Big Ten Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 7th, 2012

  1. It’s not been an easy go of it at Michigan State for senior guard Brandon Wood, who is in his first season under Tom Izzo after transferring from Valparaiso. Wood has had ups and downs on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, but responded well to coming off the bench in the Spartans’ 64-54 win against rival Michigan on Sunday. It wasn’t until after his nine-point, four-rebound, four-assist afternoon that it was discovered that Wood had been dealing with hardship off the floor, as his stepbrother, 23-year-old Taurean Jones, was shot in the head during an altercation on January 29. Wood said Jones was lifelined to an Indianapolis hospital, where he remains in an induced coma. “I just knew I had to stay tough for him and focus on the task at hand,” Wood told reporters. His coach noticed some positives this weekend as well. “Give him credit,” Izzo said of Wood, but not in reference to the shooting incident. “I think the kid grew up a little today. I’m happy for him. It’s going to make us a better team. It’s going to make him a better guy.”
  2. After the tremendous and somewhat surprising start Indiana got off to this season, defying many folks’ expectations for the young Hoosiers, it’s been easy to lose sight of what a success the year has been. Indiana has lost five of its last eight games, but secured a major road win this weekend against rival Purdue. All that said, as the Indiana Daily Student‘s Avi Zaleon points out, it’s important for Hoosier fans not to forget where this team was expected to be this year and that it can still very easily be considered a success. The Hoosiers have a great shot at an NCAA Tournament berth in a season, as Zaleon says, that was supposed to be the prologue of the rebirth — not the first chapter.
  3. Jordan Taylor‘s shooting numbers are down from a year ago. But, Bo Ryan told reporters on Monday that one of the most important thing Ryan looks for in his players has not changed for Taylor: his eyes. “Every day we come to practice I always check the eyes of my players,” Ryan said. “I will check the eyes of my players and facial expressions and demeanor when they walk on the court and file it away. Jordan has never changed. I haven’t seen anything different in him.” Taylor’s three-point shooting percentage is down to 31.5% from 42.9% since last season and to 39.1% from 43.3% overall. His scoring is also down from 18.1 points to 14.0 points, but Taylor has helped keep Wisconsin in contention for the Big Ten title.
  4. Minnesota is in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings with a 3.5-game deficit behind first place Ohio State. But destiny is in the Golden Gophers’ hands, writes Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It won’t be easy for Minnesota to finish 4-3 the rest of the way to land at 9-9 in the conference, but doing so would mean knocking off some big-time opponents along the way. Four of the Gophers’ last seven games come against Wisconsin (twice), Michigan State and Ohio State, which hold the conference’s top three spots in the standings. Wins against those clubs would improve Minnesota’s record, but also their standing in the eye of the NCAA Tournament selection committee with an accompanying boost in strength of schedule.
  5. Nebraska center Jorge Brian Diaz has been troubled by foot and knee pain since last season, but coach Doc Sadler was still hoping he’d be able to get double-digit minutes out of Diaz this season. Now, the Lincoln Journal Star reports, he may not get any minutes at all. The injury has become so troubling that the Cornhuskers may lose Diaz for the season. “Ya’ll see him. He can’t play. He can’t walk,” Sadler said after Nebraska’s 69-61 loss to Minnesota. “You can’t compete at this level with your feet killing you.” Diaz missed the final two games of the non-conference schedule and the first three of Big Ten play before sitting out the Minnesota game this weekend.
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