Big Ten Wonk
Friday, December 02, 2005
That heartiest of December perennials....
Gather 'round, alert readers, for a tradition as old as the hills! Very young hills, anyway. It's my Friday-after-ACC-Big Ten Challenge catch-up edition! A day when, at last, the flurry of game recaps and previews has subsided (except for tonight's eagerly anticipated Iowa-Fairfield tilt--see below) and your intrepid blogger can instead "see the big picture," "take in the forest as well as the trees," "give readers the satellite image," and "use lots of cliches inside quotation marks."

Turning back the yellowing blogospheric pages to look at the first such edition from a year ago, I note there's a time-honored structure to be followed today. It goes like this:

1. Post-Challenge musings on the state of the Big Ten. Last year's musing on this front, after losing the Challenge 7-2 to the ACC, was expressed with a succinctness that even Strunk & White would have lauded: "Aiiiiyeeee!"

2. Casual Friday musings on the state of the college hoops blogosphere. It was on this day last year that I first plugged Ken Pomeroy's blog and indeed the full readership of Big Ten Wonk at that time linked en masse to Ken. (Dad loved it but Mom said it had too many numbers.)

3. A completely extraneous link. Last year I linked to the page for Crispin Glover's 1989 classic recording, Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution, including must-hear covers of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," "Never Say 'Never' to Always," and (I am not making this up) "Selected Readings from Rat Catching."

So it shall be again this year--on with the triptych!

State of the Big Ten
Everyone declares for "a deeper" Big Ten this year but, in the interest of a frank and candid discussion of this delicate matter, let's name names, shall we? In light of 2005 NCAA participant Minnesota's seemingly precarious (if unforeseen and injury-related) situation, Purdue's continued struggles, and Northwestern's 1-3 run after a 2-0 start, what commentators are really implying, I think, when speaking of this putatively deeper conference is that Indiana and Michigan are going to be good this year.

As for the Hoosiers being good this year: well, duh. I'll post some team-by-team thoughts Monday and I may waggle an admonitory finger at IU's defense just to be cantankerous and trendily iconoclastic. But clearly this is going to be a sweet ride for Hoosier fans as long as the Beast of Bloomington's in residence and well-fed.

Which leaves Michigan. It's always the Wolverines that we wonder about, is it not? Some teams we know will be good, some we know will be bad. But it always seems like events in Ann Arbor could go either way.

The December schedule for the Wolverines brings with it the following foes: Notre Dame, Delaware State, South Florida, UCLA, Miami (Ohio), Coppin State, and Chicago State. Nice mix of "major"-conference competition with feisty up-and-comers, that--a mix that should provide some further clues as to this perpetually enigmatic bunch. Now, again, at the risk of hyping a post that I haven't started, I'll offer some typically hazy but at least up-to-the-minute conjecture on Michigan and ten other teams Monday. For now let me say that what I will look for this month from Tommy Amaker's team is consistency in the areas in which they should, it says here, have an advantage: rebounding and field goal defense. Stay tuned.

State of the college hoops blogosphere
Last night I somewhat tardily gave a listen to the first-ever Mid-Majority Report podcast. I realize many of you read my musings at work (suggested blog motto from Wonk's crack marketing staff: "Driving U.S. Productivity Down to Borderline-French Levels Since 2004") and are therefore a smidge reticent about hitting any link that contains the at-work four-letter word "mp3."

Understood--but give this a listen over the weekend: wry and avuncular host Kyle Whelliston talks first to college hoops macher Yoni Cohen and then to Chris Dortch, editor of the authoritative and quite rightly legendary Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. The theme here is love of the game at the grassroots and the sound of actual voices is oddly overdue in a hitherto print-hegemonic blogosphere.

Of particular utility for today's purposes is the discussion Yoni and Kyle had on what makes a hoops blog worthy of our time as readers. I herewith pile on with an admittedly pedestrian but nevertheless deeply valued blog characteristic: the thing this reader looks for first in a college hoops blog is existence.

Truly. An example: it is a source of continuing puzzlement to a dude slapping together a Big Ten hoops blog that there are still only a few blogs on Big Ten teams. Maybe I was swayed by the thriving blogging scene that took hold during this past college football season--I'd rather thought that by now we'd have, say, 20 hoops blogs on 11 teams.

Be that as it may: blogs that actually exist, Wonk salutes you! Let's have more of them.

Completely extraneous link (hereafter CEL)
Enjoy. (No, it's not a joke. It actually happened.)

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Fellow Majerus groupies take note
Rotund ratiocinator and former Utah coach Rich Majerus is quoted this morning on the two Big Ten players he would choose if he had his pick of the lot. And, no, they're not as obvious as you might think. Answers here.

