Dec. 18, 2011
[ONE // illini finishes runner-up in ncaa volleyball championship]
Vying for the Big Ten’s fifth-straight NCAA Volleyball Championship, Illinois came just short of the national title on Saturday, falling 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 24-26, 16-25) to UCLA. In what was the Fighting Illini’s first-ever NCAA Championship title match, Michelle Bartsch led the Orange and Blue with 22 kills and 14 digs in the loss. Illinois, which advanced to the finals following a 3-2 (25-27, 25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 15-10) win over USC on Thursday, closed the season with a 32-5 overall record.
[TWO // big ten men’s basketball boasts impressive team and individual performances]
Big Ten men’s basketball went 15-2 this past week, boasting impressive team and individual performances. Indiana remained undefeated on the season with a 69-58 win over Notre Dame on Saturday in the inaugural Crossroads Classic. IU freshman Cody Zeller scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the 18th-ranked Hoosiers to their first 10-0 start since 1989-90. On Sunday, John Shurna scored a game-high 32 points and tied a school record by knocking down nine 3-pointers to help Northwestern to an 87-72 victory over Eastern Illinois. Iowa had five scorers in double figures in an 82-68 victory over the visiting Drake on Saturday, Michigan sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz recorded a combined 33 points and 19 rebounds in two Wolverine wins, and Deshaun Thomas scored a career-high 30 points to help No. 2 Ohio State defeat South Carolina 74-66 on Saturday and give Thad Matta his 200th win as Buckeyes coach.
[THREE // a perfect sunday highlights women’s basketball action]
Four Big Ten women’s basketball teams combined to total 338 points and averaged a 38-point margin of victory on Sunday, helping the conference to wins in all four contests. Penn State was dominant in a 103-42 win over Wagner, while Nebraska was equally impressive in a 94-41 victory over Vermont. Northwestern tallied a 79-49 result at UNLV and Purdue captured a 62-54 outcome over Auburn. The Big Ten went 8-4 on the week with the other four wins coming from Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State. The Buckeyes earned an 83-49 decision over Southern followed by a 77-75 thriller against California, Northwestern garnered an 87-74 win over Morgan State on Wednesday, and Michigan routed Indiana State 72-44 on Saturday.
[FOUR // women’s squads doing flips in national rankings]
All eight Big Ten women's gymnastics teams were ranked or received votes this past week in the 2012 GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, with seven appearing in the top 25. Big Ten newcomer Nebraska leads the way at No. 6, while reigning Big Ten Champion Michigan also appears in the top 10 at No. 10. Penn State debuts at No. 13, while Illinois follows at No. 15. Ohio State checks in at No. 18, while No. 22 Minnesota and No. 25 Iowa round out the poll. Michigan State is also receiving votes in the first poll of the season.
[FIVE // newcomer nebraska nabbed as number one in conference]
Entering its first season as a member of the Big Ten, Nebraska has been selected by the conference's coaches as the preseason favorite in the Big Ten Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Huskers won the Big 12 Championship a season ago and finished fourth at the NCAA Championships. Defending Big Ten Champion Michigan follows Nebraska in second, while Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois round out the top five. Iowa stands in sixth in the poll, followed by Minnesota in seventh and Michigan State in eighth. The Big Ten also announced its 2012 Gymnasts to Watch List on Wednesday, with four 2011 All-Americans and eight All-Conference honorees highlighting the list. Illinois senior Kelsey Joannides and junior Alina Weinstein, Michigan junior Katie Zurales and Nebraska junior Janelle Giblin picked up All-America laurels a season ago, while Joannides and Giblin earned All-Conference honors as well. The complete Big Ten Women's Gymnastics Preseason Coaches' Poll and Gymnasts to Watch List can be found by clicking here.
[SIX // illinois men’s gymnastics squads selected to win big ten title]
Illinois has earned the top spot in the Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Preseason Coaches' Poll, the conference office announced on Wednesday. The Fighting Illini stand atop the poll after winning their third consecutive Big Ten Championship a season ago and placing third at the NCAA Championships. Michigan followed at No. 2 in the poll, while Penn State rounded out the top three. Ohio State ranked fourth, followed by Minnesota in fifth, Nebraska in sixth and Iowa in seventh. The Big Ten also announced its 2012 Gymnasts to Watch List, with two 2011 individual NCAA champions headlining the list. Illinois senior Tyler Mizoguchi earned the national crown on parallel bars, while Michigan sophomore Sam Mikulak, the defending Big Ten Gymnast and Freshman of the Year, claimed the all-around title. The complete Big Ten Men's Gymnastics Preseason Coaches' Poll and Gymnasts to Watch List can be found by clicking here.
[SEVEN // nine conference standouts named ap football all-americans]
Nine Big Ten football players were named Wednesday to the first, second or third team of the Associated Press (AP) All-America teams, including six first-team selections. Three Big Ten standouts were named first-team All-Americans on offense - Michigan center David Molk and the Wisconsin duo of running back Montee Ball and guard Kevin Zeitler. Three Big Ten student-athletes were tabbed as first-team All-Americans on defense - Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still. AP second-team All-Americans from the Big Ten were Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David and Wisconsin center Peter Konz, while Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon was named to the third team.
[EIGHT // another nine named volleyball all-americans]
Nine Big Ten volleyball players were selected this past Wednesday as AVCA Division I All-Americans, with four players earning first-team status. Illinois' Colleen Ward, Nebraska's Gina Mancuso, Penn State's Deja McClendon and Purdue's Ariel Turner earned first-team honors, while Minnesota's Ashley Wittman and Penn State's Katie Slay were named to the second team. Illinois' Michelle Bartsch, Michigan State's Jenilee Rathje and Penn State's Ariel Scott earned third-team honors. Seven others received honorable mention -- Minnesota's Tori Dixon, Nebraska's Morgan Broekhuis, Lauren Cook and Hannah Werth, Ohio State's Emily Danks and Mari Hole and Purdue's Tiffany Fisher.
[NINE // big ten volleyball pair honored for work in classroom]
Michigan State senior Jenilee Rathje and Purdue junior Ariel Turner were also recognized for their work in the classroom this past week. The pair was named Thursday as Capital One Academic All-Americans by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Rathje, a kinesiology major, and Turner, a mechanical engineering major, each received spots on the second team. The pair of Academic All-Americans gives the Big Ten the most since 2008, when two players hailing from the conference earned the accolade.
[TEN // soccer duo earns mvp honors]
Illinois' Vanessa DiBernardo and Penn State's Maya Hayes were named this past Thursday as two of Soccer America's Most Valuable Players. DiBernardo was named a Second Team MVP after tallying 39 points on 17 goals and five assists on the season. Hayes earned recognition as a First Team MVP after leading the nation in points (70) and goals (31) this season. Hayes is also a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, which is set to be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
[ELEVEN // conference combo earns preseason baseball accolades]
It’s hard to believe preseason awards are already being handed out in baseball, but a pair of conference standouts earned national acclaim from the NCBWA this past week. Ohio State's Josh Dezse and Purdue's Nick Wittgren were both named Preseason All-Americans by the NCBWA on Wednesday. Dezse, a sophomore utility player, was named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year last season and earned All-Freshman and second-team All-Big Ten recognition. Wittgren, a reliever, picked up second-team All-Big Ten accolades a season ago.
[TWELVE // two big ten mentors named finalists for coaching award; big ten legend to be honored]
Finally this week, congratulations and best of luck to a pair of Big Ten football coaches who were named this past week as finalists for the Marathon Oil Corporation Paul “Bear” Bryant Award. Michigan’s Brady Hoke and Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema have been selected for the national honor, which is named after the legendary Alabama head coach. The 26th annual event, which is slated to take place on Thursday, Jan. 19 in Houston, Texas, will also recognize former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes excellence in coaching on and off the field during a career, allowing recipients to take their place in history alongside legends such as Bryant. The late Michigan legend “Bo” Schembechler was a recent honoree of the same award.