Big Ten Wonk
Saturday, January 22, 2005
COMING Monday....
Updated PPWS numbers for the best and worst of 70-odd Big Ten starters and key reserves. Will Michigan State's Kelvin Torbert still be number 1? Will Purdue's Brandon McKnight still be anchor-man? Tune in Monday!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Michigan hosts Wisconsin today in Ann Arbor. After missing the last three minutes of Sunday's game against Michigan State, Badger forward Alando Tucker is listed as "probable." (Wolverine link here. Badger links here, here, and here.)

Iowa hosts Purdue today in Iowa City. Boilermaker coach Gene Keady dismisses speculation that his team would benefit from the presence of guard Melvin Buckley (who transferred to South Florida in April) and forward Ije Nwankwo (who transferred to Cleveland State in November). "I wasn't enjoying it when we've got guys that are uncoachable or who resist you," says Keady. "I've never had guys talk back to me before. A couple of them talked back and they are gone." (Additional Boiler link here. Preview from Ryan at Hawkeye Hoops here. Farewell-to-Keady-themed mainstream Hawkeye links here and here.)

Minnesota hosts Michigan State today in freshly-snow-covered Minneapolis. The status of Gopher big man Jeff Hagen for today's game is in doubt after he sprained his knee Wednesday night against Ohio State. (Gopher link here. Spartan links here, here, and here.)

Penn State hosts Northwestern in State College today. Wonk has held forth on the possibility of the Nittany Lions going 0-16 in conference this year. Today's game is one of their best chances to avoid that fate, for reasons expressed perfectly by Wildcat truth-teller Tim Doyle: "We just don't win on the road or at neutral sites." (PSU link here. Wildcat links here and here.)

Indiana hosts Ohio State in Bloomington tonight. (Hoosier link here. Buckeye link here.)

Off-day Illinois coverage here, here, and here.

Andy Katz of lists Wisconsin-Michigan State as one of eight rivalries "with juice" here.

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(BAM in Illiniese stands for Bruce Almighty)
Alert reader and Illinois fan Jason H. gives his take on the Illini's heart-stopping OT victory Thursday night over Iowa:


I tell you, last night was good for the heart. What with all the screaming and jumping and contortions, I felt like a young, healthy, and fit man again. Today, my back hurts.

Anyway, why is everyone just now figuring out that, um, Luther can ball a bit? Did he really inhabit such oblivion last year? I know I'm somewhat biased here: I've thought from day one that Luther had tremendous potential and unnatural athleticism. But really, Musburger acted like Luther fell from Mars in November, happily landed next to the Hall, whereby Weber saw him and said, "hey, can you shoot it?" Luther had gotten better every year, in just about every way a player should grow: defense, offense, passing, ball handling, and court decisions.

I also stand corrected on my campaign supporting Augustine for the All-Wonk team. Boy, I was wrong. I saw fear in him last night, like "please don't pass me the ball" fear. Not good. He boarded like a mad fool and challenged any shot he was near, but when he received a pass, he immediately looked to dish. I restate, not grand.

Personally, I feel like yesterday's performance and the early Big Ten play sets up well for the Illini. They are heading to Madison attempting to go 20-0 and end the longest home winning streak in the country, and just before they did that, they became mere mortals. Underdogs. Dismissed.

Or, at least, BAM can work that angle. But let's be honest about the top teams recently. Carolina was drilled by Wake, who in turn took in on the chin in Tallahassee. Kansas continues to win squeakers. Let's examine the Illini. They have now played one game where the outcome was in question with less than five minutes remaining. They have not lost. Life is still good in orange.

I'm with Tupper: we will win Tuesday (and it will be deliciously good cake).

Happy weekend,

Jason H.

Thanks, Jason!

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