Feb. 16, 2009
Down the Stretch: Things heat up this week as #6/5 Michigan State and #19/21 Purdue meet Tuesday night in a conference title showdown. The Spartans maintain the Big Ten lead with a 10-2 record while the Boilermakers are a mere two games back in the title race, sitting at 8-4 in conference play. Currently in the runner-up position, Illinois sits 1.5 games behind the Spartans; but in order to advance, the Illini will first have to get past Penn State on Wednesday night. The Nittany Lions join Minnesota and Wisconsin in a three-way tie at 7-6 for fourth place. In the mix, Ohio State stands in third place with a 7-5 mark in Big Ten play.
Shall We Dance: As February winds down and March is days away, the Big Ten is looking to dance. As a conference, the 11 squads have combined to go 92-3 against teams ranked 150 and below in the RPI. In addition, the conference has 12 wins against the RPI Top-25 and 39 wins against the RPI Top-50. The Big Ten is the No. 2 rated conference by RPI while playing the No. 1 strength of schedule. The conference sports the nation’s second-best non-conference win percentage (.807) and owns a 19-18 non-conference record against top-six RPI conference opposition, the second best in the country. During the non-conference season, 27.4 percent of the games played were against teams in the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 or SEC, which ranks second best among those conferences.
Close Calls: Another weekend of Big Ten basketball and another battle on the hardwood. Last weekend saw four of five games decided by five or fewer points, including one overtime contest. Penn State defeated Minnesota by a margin of five points, while Wisconsin put Ohio State away by a slim five points. Purdue scored four more points than Iowa for the road win and Michigan narrowly escaped Northwestern, winning by three in overtime in Evanston. To date, 21 Big Ten games this season have been decided by five or fewer points.
Free Basketball: With Michigan’s 70-67 overtime win on Sunday at Northwestern, the Big Ten has now seen six games go to an extra stanza to determine a winner. Only Michigan State and Penn State have not played in an overtime game during the conference slate. The Big Ten has not seen this many games go to overtime since the 2004-05 season, when six contests needed extra time to be decided. Last year there were only three overtime games. The six OT games ranks second among the top-six RPI conferences behind the ACC with nine games going to overtime.
Overtime Games in Conference Play
Big Ten 6
Big 12 5
Big East 5
Turning it Around: Illinois recorded its 20th win of the season last Thursday at Northwestern. The Illini have now had five 20-win seasons in six years under Bruce Weber, nine 20-win seasons in the last 10 years, and 27 all-time. With 21 wins, Illinois has eight more victories that it achieved during the 2007-08 regular season.
House of ‘Paign: Illinois has the longest homecourt winning streak among Big Ten teams at 10 games, which also ranks 17th nationally. The Illini are on a three-game Big Ten winning streak for the first time since being victorious in three straight conference games two years ago (Feb. 18-24, 2007).
On the Road Again: At 7-0, Michigan State is one of just two teams in the country (UConn) to not lose on an opponent’s home court this season. This is the first time since the Spartans joined the Big Ten in 1950-51 that they have been perfect on the road through seven away contests. MSU has road wins over Michigan, then-No. 21 Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa and IPFW.
Big Ten Scoring Title Chase: Ohio State’s Evan Turner retains his position atop the conference leaderboard in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per contest in Big Ten games to date, while fellow sophomore Kalin Lucas of Michigan State ranks second with 17.3 ppg. Northwestern’s Kevin Coble sits in third amongst conference scoring leaders with an average of 16.3 points per game, edging Penn State’s Talor Battle (16.0 ppg.) by a narrow margin. Should Turner sustain his lead in the conference in scoring, he would be the first Buckeye to accomplish that feat in over 10 seasons since Michael Redd topped the charts in 1998.
Doctor ‘K.’ : It proved to be a grand night for Wisconsin’s Marcus Landry, who scored his 1,000th-career point on a turn-around jumper during last Wednesday’s home contest against Iowa. Landry became the 33rd Badger, and the seventh under head coach Bo Ryan, to break the 1,000-point plateau. Landry now has a career tally of 1,019. He is the first Badger to join the exclusive 1,000-point club since Kammron Taylor (2004-07) and Alando Tucker (2003-07) amassed 1,223 and 2,217 points, respectively.
Standing Tall: B.J. Mullens leads Ohio State freshmen, all-time, in field goal shooting percentage after going 3-for-3 at Wisconsin to improve his average to 63.6 percent (89-of-140) on the season. Mullens leads the Big Ten in overall shooting percentage and in conference games only.
Painter Earns 100th Victory: Purdue’s Matt Painter earned his 100th-career triumph with a 49-45 win over Iowa on Valentine’s Day. The win was also the 75th for Painter since taking over the head coaching position at Purdue. Painter is now seven wins behind former head coach Gene Keady’s 82 wins during his first four seasons at the helm of the Boilermaker program.
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. 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: www.bigten.org.