Big Ten Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 6th, 2012

  1. The Big Ten Championship may be split three ways, but don’t tell Michigan that it doesn’t mean something.  The Wolverines did their part by beating Penn State on Sunday and then watched as OSU got past MSU and helped turn Michigan into co-champions.  Disappointment reigned in East Lansing, but for the Maize and Blue, they feel like they’ve earned this banner.  Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since 1986, so even an tri-shared one is a big deal for John Beilein and his players.
  2. There may be a bitter taste in Spartan fans’ mouths after missing an opportunity to claim an outright championship on Sunday, but Michigan State has plenty to be proud of regarding this season and they also have individual hardware to remember it by.  Tom Izzo and senior forward Draymond Green picked up some honors, as Izzo was named Big Ten Coach of the Year and Green was named Big Ten Player of the Year.  For Izzo, it is his third COY award, and Green was also the only unanimous selection to the all-Big Ten first team as well as being voted onto the all-defensive squad.
  3. One of the best debates in the conference this season was whether Cody Zeller or Trey Burke was having a better freshman season.  Both made a huge impact on their respective teams and both were named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Year.  Each player was also named to the all-Big Ten second team, cementing their spot as big-time players in the conference, even as true freshman.  Burke was chosen by the media, and Zeller by the coaches in the award voting.  Let the debate continue!
  4. For Robbie Hummel, his journey at Purdue has been both successful and frustrating.  His battle with multiple injuries is well-documented, but his play on the floor has always been top-notch when his body has cooperated.  Hummel became just the third player in Purdue history to be named to the all-Big Ten first team three times in his career.  All the rehabilitation and hard work Hummel had to put in just to get back on the court was well worth it, as he returned to form and had another great season for the Boilermakers.
  5. Iowa was represented on the postseason award squads, with senior Matt Gatens named to the all-Big Ten second team by the media (third by the coaches), and freshman forward Aaron White selected to the all-Big Ten freshman squad.  But head coach Fran McCaffery still had some questions about where his players and others were placed.  McCaffery thought Gatens deserved all-Big Ten defensive team honors, and had other questions about guys like Cody Zeller and Tim Frazier.
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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: Four Questions As the Regular Season Winds Down

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 1st, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak) and Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself) give their thoughts on four conference questions as just a few more games remain in the regular season, and the Big Ten champion has yet to be decided.

1) Will we see an outright Big Ten champion?  Or is the conference title possibly going to be shared?

Joey:  In other words, will Michigan State beat Ohio State this weekend? I think the answer is yes. It’s hard to watch the Spartans, after how badly they tanked last season, and try to avoid becoming too enamored with them this year. But time and time again they have proven that this really is a special squad that gets it and is tune with so many important factors required to win.

They are one of  just 12 teams in Division I that is undefeated at home (three in the power conferences) and there are too many intangibles working in their favor this weekend: playing at home, Senior Day honoring Draymond Green, Austin Thornton and Delvon Roe, and the motivation to win a title outright while denying Michigan and Ohio State, of all teams. Not to mention how entirely out of sorts Ohio State has seemed lately. It will be a dogfight, but I think the Spartans beat the Buckeyes and claim a completely unexpected Big Ten title all for themselves.

Can Ohio State stop Michigan State's quest for an outright Big Ten Title? (Associated Press)

Ryan:  As much as people in Ann Arbor are hoping to sneak in and grab a share of a conference title (wow, Michigan fans rooting for Ohio State?  Can it be true?), I think that Michigan State is going to get to job done because they are so potent at the Breslin Center. The only thing I would worry about for the Spartans is getting TOO hyped up, which can happen when young men are trying so hard to defeat a quality opponent. The Spartans obviously don’t lack for motivation, and the bigger question to me is what’s going on with the Buckeyes? Jared Sullinger had to bail them out against Northwestern; a team that is very tough this season, but on paper can’t handle Ohio State’s frontcourt. With Sullinger admitting that he has been thinking out the referees and how they are officiating his post game, I’m wondering if that will come back into play in what I would expect to be a very physical game in East Lansing. I think Michigan State hangs another Big Ten banner for Tom Izzo.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 1st, 2012

