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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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter at @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was:

  • Spartan Success: Despite losing guys like Korie Lucious, Kalin Lucas and Delvon Roe, the Michigan State express rolled on. Perhaps no other coach in the country teaches a system and its principles quite like Tom Izzo. Surprise losses on Sunday by both Ohio State and Michigan, however, meant that MSU’s weekend destruction of Nebraska clinched them of the at least a share of the Big Ten title. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Chicago (Evanston) Hope: That wind you felt coming from Chicago might have been a collective sigh of relief from Northwestern fans after senior leader John Shurna sank two free throws with mere seconds to play to help the Wildcats escape Happy Valley with a 67-66 win. Two straight gut-wrenching losses in one week might have been more than Northwestern could have overcome as they sweat out life on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
  • Lousy in Lincoln: It’s no secret that Nebraska has struggled on offense this year. But not since 1961 has Nebraska been so putrid on offense as they were when they were embarrassed by Michigan State, 61-34, at home over the weekend. The Huskers shot under 30% for the game and the loss of leading scorer Bo Spencer to an injured ankle near halftime only hampered their scoring efforts.

The Perennial Lesson In College Basketball 101 Is To Never Count Out The Michigan State Spartans.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (24-5, 13-3) – As good as Michigan State has been this season, how would the Spartans be if Delvon Roe hadn’t been forced to drop basketball due to chronic knee problems? Roe’s presence would have given them more depth and would have taken the load off of Draymond Green at certain points. But it also forced youngsters like Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne to grow up quickly. While they’ve struggled with consistency, those guys are a big part of why the Spartans are Big Ten champs.
  2. Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) – Strange times in Columbus. After riding a 39-game winning streak and destroying most visitors who dared enter Value City Arena, the Buckeyes have now lost two of their last three games at home. Jared Sullinger has seemingly disappeared in big games and crucial moments this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.24.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 24th, 2012

  1. Somebody please stop Iowa‘s Matt Gatens. Gatens has been on fire of late and he continued his hot shooting against Wisconsin as he put up 33 points last night. He shot 70% from the field and scored career-high for the second straight game. Fran Mccaffery has done a phenomenal job with the Hawkeyes this year because they are making a serious late season push for an NCAA bid. The season sweep of the Badgers resulted in the students rushing the court.
  2. Tubby Smith‘s Gophers badly miss quality point guard play as they have been piling on the turnovers over the last two games. Smith is disappointed because his team turned the ball over four times during the final two minutes on Wednesday night after coming off a loss over the weekend when they had 19 turnovers against Northwestern. Minnesota still has hope of the NCAA tournament if they can end the season with a couple wins and make some noise in the early rounds of the Big Ten conference tournament.
  3. Bruce Weber finally has a supporter – Meyers Leonard. Leonard defended his coach and made it clear that Illinois’ losing skid goes beyond Weber’s coaching. While it is comforting to see one of the players come to the coach’s support, Illini need more than words if they hope to contain the red-hot Hawkeyes on Sunday in Assembly Hall. Illinois better step up on defense otherwise Matt Gatens will make them pay from beyond the arc.
  4. Tom Izzo can’t avoid questions about how this Michigan State squad compares to his prior teams that made deep runs in March. He believes that Draymond Green and company could beat the 2000 National Championship team mainly because he wants to support the current group of guys. Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson might have something to say about that matchup. Keith Appling would have his hands full with the legendary Spartan guards and Charlie Bell coming off the bench.
  5. Even though Northwestern missed a golden opportunity to lock in a win against a top 15 team on Tuesday night, they still have a chance at an NCAA bid if they can win two out of the next three games to end the season. They match up well against Penn State and Iowa if they can take care of the ball. Bill Carmody is stressing ball control and believes that John Shurna ought to take over games during the closing minutes. Penn State can expect Shurna to give them one of his best performances on Saturday.
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 21st, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Boiling Over: Give credit to Matt Painter for making a difficult decision in the stretch run of a season. Painter kicked Kelsey Barlow off the team and suspended D.J. Byrd for the Michigan State game for a “violation of team rules.” They’ll miss Barlow’s experience and slashing ability, but sometimes this kind of incident can galvanize a team.
  • Lincoln > Land of Lincoln: Any doubts about whether Illinois was still playing for embattled head coach Bruce Weber were answered when Nebraska used a 52-12 run to bury the Illini, 80-57, on Sunday. Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard combined for 11 total points. You just can’t let the worst offensive team in the Big Ten put up 80 on you. Illinois has now lost eight of its last nine games and Weber seems resigned to his likely fate (see video below).
  • Shurna Can Score: Congrats to John Shurna, a nice kid and a fantastic (if unorthodox) scorer who is now the all-time leading scorer in Northwestern history. His deep three-pointer midway through the second half against Minnesota gave him 18 points to surpass Billy McKinney (1,900 points).  More importantly to Shurna, the Wildcats picked up a win to stay in the hunt for first-ever NCAA Tournament berth.

