history when they defeated #1 ranked Michigan on Sept. 13, 1981 at Camp Randall.

Wisconsin had not defeated Michigan since 1962, and the Wolverines had outscored the Badgers 176-0 in their previous four meetings.

It was Michigan’s first loss in a road opener since Harvard did them in 100 years earlier.

Wisconsin’s defense shut down Michigan quarterback Steve Smith (3-18, 39 yards and 3 INTs) and held star wide receiver Anthony Carter to just one catch.

Meanwhile, the Badgers were able to rack up 439 net yards. Quarterback  Jess Cole completed 8 of his 17 passes for 182 yards and threw touchdowns to Marvin Neal and John Williams. Fullback Dave Mohapp led the Badgers with 19 carries for 87 yards. Running back Chucky Davis rushed for 71 yards and one touchdown.

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: Safety and punter David Greenwood.

Oct. 16, 1982: Wisconsin defeats Michigan State 24-23

Wisconsin held on for victory as safety David Greenwood intercepted a pass on Michigan State’s two point conversion attempt in the final seconds.

The Spartans got the ball back trailing 24-17 with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Late in the drive, Spartans quarterback John Leister escaped a savage rush to hit wide receiver Otis Grant with a 28 yard strike, moving the Spartans to the Wisconsin 10 yard line.

Two plays later, Lesiter found split end Ted Jones alone in the end zone, cutting the deficit to a point, 24-23.

Michigan State head coach Muddy Waters decided to avoid a tie (there was no overtime at the time) by going for two points and the victory.

“There was never a doubt about going for two points. We played to win,” said Waters after the game.

Leister rolled right, and with Grant open deep in the end zone, he under threw the pass and the ball fell right into the hands of Wisconsin safety David Greenwood.

The Badgers escaped with a 24-23 victory

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: We actually we’re unable to do a piece on this game. I got a hold of David Greenwood, but he had no recollection of the game. Instead, we interviewed Greenwood about the 1981 Michigan game. Bill Scott from the Wisconsin Radio Network replaced this game with the 1992 UW/MSU game that took place in Tokyo. The Badgers won that game to clinch a berth in the Rose Bowl. (Barry Alvarez was interviewed)

Sept. 30, 1995: Wisconsin defeats #6 Penn State 17-9

Former Badger QB Darrell Bevell, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

Wisconsin went into Happy Valley and ended the Nittany Lions’ nation-best 20 game winning streak that dated back to the 1994 season. The loss also snapped Penn State’s 12 game Big Ten winning streak.

It was the first time Wisconsin and Penn State had played since 1970, and the first time the two teams had played as Big Ten Conference foes. PSU joined the Big Ten in 1993, but they did not play UW their first two seasons in the league.

Darrell Bevell completed 18 of his 22 pass attempts for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Bevell’s first quarter touchdown pass to tight end Matt Nyquist put the Badgers up 10-0. Nyquist ended the game with 4 catches for 40 yards and the one touchdown.

Bevell later connected with wide receiver Tony Simmons on a 21 yard touchdown pass that put the Badgers up 17-3 early in the fourth quarter.

The game was Joe Paterno’s 500th as a member of the Penn State coaching staff.

WHO WE INTERVIEWED: TE Matt Nyquist; 4 catches, 40 yards, 1 touchdown

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