  1. This season for Northwestern, heartbreak seems as associated with the team as purple and white.  The school has suffered four losses by two points or less after falling to Ohio State 75-73 last night.  It was a win the Wildcats desperately needed, and down 13 points in the second half, it looked like one they would not get.  But a furious rally, capped by a Alex Marcotullio three-pointer with 7.7 seconds remaining, gave the fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena hope. But then, Jared Sullinger banked in a shot on the other end with 3.3 seconds left, and once again, Northwestern came up a little short.  The Wildcats still have an outside chance at an NCAA tournament berth, but they need to take care of business at Iowa and make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.  Opponents know that John Shurna and company will be coming into every game from now on with a must-win mentality.
  2. No Buckeye came up bigger in that win against Northwestern than Jared Sullinger, who tallied 22 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks in 37 minutes of play. Most of all, Sullinger has said he won’t worry about the way his play is officiated anymore.  After admitting that Big Ten officials had been on his mind in a loss against Wisconsin, he only picked up three personal fouls against the Wildcats.  He said the lack of mental focus had been affecting his game, and head coach Thad Matta has helped him pull out of that funk.  His re-found aggressiveness couldn’t have come at a better time for Ohio State.
  3. There are more bubble teams than just Northwestern in the Big Ten, and Illinois has a chance to make some noise as they host #13 Michigan tonight.  Bruce Weber’s seat is very hot right now in Champaign, but a late NCAA Tournament push would definitely help his case.  It’s up to Weber to keep hope alive and push the right buttons for his Illini team to keep winning and finish strong enough to merit consideration to the Big Dance.  For motivation, Weber has already played the tape of Illinois overcoming a 15-point defecit in four minutes to beat Arizona in the 2005 NCAA regional that sent his team to the Final Four.
  4. Indiana basketball has experienced a big surge this season under Tom Crean.  The Hoosiers have beaten three top-five teams for the first time since 1975-76, and have beaten the #1 and #2-ranked teams in the same season for the first time in program history.  Among Hoosier fans, the debate can begin: Was beating Kentucky or Michigan State the bigger victory?  Many fans would be quick to say Kentucky, but if you dig deeper into the discussion, the history between IU and MSU makes it a much more interesting argument.
  5. After losing its first game on their home court this season to Purdue last Saturday, Michigan was thought to be on the outside looking in on the Big Ten race.  After Michigan State’s loss to Indiana, though, the Wolverines still have a chance to share the title with their in-state rivals.  While an outright championship is always nice, a chance to share a conference crown is certainly one the Wolverines will embrace. Michigan hasn’t hung a conference championship banner in 26 years, and for a fan base that has bemoaned seeing its banners removed from the rafters, it would be a good feeling to see John Beilein signal the return of Michigan hoops by raising a new one.
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Home Sweet Hoosier: Life on the Road in the Big Ten Is Tough

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 29th, 2012

They’ve been beaten down on the road by an average of 12 points per game.  They lost inexplicably to Nebraska, who stands at 4-12 in conference play.  Twice they haven’t even reached 60 points. Sounds like the perfect team to beat the #1, #2, and #5 teams in the country, right?

It's been fun for Indiana at home this season, but tough living on the road for the Hoosiers and the rest of the Big Ten (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Indiana is the perfect Jekyll-and-Hyde illustration of life at home versus the road in the Big Ten.  The Hoosiers soar at Assembly Hall, where they’ve been able to knock off the likes of Kentucky, Ohio State, and most recently Michigan State.  They came into conference play on fire, 12-0 and looking to make a statement in head coach Tom Crean’s fourth year in charge of the program.  They are the first IU team in history to knock of the then-#1 and #2 ranked teams in the same season.  They’ve also lost to two league opponents with a combined conference record of 11-21.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 27th, 2012

