Feb. 1, 2008
by Jeff Smith
[ONE // a true chase for the championship]
Wow, is it crowded atop the Big Ten men's basketball standings. With Wisconsin's victory over Indiana in Madison on Thursday, the conference now boasts three teams at 7-1 in league play, followed by the Hoosiers at 6-1. The Badgers earned its lone conference loss by being upset by Purdue this past week. How about the job head coach Matt Painter has done with his young team this season? And Keaton Grant? Before he hit the game-winning free throw with less than two seconds left to beat Iowa this week, he sat down with the Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine to talk about the impact of the Wisconsin upset.
[TWO // speaking of impact players winning big ten championships...]
Congratulations to former Ohio State Buckeye guard Mike Conley, Jr., who was named to the Rookie Team for the annual Rookie Challenge Game during the NBA All-Star weekend. While former Buckeye teammate and No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden is out for the entire season with an injury, Conley is currently averaging 8.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Memphis Grizzlies. Last season, Conley and Oden helped OSU to the NCAA Championship final as a freshman.
[THREE // celebrating 40 and 400]
This past Thursday was a bittersweet celebration for the Michigan men's basketball team as it brought back legendary Wolverine icon Cazzie Russell to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of Crisler Arena. The facility is often referred to as "The House That Cazzie Built" and bigten.org featured Russell as "An Arena's Architect" earlier this year. Minnesota, however, played the role of spoiler as the Golden Gophers topped Michigan, 77-65. With the win, Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith, who is in his first season in Minneapolis, earned his 400th career victory.
[FOUR // but what about 650 career wins?]
That is the amount of victories Ohio State head women's basketball coach Jim Foster totaled on Monday. In defeating Penn State, 89-53, Foster improved his record to 650-261 (7.14) over a 30-season span. He is only the 13th Division I coach to win that many games. Remarkably, with stops at Vanderbilt and Saint Joseph's prior to Ohio State, Foster has led his teams to 20 or more wins in 21 of the last 23 years. Currently his Buckeyes are 15-6 overall.
[FIVE // enough basketball, let's talk wrestling]
Suffice to say this is an important week for the Minnesota wrestling squad. Ranked fourth in the country, the defending national champions play host to No. 1 Iowa on Friday and then travel to No. 3 Oklahoma State on Sunday. Friday night's meet against the Hawkeyes will be televised live by the Big Ten Network, and it is likely that six of the 10 probable matches will take place between ranked wrestlers, with five of those pairs ranked in the top-10 nationally. Recently the Big Ten Network highlighted this week's wrestling preview, including talking with the Golden Gophers' 133-pounder Mack Reiter.
[SIX // another big ten grappler draws national attention]
All eyes in the wrestling world have been on top-ranked and undefeated heavyweight Dustin Fox of Northwestern this year, but people outside the sport learned more of Fox's journey through a feature on espn.com this week. On Wednesday, Andy Hamilton of espn.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen delved into Fox's career, noting that the third-place finisher at NCAAs last year has helped build the Wildcats into one of the country's top contenders. Read more about Fox and Northwestern's recent resurgence in Hamilton's article.
[SEVEN // add one more prominent coach to the michigan family]
After leading the U.S. Women's National Team to a 45-1-9 record over the past three years, Greg Ryan was named head coach of Michigan's women soccer program on Friday. Ryan, who is just the second head coach in the program's 14-year history, previously spent eight years at the helm of Wisconsin from 1986-93, notching a record of 112-32-7. Welcome back to the Big Ten Greg!
[EIGHT // from michigan soccer to michigan softball...]
Michigan is one of three Big Ten softball teams ranked in the 2008 ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Preseason Poll, which was announced on Monday. Northwestern leads the conference contingent ranked sixth, followed by No. 12 Michigan and No. 22 Ohio State.
[NINE // sticking with softball]
Six conference standouts were listed among 50 of the nation's best players on a watch list this week for the 2008 USA Softball player of the Year award. Iowa's Emily Nichols, Michigan's Angela Findlay and Samantha Findlay, Ohio State's Sam Marder and Northwestern's Nicole Pauly and Tammy Williams are all on the list.
[TEN // there is a football game on sunday...]
In case you didn't know. Super Bowl XLII takes place Sunday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. A total of 14 former Big Ten student-athletes representing eight of the 11 schools are members of the two remaining squads in this historic game, which feature eight first-team All-Big Ten selections and one consensus All-American. On Thursday, bigten.org broke down the conference's representation in a Super Bowl Notebook, which can be found by clicking HERE! You would think that Tom Brady was at least an All-big Ten selection when he played at Michigan, right? Guess again...
[ELEVEN // colonel sanders]
Former Iowa Hawkeye Bob Sanders was honored with yet another award by the NFL on Thursday. The Indianapolis Colts star was named the GMC Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 96 tackles, 3.5 sacks for 17 yards, six pass break-ups, one fumble recovery and two interceptions for 32 yards. The Colts' defense led the NFL in fewest points allowed (262) and ranked second in pass defense (172.8) and third in total yards per game (279.7). We are sure the two-time Pro Bowl selection would prefer to be playing in Arizona this week defending the Colts' 2007 Super Bowl title, but congratulations to Bob nonetheless.
[ELEVENpointFIVE // celebrating black history month]
Typically we stop after eleven, but it should be noted that Friday marked the beginning of Black History Month. The Big Ten will be dedicating the month of February to featuring former African-American student-athletes from each of the conference institutions who continue to make an impact today. Follow this link for more information on the Big Ten's Black History Month celebration.