The Spartans And Buckeyes Have Company At The Top Of The Standings. (AP/Carlos Osorio)

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) – Not since Tim Duncan in 1997-98 has a player averaged more than 15 points per game, 10 rebounds a game and three assists per game. But Draymond Green has done just that, and he continued to show his versatility on Sunday at Purdue with a 20-point, 10 rebound and seven-assist performance to lead the Spartans to a road win. He has to be the Big Ten POY if MSU wins the conference.
  2. Ohio State (22-5, 10-4) – William Buford has had big games for Ohio State this season, but his struggles late in the regular season may cost Ohio State a Big Ten crown. He shot a combined 5-for-24 in the Buckeyes’ losses to Michigan State and Michigan, and just hasn’t shown the big game leadership that you would expect out of a senior. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.21.12

Posted by jnowak on February 21st, 2012

  1. If Illinois is to succeed in the Big Ten — whether it’s under Bruce Weber or a different head coach — the Fighting Illini likely need to succeed in recruiting top players out of Chicago. It’s a hotbed of talent — guys like Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose come to mind, with players like Jabari Parker and Cliff Alexander set to come out of the Windy City in the next few years — and right in Illinois’ backyard. But the relationship between the school and the city can be a complicated one, Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. If Weber or the next coach can figure it out, it could mean a huge leap forward for the program.
  2. Is Iowa‘s Matt Gatens the most underrated player in the Big Ten? The senior has been sturdy for the Hawkeyes, scoring a team-high 14.88 PPG and dropping at least 15 in his last six games. Gatens played all 40 minutes in Iowa’s upset of Indiana, scoring 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting. “He was just in a great flow and rhythm,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “He’s not only one of the better shooters or guards in this league. He’s also one of the better ones in the country. That is a four-year guy who has been doing it at a high level — a great guy to have walk into your program.” And the fact that he’s one of three Hawkeyes with fathers that have ties to the program makes it an even better story.
  3. Speaking of Gatens, his performance against the Hoosiers was one thing that stood out to the Indianapolis Star‘s Terry Hutchens in the game. It was yet another disappointing road performance for the baffling Hoosiers, who often seem unbeatable in Bloomington, but mediocre away from home. Among Hutchens’ other notes are Iowa coach Fran McCaffery‘s thoughts on Cody Zeller, the disappearing act of Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls‘ search for confidence.
  4. Nebraska hasn’t finished its first season in the Big Ten, but the Omaha World-Herald‘s Tom Shatel already believes the Cornhuskers are in need of change in the program. He says this difficult task must start with the man who has already worked wonders in the athletic program: Tom Osborne. The former football coach has the opportunity to make Nebraska a winning program, Shatel says, by bringing in a coach who can recruit at a high level and showing that the department is committed to the basketball program like it is to the football team. Could a change be coming?
  5. Without question, Purdue could have used the services of D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow on Sunday against Michigan State, but head coach Matt Painter knew he had a tough decision to make. Byrd will rejoin the team, but Barlow is out of second chances. “It’s disappointing,” Painter said. “There’s no doubt about it. It’s disappointing because when you put in time with guys and you give guys a second chance, that’s what it’s all about. You think about the chances you get in life. You think about somebody sticking by you.”
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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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Fran-tic Resurgence of Iowa Basketball

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 3rd, 2012

For the past five seasons, Big Ten fans outside of Iowa looked through schedules in November and were upset if their team only played the Hawkeyes once. They wanted to pick up two easy wins.  That won’t happen anymore, not with Fran McCaffery around. McCaffery came to Iowa from the east coast to change the culture around the program and make an immediate impact.  Every coach says the right stuff during the introductory news conference but it doesn’t always translate to more wins. In Iowa’s case, however, those wins have come during his second season – already surpassing last year’s overall season total with more than a third of the conference schedule left on the plate. More importantly, the attitude and the brand of the Hawkeye basketball program has changed in 2012.  McCaffery is rubbing off on the program and the results show on the court.

