In today's less Wonk-ish venues.... Iowa hosts Illinois today (this morning, Central Time) in Iowa City. Steve Alford made some pointed comments Wednesday night after his team lost at Purdue ("If you don't have a talkative leader on the floor, especially the last five or six minutes, it's tough to win") but he now denies his remarks were directed at Jeff Horner: "I never mentioned Jeff, the media mentioned Jeff." Got that? (Or is that not what Woodward and Bernstein would have termed a non-denial denial?) Now....Susan Harman of the Iowa City Press-Citizen briskly itemizes the on-court post-Pierce fallout: "Horner is playing the off guard as well as the point in order for Henderson to play a comfortable position. While Iowa clearly is a better team with Horner at the point, Reed has been inconsistent at the off guard, and Henderson isn't equipped to play there. The domino effect has weakened Iowa at a couple positions." And yet, even without Pierce, the Hawkeyes have played close games against Michigan State (home) and Wisconsin (road). Marlen Garcia of the Chicago Tribune says that without Pierce, "the Hawkeyes clearly are lost in clutch moments down the stretch." Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times looks at Iowa's recent history of losing records in-conference and notes that Alford "never seems to be playing with a full deck when the most important part of the college basketball season rolls around," a phrase open to differing interpretations. For his part, Hawkeye big man Greg Brunner says the season's not over yet. "My teammates are getting sick of hearing me say it, but I'm tired of going to the NIT. We're a different team than we were a couple of weeks ago, but we're still stocked with enough talent to get to the NCAAs. I'm working to make that happen."Bruce Weber says his team will be ready. "I think them playing us close the first time helps. We had a tough game with them. I know my guys respect them." Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper forecasts that Weber today will make use of this classic Weberian reminder: "The people that we don't fear can beat us." (Same link: Weber notes he doesn't play his starting five as a unit in practice, preferring instead to have them face each other whenever possible, on the theory that the tougher competition will improve their performance.) BONUS blog-watch note: Don't miss the outstanding game preview at Hawkeye Hoops. That's right! Ryan's back! After more than a week of silence, the site that's been defining state-of-the-art in team blogs since 2004 is back on-line--and we, the readers, are the winners! In Ryan's sudden absence, Wonk had imagined all kinds of dramatic scenarios to explain his site's inactivity. Maybe, Wonk thought, Ryan is bravely protesting this or that in the tumultuous Hawkeye world. That would have been cool. Wonk even had some verbiage in mind that he could contribute to an all-blog-star celebrity tribute to Ryan (snippets from A Shropshire Lad, etc.--strictly class material, folks). Turns out he was having internet trouble. In any event: welcome back, Ryan! The blogosphere sorely missed your coolly precise almost Pomeroy-esque analyses.Pierce update. Former Iowa guard Pierre Pierce, dismissed from the team by Steve Alford on February 2, now faces four charges instead of six--but three of those four are now felonies. The charges stem from an alleged altercation between Pierce and his ex-girlfriend on January 27. His arraignment is scheduled for March 4.Purdue hosts Michigan State today in West Lafayette and the day's festivities will include a tribute to Gene Keady, attended by scores of former Boilermaker players and managers. As for the little matter of the game itself, Carl Landry is talking big. "I know we can beat them," Landry says of the Spartans. (Tom Izzo says Landry reminds him of Zach Randolph.) The Boilers played a 1-2-2 zone in the second half of their comeback win against Iowa Wednesday night--that look on D, once anathema to Keady, may reappear today. Columnist Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press says the oft-critiqued but nevertheless 18-4 Spartans are learning the price of success: "MSU basketball, like Michigan football, is discovering a sad truth about our sports climate: Win, and we expect you to keep winning. Win them all, and we expect you to do it again." BONUS odd stat: Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal points out that Michigan State's defense has been better on the road of late than at home.Minnesota hosts Ohio State today in Minneapolis. Jeff Shelman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune says that for the Gophers, "it all comes down to this: Win the final four regular-season games and they'll likely reach the NCAA tournament. Win fewer than four and their hopes probably hinge on the outcome of the Big Ten tournament." Exactly....Ohio State will be playing without Matt Sylvester, suspended for one game after he reportedly spit on a fan while leaving the court in the Breslin Center in the wake of the Buckeyes' loss last week at Michigan State.Northwestern hosts Penn State today in Evanston. (Link here.)Still no word on whether or not suspended Michigan guard Daniel Horton will be reinstated to play in tomorrow's game against Indiana.Wonk back! Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me! Iconic, yes. Innovative?Yesterday Wonk noted the pose adopted for the cameras by Louisville's Francisco Garcia Thursday night after he'd hit the game-winning three to defeat Marquette. In victory Garcia stretched out his jersey to display the "Louisville" on his uniform for the convenience of the fans. (See Garcia's pose here.) Strikingly similar, your intrepid blogger noted, to the pose famously adopted by Dee Brown (link here) after draining some big three's on the road against Purdue earlier this season.Turns out Brown may not have invented the pose after all. Your intrepid blogger has received an update from alert reader David G., who sends "a pretty good pic of Keith Bogans & Gerald Fitch showing the 'Rowdy Reptiles' their jerseys a couple of years ago following a Kentucky win over Florida in Gainesville." Link here to see the picture sent by David. Note how Bogans in particular appears to be mouthing a key consonant with gusto. Wonk trusts Bogans was telling the Gator faithful what FINE FANS they are.Thanks, David!