Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Presenting the All-Wonk Team (2.0)
The readers have spoken! And your intrepid blogger has listened carefully and at length to those readers who happened to echo Wonk's own arbitrary preconceived attitudes. So without further ado, I give you the revised All-Wonk Team: not necessarily the biggest talents or gaudiest stats, just guys you'd want in your foxhole.

First, a disclaimer. There are no Illinois players on the All-Wonk Team and, given that the Illini are the consensus number 1 team in the nation, this would seem to be something of a fatal flaw. But, as an Illinois fan himself, Wonk takes the attitude that the Illini as a whole are kind of on the entire hoops world's All-Wonk team right now. Dee Brown, Luther Head, Deron Williams, Roger Powell--these guys need no introduction. Consider each one of them an All-Wonk emeritus, alright? Now then....

Terence Dials, Ohio State. Lone holdover from the Preseason All-Wonk Team. Congratulations, Terence.

Jeff Horner, Iowa. A no-brainer. Just look at the guy's line: the 16 points and six assists per game you may expect. But almost six boards a game? He's the Hawkeyes' second-leading rebounder. Think of Horner this way: so far this season he's scored two more points than teammate Pierre Pierce. On 45 fewer shots from the field.

Aaron Johnson, Penn State. Your intrepid blogger has a continuous presumptive opening on the All-Wonk Team for the Big Ten's leading rebounder. (Note, however, that this procedural rule has a Kris Humphries Exception.) And right now that player would be Aaron Johnson--by a margin of more than 2.5 boards a game. Until his two-rebound performance against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Johnson was among the top five in the nation in rebounding. And even with that off game he's still averaging a notably robust 11 boards a game. Add in his 16 points a game and Johnson's the only player in the conference averaging a double-double. He's in.

Maurice Ager, Michigan State. Ager is putting up Horner-esque numbers (15.9 points a game, five boards, .531 on his three's, eighth in the conference in points per weighted shot (PPWS)) but no one notices because, unlike Horner, he's on an extremely talented team where expectations were already high.

Carl Landry, Purdue. The juco transfer leads the Boilermakers in points (15.3), rebounds (8.4), and blocks. True, a cynic might say praising someone who "leads the Boilermakers" is a little like hailing the "tallest midget in the circus." But Wonk likes Landry's fire and his upside.

Ivan Harris: Game 9 of "The Streak"
Tonight Ohio State's Ivan Harris will attempt to extend his astonishing no-free-throw streak, now in its ninth game, as he endeavors to become the first starter in Big Ten history to go an entire year without an FTA. Wonk's Senior Ivan Harris's Astonishing No-Free-Throw-Streak Bureau Chief reports that the pressure on Harris is "incredible, just as intense as that faced by DiMaggio in '41 from Game 40 on." Press credentials for tonight's game between the Buckeyes and Texas Tech in Dallas have reportedly been requested from as far away as Dayton and Zanesville.

Wonk knew Jay Bilas looked familiar....
ESPN's Jay Bilas dropped in on an Illinois chat room Tuesday night and say this for the man: though the occasion may have called for merely a five-question greet-and-go, Bilas really lingered and had a far-ranging discussion with the Illini fans.

Wonk won't bore you with Bilas's assessment of Illinois' chances to get to the Final Four or his take on Bruce Weber's motion offense. Let's get straight to the important stuff:

Q: Jay, what was it like working with Ken Howard during your cameo on "The White Shadow"?

Jay Bilas: "The White Shadow" was great. I was only 16 when I was on the show, and was a guy named Larsen. I was the best player on an all white team that a guy named Reese transferred to. All of the guys on the show seemed to be my age, but all were about 30, which seemed ancient at the time. I saw Ken Howard about two months ago, and he couldn't have been nicer. A great memory for me.