McCaffery Has Brought A New Culture to Iowa (AP/C. Neibergall)

The 53-year-old coach keeps it simple but intense.  Intense may not begin to describe his behavior during the game or behind closed doors in practice. If you haven’t heard about the best chair-related tirade in the Big Ten since Bobby Knight chucked one across the floor in the ‘80s, you are missing out.  During a blowout (down 69-41) at East Lansing against Michigan State, McCaffrey blew a gasket halfway through the second half.  In addition to getting a technical, he yelled at his players during the timeout and slammed a chair on the court.  As an outsider, there are two aspects of the incident that stick out as positives. Most tirades by a head coach result in the assistants trying to gang-tackle him so he doesn’t get kicked out of the game, but not in this case.  Every one of his assistants was just as upset with the pace of the game and their players.  The head coach was frustrated with his players because they could not adjust and match the physicality of the Michigan State Bruisers.  Neither McCaffery nor his staff will settle for excuses.  His intensity is contagious because Iowa may not have the most talented or mature team, but they will play with a chip on their shoulder every single night. Rebuilding teams can’t afford to pity themselves and blame the referees for losses.

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Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 10th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was:

  • OT Madness in Madison: It was just one of the most unusual endings to a basketball game in recent memory. Ryan Evans banked home a turn-around desperation heave from the right wing as time expired, and many thought the Michigan StateWisconsin game in Madison was heading to a second overtime tied at 63. It was waved off, however, after officials discovered the there was a 0.2-second disparity between the game clock on the basket and the one on the scoreboard. By rule, the officials used the clock on the basket, which expired with the ball in Evans’ fingertips. (The must-see full video is after the jump). Ball game over as Wisconsin’s woes continued under truly bizarre circumstances.
  • Bertrand to the Rescue: A subtle, underrated move by Illini coach Bruce Weber has Illinois at 3-1 and currently tied for second in the conference. Looking to shake up his lackluster team, Weber gave little-used sophomore wing Joseph Bertrand more minutes against Missouri. Bertrand responded by going 9-9 from the field for 19 points. In the last five games, Bertrand has averaged 15 points and 3.2 rebounds in 29.2 minutes, and has even started the past two. He poured in a career-high 25 points on 11-12 shooting to help the Illini survive Nebraska at home.
  • Road Warriors: First, Iowa took down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. As a follow-up act, the Hawkeyes went up to The Barn this week and knocked off Minnesota. That’s no small feat for team who was blown out by Campbell earlier this season and whose leading scorer in conference play is 28th in scoring (Matt Gatens at 10.5 PPG). It’s doubtful Fran McCaffrey’s bunch will finish conference play with even a .500 record, but they have proven they can make shots and win on the road.

Who Will Stop Draymond Green And Michigan State? (Al Goldis/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (15-2, 3-1) – When you consider that Ohio State plays in the nation’s top-ranked conference (according to the RPI), it’s pretty insane that the Buckeyes have won three of their Big Ten games by an average of 31 points. They aren’t just beating lesser opponents; they are destroying them. It’s a clear indication of why the Buckeyes are considered by many the class of the conference and one of the favorites to win it all in New Orleans. Another reason is that OSU is ranked in the top 3 in 16 of the Big 10’s 21 statistical categories. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Conference Primers: #2 – Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2011

John Templon of Big Apple Buckets is an RTC contributor. You can find him on Twitter at @nybuckets.

Reader’s Take I


Top Storylines

  • Mid-Majors Newcomers Will Make Major Impact – Two graduate student transfers from mid-major schools are going to make an instant impact in the Big Ten. Brandon Wood could start in Michigan State’s backcourt after scoring 16.7 points per game last season for Valparaiso. Sam Maniscalco averaged 9.7 points per game for Bradley last season and might end up scoring even more for Illinois. Both players give their teams veteran pieces at positions that would’ve otherwise been dominated by youth.
  • Healthy Living – Robbie Hummel returns for Purdue and has the opportunity to make a big impact for the Boilermakers now that his former classmates have graduated. While Matt Painter couldn’t get Hummel on the court with JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, he does get the added bonus of having an All-America caliber forward to help shepherd this team into the postseason. Injuries also delivered a blow to Indiana, as Maurice Creek is going to miss the entire 2011-12 season. That’s after missing all but 18 games last season, and it’s a big blow to the Hoosiers’ NCAA hopes.
  • A New Head Coach In University Park – After leading Penn State to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001, and falling to in-state rival Temple, Ed DeChellis saw the writing on the wall and left PSU for a more stable job at Navy. His replacement is former Boston University head coach Pat Chambers, who has a big rebuilding job on his hands after graduation of star guard Talor Battle.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Ohio State (16-2) 
  2. Wisconsin (12-6)
  3. Michigan (12-6)
  4. Michigan State (10-8)
  5. Purdue (10-8)
  6. Illinois (9-9)
  7. Minnesota (9-9)
  8. Northwestern (8-10)
  9. Indiana (8-10)
  10. Iowa (6-12)
  11. Nebraska (4-14)
  12. Penn State (3-15)

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RTC Summer Updates: Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 8th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big Ten correspondent, Will Green.

