Feb. 2, 2009
The Longest Month: Welcome to February: the shortest month of the calendar, but perhaps the longest month on the hardwood. The Big Ten prepares to enter its second half of conference play where teams will battle for the regular-season crown, tournament seeds and an invitation to the NCAA’s “Big Dance.” The Big Ten begins the second nine-game stanza with a virtual tie at the top between Michigan State (7-2) and Purdue (6-2). Riding on the frontrunners’ heels are Illinois, Minnesota and Penn State, which are locked in a three-way tie for third place with 6-3 records. Not out of title contention is Ohio State (5-4), who currently sits in sixth place. To tip off the week, Ohio State plays host to Purdue on Tuesday, while Minnesota makes ready to clash with Michigan State Wednesday night, as the Golden Gophers look to edge the Spartans from their reign atop the conference leaderboard. Things continue to heat up on Thursday as Illinois and Penn State go on the road to face Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively, where the Illini and Nittany Lions will aim to break free from the knot at third.
The Numbers Report: In this week’s Sagarin Rankings, the conference is first with a central mean of 84.01 to lead all conferences. The ACC is second (83.78) followed by the Big East (83.31). Purdue tops the list of conference squads, checking in at No. 6. Eight of 11 teams are among the top 50 in the Sagarin Ratings. The Big Ten is again ranked second in the RPI. The conference checks in with an adjusted RPI of .5909, behind only the ACC (.5970). Six of the 11 conference squads rank among the nation’s top 40 in RPI. Michigan State continues to pace the Big Ten at No. 5 with an RPI of .6580. A complete listing of Big Ten squads’ RPI and Sagarin rankings appears on page 5 of the complete release.
The Midseason Report: Midway through the conference season, Michigan State leads the Big Ten with a 7-2 slate. The Spartans feature two players at the top of the Big Ten leaderboard in sophomore Kalin Lucas, who leads the Big Ten in scoring (19.2 ppg), and senior Goran Suton, who paces the conference in rebounds (9.9 rpg). Illini sophomore Demetri McCamey also leads the conference in two major statistical categories, including assists (5.78 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio at plus 3.71. Northwestern’s Kevin Coble heads the conference with 20 steals in nine outings (2.22 spg), while Boilermaker sophomore JaJuan Johnson commands the Big Ten block party with 23 rejections (2.88 bpg). A trio of freshmen pace the conference in each of the three shooting statistical categories, including the Buckeye tandem of B.J. Mullens and William Buford, who lead the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.672) and free-throw percentage (.947), respectively. The first freshman in Big Ten history to net nine shots from behind the arc in a single game, first-year Hoosier Matt Roth is the current leader in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on 20-of-38 (.526) from long range in conference games to date.
Six Teams Reach 15-Win Mark: Illinois (18-4), Michigan State (17-4), Minnesota (18-3), Ohio State (15-5), Penn State (17-5) and Purdue (17-4) have all reached or surpassed the 15-win mark on the season. OSU picked up its 15th victory with a win at Indiana on Saturday. The win marked the 39th time in Buckeye annals that a team has recoded 15 or more wins in a season. The Golden Gophers have now recorded 33 seasons in which they have eclipsed the 15-win marker. Purdue has produced 54 seasons with 15 or more wins. The Spartans are marking the 27th time in school annals that they have met or surpassed the 15-triumph mark and Illinois the 49th time in history that it has posted 15 or more wins.
1,000 and Counting: Northwestern’s Kevin Coble became the newest member of the elite 1,000-point club on Wednesday night. The junior forward posted 19 points in NU’s win over Indiana to gain membership to the club. He now has 1,019 career points. Coble joins teammate Craig Moore (1,132) on the list of active 1,000-point scorers.
Raining Threes: Indiana freshman guard Matt Roth, who entered the game against Ohio State averaging a little more than six points per game, tied a Big Ten-game and IU mark by connecting on nine three-pointers against the Buckeyes for a career-high 29 points. He joined Michigan State’s Shawn Respert (1995 at IU) and Indiana’s Roderick Wilmont (2007 at Northwestern) as the only players in a conference game to make nine treys. He is the first freshman to accomplish that feat.
