Big Ten Morning Five: 02.28.12 Edition
Posted by jnowak on February 28th, 2012
- At the season’s onset, Ohio State was an easy choice for the Big Ten title, a likely Final Four participant and a trendy choice to be cutting down the nets in New Orleans. It was practically national title or bust for Thad Matta, who is yet to win the big one. Now, things are slipping away in front of our eyes. You can’t help but get a sense that the Buckeyes are close to implosion, particularly after Matta uncharacteristically practically threw his players under the bus after a Senior Day loss to Wisconsin on Sunday. Weeks ago, we were wondering if Ohio State could run the table in the conference. At this rate, we might be wondering just how many more they can win.
- Many left Purdue for dead when Matt Painter made the widely-publicized decision to kick Kelsey Barlow off the team prior to the Michigan State game earlier this month, but the Boilermakers have responded like few expected they would. Other conference teams seem to have benefited from “addition by subtraction” in recent memory (looking at you, Michigan State). Could this be the case with the Boilermakers? They have won four of their last five, with a great shot to make it five of six with a home meeting against Penn State up next. Robbie Hummel clearly does not intend on ending his career at Purdue quietly. Does anyone want to play the Boilermakers in the Big Ten Tournament?
- To fully realize just how unselfish this Michigan State team can be, you need look no further than the inside play of Derrick Nix. Tom Izzo likes to call his junior center “Tragic Johnson” — a play on the former Michigan State superstar point guard’s nickname — for Nix’s desire to pass the ball. At times, Nix would be almost better off just going up for the basket rather than looking for the extra pass. But that unselfishness is what brought the Spartans to this surprising share of the Big Ten title, the Detroit Free Press‘ Michael Rosenberg writes. “We always talk to him about that,” senior captain Draymond Green said of Nix. “He’s so unselfish. But how can you get mad at somebody for being unselfish?”
- Bruce Weber probably feels like he’s on an island right now, with his Fighting Illini having lost nine of their last 11 games. It’s all but certain that this will be his last season in Champaign, but Weber has the support of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “I’ve known Bruce a long time. I think the world of him as a person,” McCaffery said Tuesday. “I think he’s done a terrific job there. He’s had phenomenal success. I feel for him. I wish nobody in our business would have to go through it.”
- Speaking of Illinois, can we talk about the basketball program without focusing on the head coach’s job security? (Certainly, Bruce Weber would appreciate it.) In honor of the Assembly Hall’s 50th birthday, the News-Gazette‘s Paul Klee pens a nice tribute to the Fighting Illini’s home digs. And it’s not just the Illini that have called it home. Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Prince, Elvis and more have all called the place home, if only for a day or two. With an important home game against Michigan up next for Illinois, maybe the facility can deliver the team a present of its own.