Big Ten Wonk
Saturday, January 29, 2005
COMING Tuesday....
Complete game-day coverage of Illinois-Michigan State, featuring an interview with Dave Dye, Spartan beat writer for the Detroit News. Dye will share his insider's view of Tom Izzo, Paul Davis, and the rest of the Spartans--and tell us who's going to win the big game. Tune in Tuesday!

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Northwestern hosts Ohio State today in Evanston. Wildcat coach Bill Carmody says Mohamed Hachad will continue to start. Hachad has struggled thus far this year while reserve guard Michael Jenkins has garnered more positive reviews, most recently Wednesday night when his three-point shot in overtime gave NU the winning margin over Iowa. Hachad has started 60 consecutive games. Ohio State is 0-5 in games played on an opponent's home floor this year. (Additional Wildcat link here. Buckeye link here.)

Iowa hosts Indiana today in Iowa City. The Indianapolis Star's indefatigable Hoosier beat writer, Terry Hutchens, opens his game-day write up thusly: "It was the 44th minute of a 45-minute interview and Steve Alford knew the question was coming: If there were a coaching vacancy at Indiana University, could you see yourself returning to lead your alma mater?" Alford's answer here but even better is Hutchens' perfect (downright Shavian!) sum-up of this curious fact:

"In Indiana, IU basketball fans constantly make a pitch for Alford's return."

"In Iowa, there's a large group that wishes Hoosiers fans would get their way."

More from today's Indy Star: coaches returning to their alma maters don't always work out--look at Matt Doherty. For his part Alford has hinted at "some changes to start the game," which likely means Doug Thomas starting in place of Erek Hansen (two points and two boards in 17 minutes against Northwestern). Both Indiana and Iowa enter the game with key players struggling from the outside. Bracey Wright is yet to make a three-point shot on the road in the Big Ten this year. Jeff Horner has hit just 11 of his last 34 three's. (More from the Hawkeye beat here.)

Illinois hosts Minnesota today in Champaign. Gopher beat writer Jeff Shelman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has returned to a familiar place (he covered the Illini in the early 1990s for the Danville Commercial-News) but found things are a bit more lively this year: "While Illinois basketball has always been a winter staple in central Illinois, things are different now. This Illini team--undefeated and top-ranked nationally--has painted an entire state orange." Minnesota big man Jeff Hagen says the Gophers will "play our style and see what happens."

Illini players are apparently warming to the meme (voiced yesterday by Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey) that they don't particularly need or want a loss just to take the pressure off. "I want to win them all," says Deron Williams. (Frank Burlison of the Sporting News looks at Illinois' chances of running the table here.) The Illini are also holding festivities today to mark the 100th year of men's basketball at Illinois. More orange and blue game previews: here, here, and here. Illini's-eye view of the Gophers here.

Penn State hosts Wisconsin tonight in State College. Surprisingly, the Badgers have lost three straight at the Bryce Jordan Center. (PSU link here. Badger links here and here.)

Michigan State hosts Oakland tonight in East Lansing. (Links here and here.)

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Latest in a series of Saturday recaps from alert reader and Illini fan Jason

So as I sat there this glorious Tuesday past, I was a bit stunned. Certainly, it wasn't over with 4:29 to play and down 64-61. But that run, that 14-1 run to finish in Kohl? Never saw it coming.


I think I was still dazed yesterday, still unsure I saw Wisconsin collapse and UI blister onward simultaneously. Oh, but links abound, and they all confirmed what I saw.

There are always games in a season that begin a new trend line, either upward or downward. I'll humbly submit, that even though Illinois entered that game at 19-0, that was the type of colossal win which pushes the upward trend. If they didn't know John Cheney's mantra already, they do now: anyone, anywhere, anytime. And I believe they'll be stoked for another hostile crowd and difficult road game this Tuesday (but I'm withholding predictions on that one!).

I'm not sure the national types quite get the enormity of Illinois winning in Kohl, and maybe Illini fans (that would be me) are overly sensitive to it because Kohl has been our team's personal house of horrors (much like the Barn is to IU). But conference media types and Illini fans understand. As I predicted, it was deliciously sweet cake.

Jason H.

Thanks, Jason!

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