Out of the Family: The Big Ten will put its .814 non-conference win percentage on the line this week as Michigan and Northwestern will take on Connecticut and Chicago State, respectively. The Wolverines travel to Storrs to meet the top-ranked Huskies on Saturday, while the red-hot Wildcats host cross-town foe CSU on Wednesday. The conference entered Big Ten play sporting its best non-conference win percentage since going .824 during the 1988-89 season.
Shutting Down the O: Purdue held Michigan to just 36.0 percent shooting on Saturday. The Wolverines were stymied by the Boilermaker defense, going 18-of-50 for the game. Purdue is holding the opposition to a mere 36 percent shooting per contest to lead the nation.
Board of Directors: Michigan State has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in nine of the last 11 years. Currently, the Spartans are the best in the nation on the boards. This season, the Spartans lead the Big Ten at +10.4, and are 16-3 when out-rebounding their opponent. It is a group effort for MSU, as six different players have led the team or shared the team lead in rebounding in a single game. In Big Ten play, the Spartans own a +13.6 rebounding margin.
On a Roll: Northwestern has won four Big Ten games over a five-game span and three consecutive conference home games for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Minnesota is enjoying its best start (18-3) since 1976-77 and its best conference campaign since the 2004-05 season. Penn State has won four straight conference games for the first time since doing so in 1996 conference play.
Matta Speeding to 50: Thad Matta became the second-fastest Ohio State head coach to win 50 conference games with the victory at Indiana. Matta is 50-25 vs. Big Ten teams during regular season play. Fred Taylor won 50 games in 61 tries (1959-76).
Weber One Away from Milestone: Illinois’ Bruce Weber is one win away from recording his 250th career victory as a head coach. In his 11th year as a head coach and sixth at Illinois, Weber owns a 249-105 career record and is nearing the 150-win milestone as Illinois’ skipper with 146 wins to date.
Big Ten Celebrates Black History Month: In a continued effort to commemorate the achievements of African-Americans on Big Ten campuses, the conference office announced the 22 student-athletes to be recognized on the Big Ten’s Black History Month website. Throughout February, the website will feature stories on current and former student-athletes from each institution and can be accessed at www.bigten.org. The five men’s basketball players on the list are: Indiana’s Mike Woodson, Minnesota’s Jim Brewer, Ohio State’s Michael Redd, Penn State’s John Amaechi and Wisconsin’s Marcus Landry.
Tie-Breaking Procedures Amended for 2009: The Big Ten’s tie-breaking procedure to determine tournament seeds has been amended for 2009. In the past when comparing head-to-head records or records against a group of teams, a 2-0 record was better than a 1-0 record and an 0-1 record was better than a 1-0 record. The new tie-breaking procedure states that the higher winning percentage shall prevail when breaking ties, even if the number of games played against the team or group are unequal. So if two teams are tied, and one is 2-0 against the Big Ten champion and the other is 1-0 against the same team, those records will now be considered equal and the conference office will move to the next tie-breaker. The amended Big Ten Tournament tie-breaking procedure appears on page 11 of this release.
Get Them While They Are Hot: Single-session tickets for the 2009 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament went on sale to the general public Monday, Feb. 2. The tournament will be held March 12-15, 2009, at Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. The tournament features all 11 Big Ten teams in action, competing in 10 games over four days to crown the 2009 champion and earn the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Single-session tickets range from $30 to $75 depending on session and seat location. Tickets can be purchased at the Conseco Fieldhouse box office, Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling Ticketmaster at 317.239-5151. All-session tickets, which include 10 games over four days, are still available for either $275 or $175 depending on seat location. Orders will be limited to 12 all-session tickets.
Big Ten. Big Blog.: The Big Ten’s men’s basketball blog has tipped off as the race for the title is in full swing. The Big Ten. Big Blog. can be found at: www.bigten.org.