  1. To win on the road in the Big Ten, someone is going to have to give a special performance. That’s exactly what Purdue got from sophomore Terone Johnson as the Boilermakers handed Michigan their first home loss of the season.  Johnson dropped a career-high 22 points on the Wolverines, and was supported by Robbie Hummel and his 17 points.  The Boilermakers have now won four out of their last five, and at 19-10, have probably wrapped up their case for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Michigan State hit plenty of milestones in its win Saturday over Nebraska.  The Spartans are now guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten crown after Michigan and Ohio State’s losses.  Draymond Green also became only the third player in MSU history to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds, joining Jumping Johnny Green and Greg Kelser.  Besides those accomplishments, the Spartan defense was the star of the game as it held the Cornhuskers to only 34 total points.  It was the fewest amount a Tom Izzo team had allowed since a win over Brown in 2006-07.
  3. Once again it is Bubble Watch time in Evanston, and Northwestern had its fans biting their nails in a 67-66 win over Penn State.  John Shurna was sent to the line, and calmly knocked down two free throws to give the Wildcats an enormous win in that a loss could have been a death blow to their tournament chances.  Now Northwestern embarks on a tough two-game stretch (vs. Ohio State, @ Iowa) to finish out the year and will hopefully do enough to make its first NCAA Tournament in program history. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has Northwestern “in” the tournament, but the hopes of the Wildcats and their fans rest on their performance in those final two games.
  4. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Ohio State was the toast of the Big Ten and many pundits were asking “who can beat the Buckeyes?”  Michigan State answered that question in Columbus, then Michigan did it in Ann Arbor, and now Wisconsin has stolen a 63-60 victory in Value City Arena.  Instead of worrying about a conference championship, now OSU has to be concerned about their seeding in the Big Ten Tournament and where they may end up in the NCAA Tournament as well.  All is not well for the scarlet and gray as they try to right their ship before postseason play begins.
  5. And Bruce Weber thought HE had it bad.  Frustrated Nebraska basketball booster Neal Hawks decided to vent his grievances regarding the program in a full-page advertisement in The World Herald sports section.  He also took some time to support beleaguered head coach Doc Sadler.  It hasn’t been a very fun season for Husker fans, but plenty of things need to be addressed before the program can move forward.  Remedies such as spending more money and finding more support for the program from the fan base have been suggested.  There is simply no easy transition when you enter one of (if not the) toughest conferences in college basketball.
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Big Ten Game On: 02.25.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 25th, 2012

Six games this weekend in the Big Ten, and tonight features two of the conference leaders.  Let’s get to it.

Purdue @ #11 Michigan, 6 PM, BTN

Michigan's Senior Night against Purdue will be a big game for Zach Novak and Stu Douglass (US Presswire)

  • The Boilermakers need a win over a ranked opponent really bad.  Like, really, REALLY bad.  That’s because Purdue is 1-5 against teams in the RPI Top 25 and 4-7 against the Top 50.  A win would obviously help those stats out, and possibly put an end to the bubble talk surrounding the Boilermakers’ chances for an invite to the NCAA Tournament.  Robbie Hummel is doing his part, shooting 50% from the field and averaging 24.8 PPG over his last four contests. He also dropped a stat line of 16 points, five boards, and six assists the last time these two teams met, and will be expected to lead again.  Matt Painter will have to devise a plan to slow down the smoking-hot Wolverines, who have won five of their last six and have yet to lose at home this season.  It will be an emotional Senior Night in Ann Arbor, as fan favorites Zach Novak and Stu Douglass will be honored.  Douglass hasn’t missed a game in his Michigan career, while Novak was named the program’s first Academic All-American since 1984.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.23.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 23rd, 2012