Wonk knew, of course, that Bilas appeared as "the Good Alien" in the 1990 movie, I Come in Peace (starring Dolph Lundgren). But who knew that Bilas had done a star turn on this TV favorite from the late '70s and early '80s? Having that on your resume just has to be interview ice-breaker gold.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
As noted above, Ohio State plays Texas Tech in Dallas tonight. (Links here, here, and here. The Sporting News puts tonight's game in the wrong city here.) Last night during the Northwestern-DePaul game the ESPN2 announcers were going on and on about Ohio State alum Bobby Knight, the fact that he was interested in the Buckeyes' job over the summer, etc., etc. Why does on-air talent so eagerly hype games as juicy coaching match ups in a tone of gossipy junior-high breathlessness? With the possible exception of a nifty sideline finger-pointing session in the second round of the 2000 tournament between Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski, Wonk has never once in his life seen a game that proceeded in a visually different way because the opposing coaches are former colleagues or hate each other passionately or whatever.

Northwestern beat DePaul in Evanston last night 56-52 (latest in a series of archetypal Welsh-Ryan Arena scores; links here, here, and here.) The game marked the NU debut of 6'10" Duke transfer Mike Thompson, who reminded Wonk of a guy who's just arrived from the football team: tremendous upside, needs work. Not surprising when you consider Thompson hasn't received quality minutes in a competitive setting in three years. The Blue Demons showed some zone looks in the first half, thus answering a question your intrepid blogger has sometimes pondered: what happens when a Princeton offense faces a zone? It suddenly looks much more normal.

Wisconsin beat UW-Milwaukee in Madison last night by the as-bad-as-it-sounds score of 66-37. (Links here, here and here.) No UWM player reached double figures. In the game's early minutes Brian Butch sank a three to make the score 9-2. As he came back up the court, the tall geeky white guy from Appleton, Wisconsin, bobbed his head in a would-be "that's-right" gesture of token woofing at the Panthers and for some reason Wonk's mind flashed to Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor arriving at the prison in Stir Crazy ("That's right, we bad!").

Minnesota beat Chicago State in Minneapolis last night 68-58. (Links here, here, and here.)

Must-read column this morning from Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press, who has this to say on Michigan's loss at home Tuesday night to Boston University: "This was one of the least exciting games I can remember at Crisler Arena and I watched the entire Brian Ellerbee era. At least back then, somebody might air-ball a three-pointer, then run back down the court and get arrested." (Also, Jim Carty's autopsy on the same game has at last risen to the surface at the perpetually and perhaps intentionally late-posting Ann Arbor News.)

Meramec beat Lewis and Clark 64-58 last night in St. Louis. No, Wonk is not trying to steal Mid-Majority's shtick. This game was played in the Edward Jones Dome specifically to serve as a Final Four dress rehearsal for proactive types from the NCAA and CBS.

BONUS Paige Laurie follow-up. Wonk's elderly readers will remember a long-ago time known as November 2004 when the University of Missouri suffered the humiliation of having to rename their new basketball arena after allegations surfaced that Paige Laurie cheated while a student at the University of Southern California. Now comes news that Elena Martinez, the woman who alleges that she was paid $20,000 over three years by Laurie to write term papers for the Wal-Mart heiress at USC, has secured the services of an agent who is shopping her story for a potential movie deal.

Grant Wahl of indulges his "unholy fascination with undefeated teams" here and handicaps which of the 18 remaining D-I undefeateds have the best shot at running the table. Wahl's choice as worst undefeated team: Texas A&M. His take on 6-0 Cincinnati: "The Bearcats beat Purdue, but so does everybody these days." (BONUS Grant Wahl Cliffs Notes. One of this week's separated-at-birth entries: Paul Davis and...Josh Hartnett? Sorry. Not seeing it--though come to think of it both of them do tend to make Wonk kind of sleepy.)

Something called the College Basketball Partnership was announced at a press conference yesterday in Madison Square Garden and it's good to see this writer every bit as confused as Wonk as to what exactly this is and what precisely they intend to do.

This piece, on the daunting challenges (Wonk is not making this up) faced by Big Ten big men in finding clothes that fit, is either so post-ironic it's brilliant or is a pitiful mark of desperation from a harassed beat writer on a slow day. You make the call.

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