July 5, 2009
[ONE // buckeyes scheduled to compete in preseason wnit]
The Ohio State women’s basketball team learned this past week that it will be among 16 teams that will compete in the 2009 Preseason Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) in November. The Buckeyes, who are ranked among the Top 5 in early preseason polls, will open at home against Eastern Illinois at 5 p.m. ET Friday, Nov. 13. OSU returns four starters from a record-setting 2008-09 team which won its record-tying fifth-consecutive Big Ten regular season championship, the Big Ten Tournament crown and advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. For more information on the Preseason WNIT, visit the website at www.womensnit.com.
[TWO // spartans’ merchant and osu’s lavender enjoying time with team usa]
Two Big Ten representatives spent the Independence Day holiday weekend wearing the red, white and blue proudly on the basketball court. Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant and Ohio State standout Jantel Lavender have helped the USA Women's World University Games Team to a 4-0 start this past week. Team USA opened with easy wins over France (115-30), Great Britain (93-59) and host Serbia (84-50), but had to battle on Sunday in Belgrade for a 75-67 win over Poland. Lavender is second in the team in scoring (13.3) and first in rebounding (9.0), while blogging her way through the round of games. Merchant is also being quite the social networker as well, and her blog can be found here.
[THREE // big ten contingent supporting men’s team usa efforts]
In addition to the women, the Big Ten men are also represented in the World University Games as part of Team USA. This past week the U.S. captured wins over Russia (67-63), Finland (87-40) and South Korea (113-76). Penn State’s Talor Battle is leading Team USA with 11.5 points per game, while Purdue’s Robbie Hummel is posting 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest. Ohio State’s Evan Turner is pacing the squad with 2.0 assists per game and is second in rebounding at 7.0 caroms per game. Team USA is coached by Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan.
[FOUR // hoosiers look to “never give up” at madison square garden]
The Indiana men’s basketball team is looking to compete this 2009-10 season and the nonconference schedule picked up one more impressive opponent this past week. IU learned it will face Pittsburgh in the second game of the 2009 Jimmy V Classic scheduled for 9 p.m., Tuesday Dec. 8, in New York's Madison Square Garden. This is the 15th Annual Classic, with Indiana making its second appearance in the event (1999). IU holds a 4-3 record against Pittsburgh despite losing 74-52 in the last meeting between the schools in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. In addition to the Jimmy V Classic, the Hoosiers will also partake in the 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge this fall, hosting a Nov. 30 matchup against Maryland.
[FIVE // buckeyes’ boss to oversee basketball bracket]
Speaking of Big Ten men’s basketball and challenging opponents, congratulations to Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith on his appointment to chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2010-11 academic year. Smith, who will begin his term on Sept. 1, 2010, will now be in charge of picking 65 of the most challenging opponents for the postseason tournament. Since coming to Columbus in 2005, Smith has served on the NCAA men’s basketball committee and has a long history of service to intercollegiate athletics, including being a member of the NCAA’s Management Council, the Committee on Infractions, the Executive Committee, the Football Rules Committee, the Baseball Academic Enhancement Task Force and the President’s Commission Liaison Committee. In addition, he is a member of the Basketball Academic Enhancement Group and has served on USA Basketball’s Finance and Audit Committee, and as president of both the Division I-A Athletics Directors Association and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
[SIX // illini marketing earns gold medal in basketball]
And from NACDA to NACMA… Congratulations to Illinois’ marketing and promotions department on recently winning first in the Single-Day Attendance Promotion, as awarded by the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) for the 2008-09 season. For those who don’t remember, Illinois’ men’s and women’s basketball teams held their first practice of the season following the Illini's sold-out football game against Minnesota on Oct. 11. Over 60,000 fans witnessed the “World's Biggest Basketball Practice” – the largest crowd ever for a men's basketball practice and is the highest attendance to witness any women's basketball event. This honor marks the third year in a row that the Illinois marketing department has been awarded gold by NACMA for a Single-Day Attendance promotion, following the Illini Madness event for basketball in 2008 and Scout Day for football in 2007. Congrats to the Orange and Blue!
[SEVEN // nothing “small” about golf coach’s big win]
The NACMA honor was certainly a great team effort for the Fighting Illini, but this past week also revealed an impressive individual performance by one of the Illinois’ coaches. Congratulations to Illini men’s golf coach Mike Small, who captured the 42nd PGA Professional National Championship at Twin Warriors in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M, with a score of 7-under-par 277. Small won his second career title in the event, having also won it in 2005 with two runner-up finishes in between. His victory gives him an invite to the PGA Championship this year and six exemptions for six PGA Tour events in 2010. Small's appearance in this year's PGA will mark his eighth major championship. He made the cut in 2005 and 2007 and earned the low club professional at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., in 2007.
[EIGHT // eleven women’s golfers honored for classroom excellence]
Staying with Big Ten golf, but switching to the women’s side, 11 conference golfers learned this past Wednesday they had been named National Golf Coaches Association All- American Scholars. The criteria for selection to the All-American Scholar Team are some of the most stringent in all of college athletics. The minimum cumulative GPA is 3.50 and student-athletes must have competed in at least 50% of their college’s regularly scheduled competitive rounds during the year. Congrats to Big Ten honorees Aimee Neff and Lindsey Solberg of Michigan State, Innapha Tantanavivat, Jen Hong and Kelsey Lindenschmidt of Northwestern, Ohio State’s Vicky Villaneuva, Penn State’s Brianna Malcolmson, Emily Riddle, Katherine Murphy and Victoria Arena, and Thea Hoffmeister of Purdue.
[NINE // following one of the best female golfers in conference history]
This past week the Big Ten began following the professional career of LPGA women’s golfer Maria Hernandez. The former Purdue boilermaker, who was the 2009 NCAA Champion, the Honda Sports Award as the top collegiate women's golfer, the PING/NGCA National Player of the Year award and the Big Ten Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year Award, competed this past week at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Sylvania, Ohio. Hernandez missed the 36-hole cut after carding two rounds of 74. The Pamplona, Spain, native will now play in her second LPGA event this upcoming weekend at the U.S. Women's Open at the Old Course at Saucon Valley Country in Bethlehem, Pa. In addition, the Big Ten Network’s Kara Lentz caught up with Hernandez for a podcast on bigtennetwork.com this past week. Click here to listen to that interview.
[TEN // big ten trio tabbed in first preseason men’s soccer poll]
As we take a look back at this week, we also begin to look forward to the upcoming school year, and in men’s soccer, the first preseason poll has been released. The College Soccer News Preseason Top 30 featured three conference squads behind top-ranked St. John’s. Indiana leads the league contingent at No. 7, followed by No. 9 Northwestern and No. 25 Michigan State.
[ELEVEN // out of this world]
Finally this week, we head back to Champaign for another great story involving the Fighting Illini. Matt Wille of Illinois Sports Information penned a feature this past week on former Illini football player Michael Hopkins, who recently realized he was one of nine of the 3,500 people to make the cut to become a NASA astronaut. Hopkins was a first-team Academic All-American, a three-time first-team Academic All-Big Ten selection, a George Huff Award winner, an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner and a recipient of the 1992 Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor. After Illinois, he pursued his postgraduate degree from Stanford, completed his private pilot's license, learned how to scuba dive and attended the USAF Test Pilot School as a flight test engineer. He currently is a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force and serves as special assistant to the Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon. For more on Hopkins’ story, click here.