Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, November 18, 2004
EXCLUSIVE Wonk bold prediction: Iowa will either be good or bad
Wonk has posted on this once before but it simply cannot be emphasized enough: the Hawkeyes have a sweet schedule this year. Steve Alford’s team faces only two nothing’s-certain-but-this-is-close losses: at Illinois and at Wisconsin (between them the Illini and the Badgers have lost a total of two home games the past two seasons). That leaves six other road games in conference. Half of those are against bottom-feeders Ohio State, Minnesota and Penn State. And Iowa could go 1-2 if not better at Northwestern, Purdue, and Michigan. So even if they drop one at home, the Hawkeyes are looking at 11-5 or 10-6, more than enough for a ticket to the big dance.

But with Alford's teams there is always, it seems, the possibility of the wheels coming off completely, as they did in 2001-02, when a team led by Luke Recker and Reggie Evans and picked by many to win the Big Ten instead
imploded and finished 5-11 in the conference. In the Alford era, transfers out of Iowa City have been many and fans in seats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena have been few. (Wonk loved this classic piece of damning-with-faint-praise from’s Andy Katz a couple years ago: “[Marcellus Sommerville is] the seventh player to leave Alford's program since he took over in March of 1999. His departure leaves Iowa with 10 scholarship players, including three freshmen. The Hawkeyes haven't lost a star player yet, and until they do under Alford, it's premature to raise the red flag on these defections.”) Even talking amongst themselves in their own chat rooms, Hawkeye fans can’t convince themselves that getting to the tournament’s a sure thing.

And if they're not convinced why should Wonk be?

The NIT win streak continues
Michigan defeated Colorado in Ann Arbor last night 69-60 in second-round Preseason NIT action. The Wolverines will travel to New York for a Wendesday night game against the winner of tonight's Arizona-Wright State matchup. Links here, here, and here.

Pastry shelf
Illinois opens its season tomorrow night against Delaware State. Located in Dover, Delaware State is so much more than just the most disturbing life-sized Hornet mascot you've ever seen. DSU also supports a lively "on-line" "chat" community! Link here to go to "The Buzz," DSU's main page for chat forums and perhaps the most inappropriately named site Wonk has ever seen. The kindly and paternal staff at DSU have set up no fewer than 13 different chat rooms--that so far have attracted a grand total of 20 posts. Wonk can't imagine why. The topics chosen by site administrators just beg for posting: "Freshman want to know" (sic, I think, unless they're doing a reggae thing), "Sophomores takin' it slow," "Juniors goin' with the flow," "Seniors ready to go," and "Alumni bringin' in the dough." Wonk is feelin' kinda low!

Proof we are all quite old
The lead headline on the main page at today makes a nice and appropriate Lemonheads reference. When I was a kid, part of the attraction of Sports Illustrated, conversely, was that its writers (gruff scary types like Frank DeFord) clearly had no idea about and no interest in such frivolous things as music.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Jeff Shelman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune weighs in with over 2,000 words on why it's make-or-break time for Minnesota coach Dan Monson here. Shelman's conference preview/picks here. Gopher previews here and here.

The apparently indefatigable Shelman also moonlights for and profiles Ohio State coach Thad Matta

Referring to Michigan State's incoming freshman point guard, the Detroit Free Press
asks: "Is Neitzel a Spartans savior?" (The Lansing State Journal certainly thinks so. Wonk, on the other hand doubts it.) Also today: Free Press conference preview here. (Surprise pick: Northwestern at fourth.)

Very good Q&A with Spartans coach Tom Izzo
here, on the occasion of his tenth season. Said it before and will say it again: Wonk likes Izzo.

The Indianapolis Star is out with its
college basketball preview today. Included: a tribute to outgoing Purdue coach Gene Keady (including, as far as Wonk knows, an unprecedented offer to install "Keady's Swan Song" wallpaper on your computer); a polite but unmistakably don't-hold-you-breath preview of Purdue; a cautiously optimistic preview of Indiana; a polite but unmistakably arm's-length profile of Wonk All-Head-Case selection Bracey Wright; and "power rankings" for conference teams (Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Michigan are 1-4).

Profile of Iowa's Adam Haluska
here. Combo profile of and injury update on Haluska here.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber continues to recuperate nicely from Monday's appendectomy. Links
here, here, and here.

Latest example of Wonk's new favorite visual cliche--a picture of Penn State playing in front of empty seats--

here for excerpts from the print edition's college basketball preview at

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