Men's Basketball Release - Feb. 9

Feb. 9, 2009

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Race for Big Ten Supremacy: With just five weeks left in the Big Ten regular season, six teams are at or above .500 in conference play.  Michigan State sits at 9-2 in conference action in first place, while Illinois and Ohio State follow tied for second place with 7-4 records. Of the top three teams, all will play four of their final seven games on the road. The Illini face the toughest competition of the top three, as the combined Big Ten record of their opponents is 34-36 (.486), including road tests at Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State. Purdue is in fourth place in the conference standings with a 6-4 record and will face four of its final seven opponents at home. Minnesota and Penn State are both .545 in conference play at 6-5 and tied for fifth place.

Big Ten Scoring Title Chase: Ohio State’s Evan Turner is in first place among the conference’s scoring leaders with 18.0 points per game in Big Ten only contests, but is closely followed by two other sophomores--Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas (17.5 ppg) and Penn State’s Talor Battle (17.0 ppg). If Turner continues to lead the conference in scoring, he would be the first Buckeye to accomplish that feat since Michael Redd in 1998.

SOS: The Big Ten again ranks first in strength of schedule as three teams are among the nation’s top 10 toughest slates. The Big Ten leads all conferences with three, followed by the ACC and Big East each with two teams touting top-10 strength of schedules.

Triple Crown: Ohio State’s Evan Turner is one of only 11 players in the nation who is leading his team in scoring, rebounding and assists and the only player in the Big Ten. Turner is averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists to lead all Buckeyes.

Welcome to the Club: Michigan State’s Travis Walton became the newest member of the 500-assist club as he dished out six helpers last week to tally 501 for his career. Walton joins MSU’s associate head coach Mark Montgomery on the list. Montgomery recorded 561 assists from 1989-92. In addition to Montgomery, four former Spartans appear on the list, headlined by Mateen Cleaves (816, 1997-2000).

Live from Madison, it’s “College GameDay”: ESPN’s “College GameDay driven by State Farm” will broadcast live from the Kohl Center on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009. The college basketball version of the popular “College GameDay” football series airs nationally at 10 a.m. CT on ESPN. The network’s Saturday morning college basketball preview show will originate live from center court at the Kohl Center. The show will survey the men’s college basketball scene, including ESPN’s “Saturday Primetime Game” featuring Wisconsin’s match-up with Ohio State later that evening. Doors open at 8 a.m. for the show which broadcasts at 10 a.m. Fans should enter Gate B of the Kohl Center and admission is free. Wisconsin is one of eight campuses selected to host the weekly show which began on January 17. The other college campuses include North Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Texas, Cal and West Virginia.

The Roaring 20s: Illinois and Michigan State are both one win away from recording their 20th victory of the season. The Illini meet Northwestern on Thursday in hopes of securing their 20th triumph, which would be the 27th 20-win season all-time and 11th in the last 13 years. Michigan State will take on in-state rival Michigan on Tuesday while looking for its 20th-victory to mark the 17th 20-win season all-time and ninth in the last 11 years.

Home Sweet Home: Illinois owns the longest homecourt winning streak in the Big Ten at 10 games. The Illini have put together one of the best homecourt records in the nation over the last nine-and-a-half years, owning a record of 127-16 (.888) at the Assembly Hall this decade. The Illini are also 75-14 (.843) at The Hall during Bruce Weber’s tenure.

On the Road Again: Michigan State is 5-0 in conference road games for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 1950-51. Prior to this season, the Spartans had never won their first four Big Ten road games. MSU is 6-0 in true road games, winning at No. 21 Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Iowa and IPFW. The Spartans have also played six neutral site games, the most by a MSU squad in the regular season since 2005-06. MSU is 10-2 away from the Breslin Center, tied for the most victories away from home in the nation. Michigan State played nine of its first 13 games away from home. 

Giant Killer: With a win over then-No. 19 Minnesota, Ohio State picked up its fifth win over a ranked opponent this season, all coming while being unranked themselves. The last time the team won five games versus ranked teams in a season as an unranked squad came in 1989-90 (6-9).

Morrissey Earns Academic All-District Honors: Penn State’s Danny Morrissey has been selected to the 2008-09 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District team. The senior guard has claimed All-District II recognition for the second straight season. Morrissey is majoring in finance/labor and industrial relations management. To be nominated, student-athletes must be a starter or important reserve and carry a cumulative grade point average of 3.20 or higher. Morrissey is now eligible for Academic All-America honors which will be announced in early March.

Two Named to Midseason Wooden Watch List: Midway through the 2009 college basketball season, the top 30 candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, the nation’s most coveted college basketball honor, were named by The Los Angeles Athletic Club’s John R. Wooden Award Committee. Two student-athletes represent the Big Ten on the list in Michigan’s Manny Harris and Michigan’s State’s Kalin Lucas. The midseason list is based on individual player performance and team records during the first half of the season.

Weber Wins 250th: Bruce Weber recorded his 250th career victory in Sunday’s 66-48 win over Purdue. Weber now owns a career record of 250-106 in his 11th season as a head coach. Weber joins John Beilein (575), Tom Izzo (324), Tubby Smith (425) and Bo Ryan (569) as one of five active Big Ten coaches with 250 or more career triumphs. The Illini skipper is also three victories shy of reaching the 150-win plateau while in Champaign.

Big Ten Schedule Announced for Feb. 21-22: The following schedule has been confirmed for Feb. 21 and Feb. 22: 
Feb. 21   Indiana at Purdue, Big Ten Network, 2 p.m. EST
Feb. 22   Illinois at Ohio State, CBS Sports, 1 p.m. EST
              Wisconsin at Michigan State, ESPN, 3 p.m. EST
              Michigan at Iowa, Big Ten Network, 5 p.m. EST
              Northwestern at Minnesota, Big Ten Network, 7 p.m. EST

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 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. 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 Tournament tie-breaking procedure appears on page 11.

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: