Jan. 29, 2012
[ONE // big ten representation will be super]
The Big Ten Conference will be well-represented on Sunday, Feb. 5, in Super Bowl XLVI at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Big Ten Football Championship Game. Twenty-two former student-athletes and eight coaches with conference connections appear on the rosters of the New England Patriots and New York Giants. The Big Ten and the SEC (23 players) are the only conferences with 20 or more players on the two Super Bowl squads, followed by the ACC (17), Pac-12 (13) and Big East (11). The Big Ten has also produced two of the last three Super Bowl Most Valuable Players in former Purdue quarterback Drew Brees (Super Bowl XLIV Champion New Orleans) and Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes (Super Bowl XLIII Champion Pittsburgh). Ten of the 12 Big Ten schools will be represented on the Super Bowl rosters, while five will be represented by an assistant coach. Michigan is tied for second among all schools with four players, followed by Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue with three each. The Patriots boast eight former Big Ten players from five different schools on their roster. Fourteen former Big Ten standouts from nine different schools will compete for the Giants in the Super Bowl.
[TWO // a senior sendoff]
A total of 21 Big Ten football standouts participated in the annual Senior Bowl this past Saturday, including 19 players on the North Team, which claimed a 23-13 victory over the South. Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins both threw one touchdown and Purdue's Carson Wiggs hit three field goals and a pair of extra points to help the North Team tally the victory. Wilson was 4-of-7 passing for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Cousins was 5-of-11 for 114 yards with a score and a pick. For a complete stat breakdown of how the Big Ten seniors performed in the game, check out Brent's Big Blog over at BTN.com.
[THREE // ohio state maintains lead in men's basketball race]
With a 64-49 victory over rival Michigan Sunday, No. 4/3 Ohio State earned sole possession of first place in the Big Ten men's basketball standings at 7-2. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 17 points and had a career-high 12 rebounds to help the Buckeyes past the No. 20/22 Wolverines. No. 10/11 Michigan State sits second at 6-2 following a 68-52 win over Minnesota on Wednesday, which gave Tom Izzo his 400th victory. That same night, the Buckeyes stormed past Penn State, 78-54, on the heels of Jared Sullinger's 20 points and 13 rebounds. In other action this past week, Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 19 points to help Michigan defeat Purdue 66-64 on Tuesday, while Ben Brust scored 13 points to guide No. 25/25 Wisconsin past No. 16/17 Indiana 57-50 on Thursday. Minnesota shocked Illinois in Minneapolis on Saturday with a 77-72 overtime thriller and Indiana did something Sunday it had not done in a conference game since 1995. Behind a season-high 26 points from freshman Cody Zeller, the Hoosiers eclipsed the century mark in a 103-89 defeat over Iowa, which was the first time that had happened since IU defeated the Hawkeyes 110-79 on March 12, 1995.
[FOUR // streaks, sweeps and upsets highlight week of women's basketball]
This past week in Big Ten women's basketball was certainly a headline maker for several teams as streaks were extended and snapped, teams were swept in the regular season, and upsets proved to be the common theme. On Monday, Purdue improved its winning streak to 10 games with a 67-49 victory over Michigan State and then to 11 contests with an 80-70 victory Thursday over Northwestern. The Boilermakers saw their steak snapped on Saturday as 13th-ranked Purdue was upset by Iowa, 59-42. Speaking of streaks, the Lady Lions of Penn State are a perfect 4-0 on the road in conference contests this season following a 77-56 win at Michigan on Thursday. Illinois earned its first victory at Michigan State since 2003 with a 71-62 win over the Spartans on Thursday. Also on Thursday, Nebraska completed a season sweep of Iowa with a 60-53 result in Lincoln, while Northwestern swept the season series against Indiana Sunday for the first time since the 1996-97 season. In addition to Iowa's upset over Purdue, Minnesota shocked No. 9/9 Ohio State 76-65 on Sunday, which marked the first time the Gophers had defeated a ranked opponent since March 22, 2009. Also on Sunday, Porsche Poole scored a career-high 32 points to guide Michigan State past No. 18 Penn State 83-77. Following a 28-point effort in a loss to Illinois, Poole was 10-for-15 from the field, including hitting three 3-pointers.
[FIVE // big ten pair halfway to wooden award]
Two Big Ten women's basketball players were named to the 2012 Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 list, it was announced on Friday. Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis and Penn State's Alex Bentley were among 20 players around the country named to the midseason watch list, the second time Prahalis was named a midseason watch member and the first such honor for Bentley. The winner will be honored at an awards gala on April 6.
[SIX // ahead of the class]
The Big Ten leads all conferences with five players named finalists for the men's and women's basketball Lowe's Senior Class Awards. Michigan's Zack Novak, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Ohio State's William Buford and Purdue's Robbie Hummel were named among the 10 finalists for the men's honor, while the Boilermakers' Brittany Rayburn is a finalist for the women's award. The Big Ten is the only conference with multiple finalists for the men's accolade, while Purdue is the only school with a finalist for the men's and women's honors. The awards are given to Division I seniors with notable achievements in the areas of community, character and competition. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to determine the winners. Fans are encouraged to vote on either the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award website or the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award Facebook fan page through March 18.
[SEVEN // pair of top-six matchups headline big ten wrestling]
A pair of top-six matchups Sunday highlighted the slate for Big Ten wrestling this past week. No. 2 Penn State was impressive in a 34-9 victory over No. 5 Ohio State, while No. 6 Iowa edged out No. 3 Minnesota, 19-17. The Golden Gophers did manage to post a win on Friday, besting 11th-ranked Michigan by a 23-15 count. In other action Friday, No. 8 Illinois topped No. 18 Northwestern 26-10 and No. 7 Nebraska defeated Michigan State, 27-8. On Saturday, the Huskers blanked Wisconsin 36-0, Northwestern edged Purdue 21-18, Illinois stopped Indiana 29-10, and Michigan dropped rival Michigan State, 26-9.
[EIGHT // wrestling coaches release first of three panel rankings]
The NCAA released the first of three coaches' panel rankings leading up to the 2012 NCAA Wrestling Championships on Friday, with 86 Big Ten wrestlers making the initial cut. All 12 Big Ten teams have at least two wrestlers ranked in the top 33 in each weight class. Minnesota and Penn State lead the way for the conference contingent with all 10 of each team's starters listed among the ranked wrestlers, while Iowa and Ohio State follow with nine each. The Big Ten also boasts three top-ranked grapplers, as Minnesota 125-pounder Zach Sanders and Penn State 149-pounder Frank Molinaro and 165-pounder David Taylor each earned top bidding in the first set of rankings. The Nittany Lions are the only team in the country with two top-ranked wrestlers.
[NINE // other olympic notes and newsmakers]
Elsewhere around the conference this past week, congratulations to the second-ranked Illinois men's gymnastics team, which took down No. 1 Oklahoma (347.700) and No. 7 Michigan (339.100) Saturday night at Huff Hall with an overall team score of 349.800. Redshirt senior Paul Ruggeri captured titles on vault and high bar, passing head coach Justin Spring (59) on the all-time titles list with 60 career wins to rank fourth in school history. Illinois' Andrew Riley took home two titles in the 60m and 60m hurdles for the second consecutive week, resetting his school record in the 60m dash at the Mark Colligan Memorial by clocking a 6.70 in the prelims and then winning the event in a time of 6.72. Minnesota's Harun Abda and David Pachuta each hit NCAA Automatic Qualifying times in the 800m at the Bill Bergan Invitational on Saturday. Abda took first after clocking in at 1:46.97 and Pachuta was on his tail finishing at 1:46.97. Both times are the fastest in the country and are the top times in Minnesota history. In women's track and field, No. 20 Michigan took first place at the Mark Colligan Memorial behind event wins from Jillian Smith (mile), Rebecca Addison (3,000m), Taylor Pogue (5,000m), Tofunmi Akeredolu (long jump) and Ada Unachukwu (triple jump). Brooke Bolender claimed a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win in the decisive singles match to complete No. 10 Michigan's 4-3 comeback win over Yale in the ITA Kickoff Weekend final and qualify the Wolverines for the ITA Indoor Team Championship for the third consecutive year. Northwestern also reached the ITA Indoor Championship with a comeback win over Nebraska, clinched by Nida Hamilton's deciding win over Maike Zeppernick. In swimming, Iowa's Manuel Belzer broke the pool record in the 1,650 with a time of 15:28.85 at the Shamrock Invitational Saturday at the Rolfs Aquatics Center Rolfs Aquatics Center in South Bend, Ind.
[TEN // four softball teams appear in national softball polls]
Four Big Ten softball teams appeared in one or both preseason polls released by USA Softball and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association on Tuesday. Michigan and Nebraska both appeared in the top 25 of both rankings, with the Wolverines checking in at No. 15 in the NFCA poll and No. 16 in the USA Softball rankings and the Huskers appearing at No. 21 in the NFCA rankings and No. 20 in the USA Softball poll. Ohio State and Northwestern were among other squads also receiving votes in the rankings released by USA Softball.
[ELEVEN // now on the tee]
The spring portion of the 2011-12 Big Ten men's golf schedule got underway on Saturday, with Illinois traveling to Coral Springs, Fla., to compete against Illinois State in the Tinervin Cup. The Fighting Illini remained perfect in the event at 9-0 with a 7-2 victory over the Redbirds. Iowa opens its spring schedule at the Big Four Match Play Challenge in Phoenix, Ariz., on Feb. 4, while the remaining 10 conference teams begin spring play a week later at the Big Ten Match Play Championship. All 12 conference squads will compete in the fourth annual Big Ten Match Play Championship, scheduled for Feb. 10-11 at the Concession Golf Club in Sarasota, Fla. The 2012 schedule winds down with the Big Ten Championships on April 27-29 at French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind., followed by NCAA Regionals on May 17-19 and the NCAA Championships on May 29-June 3. Four Big Ten teams closed the fall season ranked in the Golfweek/Sagarin top 50. Illinois led the pack at No. 25, followed by No. 31 Indiana, No. 32 Iowa and No. 41 Purdue.
[TWELVE // honoring a pair of legends]
Finally this week, the Big Ten said goodbye to two conference legends, one who made his mark with wins on the football field and with charitable donations off the field, while the other clocked in each day to ensure the student-athlete was always shown in a positive light. On Thursday, the entire Penn State community said a final goodbye to legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who died of lung cancer last week. BTN will re-air Joe Paterno's public memorial service, "A Memorial for Joe," at 7 a.m. ET Tuesday. The event, which aired live on BTN last Thursday from a packed Bryce Jordan Center, featured videos of Paterno throughout his legendary Penn State career and 13 speakers. Also on Thursday, the Big Ten was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Ohio State SID D.C. Koehl, who died from complications of a fall he had in late November. He was 61. Koehl was in his 39th year with the Department of Athletics. He joined the department's sports information office in July 1973 after graduating from Ohio State earlier that year with a degree in public recreation. He was a basketball manager for four years while an undergraduate, working for Hall of Fame coach Fred Taylor, and served as head manager for the team as a senior. Koehl was the athletics communications contact for the men's and women's teams for the last 30 years. He came to work each day focused on promoting the student-athlete, and while most SIDs spend time behind the scenes and out of the headlines, D.C. absolutely deserves the recognition for all of his dedicated work in promoting The Ohio State University.