  1. No one was surprised that Indiana was able to easily handle their non-league match-up with North Carolina Central last night.  Cody Zeller had another solid game, as the freshman dropped in 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the way.  The victory gave IU 21 wins on the year, and with their NCAA ticket punched, the fan base is one again rabid for Hoosier basketball.  There is no question that Indiana has great fans, but with some lean years in the first few seasons under Tom Crean, the Crimson and Cream faithful are glad that their program is once again back to meeting expectations.
  2. One team still looking for a guaranteed invite to the Big Dance is Purdue.  Matt Painter is trying to lead the Boilermakers to their 6th straight tournament appearance, but it will be more difficult after the recent dismissal of Kelsey Barlow.  The versatile Barlow often guarded the opposing team’s best scoring option, and now Purdue will have to adjust its defensive schemes.  One player who has picked up his game recently is Robbie Hummel, who torched Nebraska for 29 points in the team’s 83-65 win last night.  With 18 wins and three games left to play, Purdue has to win two of its next three to get to that magic 20-win plateau that many believe will get the team into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Michigan’s rise to the top of the Big Ten has been a story worth watching this season.  But while young players like freshman point guard Trey Burke and sophomore shooting guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., have been getting the most press, the reason the program has been able to rise back up is also due to the efforts of two seniors.  Zach Novak and Stu Douglass were two unheralded recruits that have bought into the John Beilein system, and have made big plays and big shots throughout their careers.  The 6’4″ Novak has played out of position (at power forward) his entire career, and still has managed over 1,000 career points. Novak and Douglas also each rank in the Top 10 all-time in minutes played and three-pointers made in Michigan history.  They are a big reason why Michigan could win its first Big Ten title in 26 years.
  4. In a game that probably drew an audience of opposing fans as well as Michigan State fans, the Spartans were able to avoid an upset at the hands of Minnesota last night, 66-61.  The Gophers built a big second-half lead but were unable to hang on down the stretch, committing several turnovers and not finding good looks offensively.  For MSU, it was another example of being able to adjust and overcome in a difficult situation.  Keith Appling had two brutal fouls late in the game, sending a jump-shooter to the free throw line both times, but he atoned, going 6-for-6 from the foul line down the stretch to squash any Gopher comeback attempt.
  5. The Big Ten regular season has just a few games left and for seniors like Penn State’s Cam Woodyard that means only a few more guaranteed chances to play before the Big Ten Tournament.  Woodyard has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his Nittany Lion career; winning an NIT championship as a freshman, and also losing 12 games in a row his sophomore season.  He’s stepped his game up this season, and will be a key for Pat Chambers as Penn State tries to mount some late-season magic these next couple weeks.
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Big Ten Game On: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 21st, 2012

It’s a big night for the second place teams in the Big Ten as both Ohio State and Michigan look to keep pace with conference leader Michigan State.  It’s an equally big night for two teams that are desperately trying to make their way into the NCAA tournament as well.  Game On!!!

Illinois at #8 Ohio State, 7 PM, ESPN/ESPN3

Ohio State will be looking for revenge against Illinois at home. (Neal C. Lauron/Columbus Dispatch/MCT)

  • The Buckeyes are smarting after recent losses to MSU and Michigan, and now is the time to gather themselves and bounce back.  The Big Ten Conference title is still very much within their grasp if they can get back on the winning track en route to a showdown against the Spartans in East Lansing on March 4.  However, they must figure out a way to use the talents of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, and William Buford properly.  There is no question that OSU possesses plenty of talent, but mentally the Buckeyes need to find themselves.  They were out-toughed by Michigan State and made too many mistakes against Michigan.  Illinois is a team prone to making mistakes, and the Buckeyes need to take advantage.  It won’t be easy, though, because if Bruce Weber has any inclinations on saving his job, he must finish the season strong and make the NCAA Tournament, and that includes beating Ohio State.  The Illini have already done it once this season back on January 10, and even thought they’ve struggled mightily since then (1-8 in the following nine games), would it be ridiculous to suggest that Illinois is the team with the least pressure to win?  Not much is expected of Brandon Paul and his crew, and they have to have confidence that they can upset a team that they’ve beaten once before just a little more than a month ago.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 20th, 2012