The last ACC-Big Ten Challenge link of 2005
Ah, the memories, courtesy of Jeff Goodman at

This weekend in Big Ten hoops
Fairfield plays Iowa tonight in Iowa City as part of the host team's annual Hawkeye Challenge. Assuming the Hawkeyes emerge unscathed they will play the winner of tonight's Valparaiso-Tulane game tomorrow night. In non-Fairfield news, lawyers for former Iowa player Pierre Pierce have asked a Dallas County, Iowa, judge to review Pierce's two-year prison sentence.

Michigan plays Notre Dame tomorrow in South Bend (ESPN2, 2pm ET). Tommy Amaker says he likes the Wolverines' December mix of "major"-conference foes and feisty up-and-comers.

Illinois plays Xavier tomorrow at the United Center in Chicago, meaning it's time for the return of the "Illini like the United Center" meme! The men in orange have won 14 in a row at the UC. Nevertheless, Musketeer guard Stanley Burrell says his team will be ready: "All we've been talking about is playing Illinois.'' For his part, Bruce Weber (still hobbled and looking for someone to chauffeur him around out on the recruiting trail) feels good about one aspect of his team thus far: "The best part is our defense. We make it tough for people. We make them earn points." (From the unnecessary validation department: Weber's right. Illinois this season is allowing just 0.88 points per possession. More Monday.) Guess which current Illini player Weber praises with the following anecdote: "He almost got into a fight with Luther [Head] at Wisconsin." BONUS link for proactive Illini fans! Future Illinois opponent Georgetown is profiled most perceptively by the always read-worthy Jeff Shelman at this morning.

Wisconsin hosts Pepperdine tomorrow in Madison. Last year in Malibu the Waves dismembered the Badgers rather briskly, 75-61.

Michigan State plays Arkansas-Little Rock tomorrow in Grand Rapids, MI. This just in: Paul Davis decided to stay in East Lansing for his senior season. At this morning, Seth Davis says yay to that.

Minnesota hosts Coastal Carolina tomorrow in Minneapolis. Outstanding (and I mean Chris Dortch-level informative) preview of the Chanticleers here, courtesy of Gopher Hoops, fast joining cherished old Big Ten blogging war horses like Ryan Kobliska and Brian Cook in the must-read category.

Penn State plays Texas A&M tomorrow in College Station, TX. The Aggies are coached by former Illinois assistant Billy Gillispie, who, incidentally, has a new TV show.

Purdue plays Evansville tomorrow evening in Evansville, IN. This game is a hot ticket at Evansville, a school where students apparently gather casually in perfect perspectival symmetry to enjoy billiards, coffee, laughter, and notably loud murals.

Indiana hosts Eastern Michigan tomorrow night in Bloomington. Hoosier beast-in-residence Marco Killingsworth says he takes no pleasure from scoring 34 points in a losing effort against Duke. "I really feel that we're better than [Duke], to be straight up. I told our guys to take this loss and put it behind them, but don't forget it, either. We'll see them again." Mike Lucas of the (Madison, WI) Capital Times says Killingsworth--and J.J. Redick--"are special."

Northwestern hosts Delaware State tomorrow night in Evanston. Relive the memories of the Hornets' first-round NCAA tournament loss to Duke last year here.

BONUS all-Badger edition of Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Latest in a series: Bo, the swing, and the offensive glass
Your Wonkishness,

While watching the Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin game, my wife commented that UW does not seem to be in good offensive rebounding position when running the swing offense because everyone is hanging around the three point line. Since, to the best of my knowledge, she does not have a blog, I can only assume that you were able to come up with your observation independently from her, which is pretty insightful on your part.

I am more-or-less forced to agree with all of the boss’s observations. But you have an independent voice and still came up with the correct conclusion.

Good job.

Bruce B.
Hartford, WI

Bruce, I had the same thought while watching the same game--many times when a Badger would launch a shot there would be no Wisconsin players anywhere below the foul line. So please ask the boss how these very same oh-so-out-of-position Badgers can have such a robust 42.6 offensive rebound pct. so far this year? How do they do it?

When the boss finds out, please have her either tell me or start her own blog. ("Big Ten Wonkette"? Hmmm....)

The prognosticating for 2007 starts here

Just wanted to let you know that I love your site. Keep up the good work. Also....

Wisconsin has now scored over 80 points in six straight games dating back to the UNC Elite Eight game. I think we still take a lot of heat for Dick Bennett's slow-down style even though Bo would like play a bit up-tempo. This team is a work in progress but I fully expect the Badgers to challenge for the Big Ten title. We may not have the best talent but the schedule is very favorable and Bo can flat-out coach.

Next year we will be scary good with everybody but Ray Nixon returning!


Thanks, um, TheBadge! (Guess with a name like that you pretty much had to be a Wisconsin fan, huh? Or in U2.)

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