Readers’ Take

Summer Storylines 

  • Sully’s Back, But With Demands – In the year 2011, in the age of ‘now,’ in a profit-first educate-yourself-later society, amidst a flittering of teenage NBA draft picks, ferocious freshman phenomenon Jared Sullinger decided to stay in school. How quaint. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing quaint about Sullinger, his (rightly) assumed sense of on-court leadership, his brutally physical style of play, or that Ja Ruleesque snarl that makes him look like a squirrel who just ate a questionable nut. But seriously, it’s highly unlikely that anyone other than Jordan Taylor will stand in the way of Sullinger winning the Big Ten Player of the Year Award, and rightfully so. He has spent the better part of the off-season slimming down and getting faster. The best player on the best team in the conference simply can’t suffer a slump; he’s worked too hard and has clearly made a commitment to improving his game before leaving for the pros. The question is less about what Sullinger’s level of performance will be than it is about the effect his performance will have on other members of his team. Last year, his 17 /10 were a reflection of consistent contribution that was also part of a greater team-wide cohesion. Jon Diebler, David Lighty and even Dallas Lauderdale each had pronounced and vital roles on last year’s team. They’re all gone now. While some of the supporting cast and several new stars-in-the-making will join Sullinger, will increased reliance upon him make OSU more of a one-man show? Or will the Buckeyes continue to roll out a team-focused squad with four scorers in double figures and a core group of five guys who notch 30 minutes a game? Whatever happens, Sullinger will be back and he will be better than last year. Consider yourself warned.
  • Welcome, Nebraska – On July 1, Nebraska officially joined the B1G, an acronym whose ludicrousness we continue to subconsciously validate by pronouncing it ‘Bih-one-ggg’. If you’re scoring at home, UNL’s entry makes for 12 teams in the Big Ten, a conference that shouldn’t be confused with the Big 12, which only has ten teams now since Nebraska left it. Now that we’ve all scratched our heads for second, we should pause to consider how massive the amount of potential football revenue must have been to persuade the intransigent Big Ten to alter its ranks. The Cornhuskers’ inclusion marks only the second change in league makeup since the 1950s. So how will the other 11 schools adjust to the adjustment? Football-wise, they should all watch their backs. On the basketball court, though, it probably won’t have a big (or should we say, a ‘B1G’) impact. Sadly for Husker fans, their roundball team loses two of their top three scorers and has some major offensive issues to solve in a league whose tempo of play limits even the country’s very best offenses. Head coach Doc Sadler continues to recruit a healthy mix of transfers and high school players, but over his five-year tenure nine of them have left due to reasons other than matriculation or the NBA. Nebraska has had some encouraging moments in recent years, including a five game improvement in Big 12 play from 2009 to 2010 (from 2-14 to 7-9). The team’s defensive efficiency would’ve finished fourth and it’s adjusted tempo would’ve finished fourth slowest in last year’s Big Ten. In some respects, Nebraska feels like a perfect match for the conference. And yet, for many of those same reasons, it might be a little out-matched in its first few years.
  • Ed DeChellis Leaves For Navy – Nowadays, stories like these are rarer than that bloody slice of carpaccio you once had at a fancy restaurant: a coach leaving a higher paying, higher-infrastructure, higher strength-of-schedule situation for a middle of the pack team in a unambiguously low-major conference. Make no mistake: Ed DeChellis didn’t become the new head coach at Navy. He stopped being the head coach at Penn State. Unless they’re ousted via scandal or especially egregious results you simply don’t hear about power six coaches voluntarily leaving for a “lesser” job. And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Or is it? The answer to that question centers around just how much “less” of a job the Navy coaching position really is, and if anything DeChellis might have done warranted the move. The wink-wink nudge-nudge consensus is that while DeChellis didn’t necessarily knock anyone’s socks off, the school refuses to take basketball seriously. Some have lambasted the athletic department’s commitment to DeChellis and the program overall at a school that’s known best for intense linebackers and an 84 year-old Italian-American man. It will be interesting to observe new head coach Patrick Chambersin his first few seasons and see whether or not he runs into a similar set of struggles as DeChellis did during his tenure. If the holistic drawbacks of coaching in University Park really outweigh the benefits to the extent that someone would walk away from the position, then PSU has bigger problems to fix than figuring out how to win in the Big Ten this season. But if anyone can overcome whatever said “drawbacks” may or may not be, it’s Chambers.

    The Buckeyes, led by big man Jared Sullinger, are easy favorites in the Big Ten.

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