  1. Michigan got an exhilarating win Saturday night against Ohio State giving themselves a legit chance at the school’s first Big Ten title since 1986. Not only was the game itself memorable, but the atmosphere at the new Crisler Center was a “special one” according to John Beilein. The crowd helped spur the Wolverines on an early 6-0 run, and played a big factor on defensive possessions down the stretch. Another factor was sophomore center Jordan Morgan getting a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards while battling all night with Jared Sullinger.
  2. After Ohio State’s fall on Saturday, Michigan State answered the bell by beating Purdue, and putting themselves in great position in the conference standings by going a game up in first place. But the Spartans comeback win would not have happened if it weren’t for a challenge laid out to Draymond Green by Tom Izzo. Robbie Hummel torched Michigan State for 18 in the first half, and Izzo tasked Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Green to slow the Boilermaker star down. Day-Day was able to do so, proving once again his leadership ability along with a great stat line of 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
  3. This weekend the Big Ten had it all: big wins, big statements, and a big upset. Iowa scored the big upset with an unexpected 12-point win over Indiana. Matt Gatens is a senior who has stayed around and dealt with a lot of turnover during his Hawkeye career, but he is making the most out of the final stretch of games, dropping 30 points in a career-high effort against the Hoosiers. Iowa is now 14-13 overall, 6-8 in conference, and needs a surge to get invited to postseason play.
  4. Wisconsin has been an effective team this year, just not at shooting. The Badgers have struggled with their offense all season long, and it has been a battle to win games in the Big Ten only averaging just over 60 points per game. On Sunday, the lids came off the rims for the Badgers as they drained 5 three-pointers in 2 minutes and 34 seconds. Bo Ryan’s club held a 33-12 advantage from three-point land, which was a key in the victory over Penn State.
  5. As much action as there has been on the court lately, there has been just as much in the circus that has been the Bruce Weber – Mike Thomas quote battle. Many expect this to be the last season for Weber on the Illinois sidelines, but if there is a new search for a coach, some introspection should be in order. There are reasons why a quality Big Ten program is struggling, and not all of them have to do with the X’s and O’s of what happens out on the floor.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 16th, 2012

  1. Not only was Indiana‘s 71-66 win over Northwestern a good one for the Hoosiers in terms of the Big Ten race and their NCAA profile, it was an important milestone for Tom Crean. After the first couple years of Crean’s tenure  at Indiana, he had a few 20-loss seasons on his resume, that that obviously was not good enough for the Indiana faithful. But Crean’s squad has turned the corner, and now boasts a 20-win season after their victory over the Wildcats. Not only should Hoosier fans be happy about the culture being changed back to a winning one, Indian also a much-needed win over Northwestern, who they were 1-6 against in their last seven against before last night.
  2. The game between Purdue and Illinois was a turning point of sorts for both schools, as each needed a win desperately, and it was the Boilermakers who not only got the victory, but grabbed it on the road. As the Illini continue to reel, Purdue has won two in a row after losing four out of their previous five. With a record of 17-9, 7-6 in the Big Ten, Purdue could very well be dancing in March if they keep up their winning ways. Also, grabbing a win in Champaign against a team that wanted it just as bad may show that Robbie Hummel and Co. may finally be coming together at the right time.
  3. It will be a battle tonight between Michigan State and Wisconsin, which has been one of the best basketball rivalries in the conference over the last few years. What has been a battle for the Badgers this season has been making shots. Wisconsin is the second-worst shooting team in the Big Ten this season at 42%, and if they want to try and win a conference championship, that number is going to have to go up. It will start with Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, and their teammates making a concerted effort to try and get to the basket and find better shots. If they are able to do that, and the #1 scoring defense in the conference can continue to hold opponents to 50 PPG, Wisconsin will be tough to beat.
  4. I know that if you are reading this site, you love college basketball. I’m going to assume if you are like me, you also like free food. Well, Pat Chambers cost his fans free food when he decided to have Penn State pull back on the reins in their most recent win against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a promotion going that states any time the team scores over 70 points at home, all the fans in attendance will win free Big Macs from McDonald’s. By Chambers direction, his squad only scored 67 points when they could have accounted for more had they tried. Not to let mouths in Happy Valley go hungry, Chambers stepped up and served 200 free Big Macs to fans who showed up at a local Mickey D’s.
  5. After a disappointing effort at home against Michigan State, Ohio State rebounded with a nice 78-68 win over Minnesota Tuesday night. Thad Motta clearly had his team playing much better basketball, and stars like William Buford (24 points) played much better than they did against Michigan State. Motta also used his bench much more liberally than he has all season, getting many players into the game early on against the Gophers. However, fans should not expect that trend to continue, as Ohio State is going to rely on their stars to try and capture a Big Ten crown.
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Making the Leap: Tim Frazier

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 14th, 2012

It is 1,244 miles from Houston, Texas, to Penn State University.  That is where Tim Frazier grew up.  He’s the only player from the city of Houston to be playing in the Big Ten conference, and only two other players (Nebraska senior Toney McCray and Northwestern freshman Trey Demps) are even from the state of Texas.  Tim Frazier has come a long way to be where he’s at, and his game has come even further.

It hasn’t been easy to notice the Nittany Lions this season, as their relation to first place in the Big Ten standings seems about as far away as Houston and University Park.  But it’s impossible to not notice the play of junior point guard Frazier, who has made an astronomical statistical jump from his sophomore season.  Last year, Frazier played in 34 games, averaging 30.0 MPG, 6.3 PPG,  and handing out 5.1 APG; good numbers considering his number one job was to facilitate offense for high-scoring guard Talor Battle.  With Battle gone this season, Frazier was expected to increase his scoring load and take leadership of the team, but not even the most die-hard Penn State fan could have imagined the lines that Frazier has been able to put up this season.

Tim Frazier has been phenomenal so far this season for Penn State (CDC Photos/Christopher Weddle)

Most points scored in the conference.  Second in scoring average.  First in assists.  Most minutes played.  Tops in steals.  Leading in free throw makes.  This is what Tim Frazier has been able to accomplish up to this point in 2011-12.  The 5’11” guard is also tied for 16th in rebounding at 5.0 RPG.  The term “do-everything player” not only describes Frazier’s statistical impact, but it also rings true because he is head and shoulders the most effective player on Pat Chambers’ squad.  The Nittany Lions are currently the worst-shooting team in the Big Ten conference at 38%, and they only average 61.0 PPG as a team.  Frazier’s 18.5 PPG means that on a nightly basis, he alone is scoring almost a third of PSU’s buckets.  To make the numbers even more astounding, please note that before this season, Frazier had scored over 20 points in a game exactly once in his career.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 13th, 2012

  1. Michigan State currently has control of the Big Ten after the Spartans’ hard-fought 58-48 win at Ohio State on Saturday. Michigan State used a combination of great defense, hustle plays, and just-effictive-enough offense to down the Buckeyes and end their 39-game home winning streak. So, has the question of how to beat Ohio State been answered? Give the Spartans tons of credit for their game plan, but William Buford and company didn’t do themselves any favors. Having Buford and Deshaun Thomas both go 2-12 from the field obviously hurt the Buckeyes.
  2. One key player Spartan head coach Tom Izzo knew he would need a great effort from was sophomore center Adriean Payne. The Dayton native was expected to supply critical defense on Jared Sullinger, and Payne and his defensive counterparts were effective forcing Sullinger into 10 turnovers. What the Spartans didn’t expect was for Payne to go 6-for-6 from the field and finish with a career-high 15 points. Given the chance to play in front of his family and friends in his home state, Payne made the most of his opportunity.
  3. One team preparing for their second shot at Ohio State will be Michigan, and the Wolverines will have plenty of time to do it. Coming off their 70-61 win over Illinois, John Beilein‘s club remains undefeated at home this season and will have six days to prepare for Ohio State. Beilein admits that getting that much rest at this point in the season can be beneficial as guys can rest their legs a bit. But Michigan doesn’t want to get out of the groove they are currently in especially junior guard Matt Vogrich, a 20% three-point shooter this season who has gone 5-for-5 from three in the last two games.
  4. While there was plenty of celebration for Penn State after their win over Nebraska this weekend, there was some sad news in Happy Valley as junior forward Billy Oliver announced he will end his playing career. Oliver is struggling with recuring symptoms related to his history of concussions and migraine headaches and after talking with coach Pat Chambers Oliver decided to hang it up. His roommate Tim Fraizer was saddened by his decision, but agreed that Oliver is doing what is best for him.
  5. March is only a couple of weeks away, and teams are gauging their NCAA Tournament chances with every win and loss. Minnesota is a team that many experts thought didn’t have much of a chance of qualifying for the Tournament a couple of months ago, but the Gophers have a chance to earn their way in with some quality wins. They will have plenty of chances to do that, with four of their last six opponents currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. It will take some upsets, but Tubby Smith and his crew know the road that lays before them if they want to go dancing again this year.
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