March 6, 2009
The One and Only: Michigan State’s win over Indiana on Tuesday earned the Spartans the outright 2009 Big Ten title. With sole possession of the crown, it marked the seventh straight season that the Big Ten has featured solo champs dating back to the 2002-03 season when Wisconsin took the top honor. Illinois claimed back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005, Ohio State won back-to-back crowns in 2006 and 2007 and the Badgers were the outright champs in 2008. The last time multiple teams shared the crown was in 2002 when Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin all earned titles. The last co-championship occurred in 2001 when Illinois and Michigan State shared top honors.
Spreading the Wealth: Over the last 10 seasons, five schools have earned at least a share of the Big Ten Championship. Since the 1999-2000 campaign, Illinois leads all Big Ten schools with four titles (2001-02-04-05) while Michigan State (2000-01-09) and Wisconsin (2002-03-08) both brought home a trio of championships over the last decade. Ohio State (2006-07) has won two while Indiana was part of a tie for the title in 2002.
First-Round Pass: Michigan State (14-3), Illinois (11-7) and Purdue (10-7) are the only teams to clinch a first-round bye for the 2009 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament. Six more teams vie for the remaining two spots in Penn State (10-7), Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin, who all sit at 9-8 in conference play and Michigan and Northwestern at 8-9. Five conference teams will get the first day off at Conseco Fieldhouse, as the top five seeds open play on Friday while the bottom six seeds start on Thursday. While a first-round pass is important, teams have proven that it is not essential as Illinois (2008 and 1999), Iowa (2001 and 2002) and Ohio State (2003) have advanced to the finals despite beginning play on Thursday, with the Hawkeyes winning the tourney as a No. 6 seed in 2001, the Buckeyes finishing as runners-up in 2003 as the No. 8 seed and the Illini landing in the championship game in 2008 as the No. 10 seed.
Good “D”: Entering the week, Big Ten teams have held non-conference opponents to 59.9 ppg, while those opponents
are averaging a combined 68.6 points overall per game. Big Ten teams held non-conference opponents to 8.7 points per game below their collective season averages, the largest differential of any conference (the Pac-10 is next closest at 6.9 ppg, followed by the Big East at 5.3 and the ACC at 4.9). As a conference, Big Ten teams scored 70.6 points per game in the non-conference and those opponents are allowing an average of 67.9 ppg in all games to date, meaning that Big Ten teams scored 2.7 points per game more than non-conference opponents collectively allowed. The Big Ten held teams below their scoring averages and scored more than they were allowing on average.
Close Calls: A true testament to the parity of this year’s Big Ten teams is the narrow margins of victory that has characterized conference play this season. Of 94 Big Ten games played to date, over a third of those have gone down to the wire with 33 contests decided by five or fewer points this season. Relentless defense has also resulted in scoring differences of 10 or fewer points in conference play.
A Brand New Year: The Big Ten leads all conferences among the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC with three teams in the top five in win totals improvement from a year ago. Northwestern has recorded 17 wins to date versus only eight a year ago for a turnaround of 34 percent. The Wildcats have the second-best improvement in the nation behind the SEC’s LSU. Michigan ranks fourth, tallying 18 wins so far this campaign compared to 10 in 2007-08. Illinois rounds out the top five with 23 wins on the season after only 16 triumphs a year ago. Penn State ranks 11th among the aforementioned conferences, winning 21 games to date compared to only 15 a year ago. See chart to the right for complete listing.
Slaying the Giants: Michigan and Penn State are the only two Big Ten teams to defeat at least two of the top three teams in the conference--Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue. The Nittany Lions have defeated all three teams, splitting with MSU and Purdue and sweeping the Illini.
One More Week: With one week left of Big Ten play, Ohio State’s Evan Turner remains in first place among the conference’s scoring leaders with 17.3 points per game in Big Ten only contests. He is followed by Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas (16.2 ppg). If Turner closes out
the season leading the conference in scoring, he would be the first Buckeye to accomplish that feat since Michael Redd did so as a freshman in 1998.
Turning Heads: Ten Big Ten student-athletes have been named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District first and second teams. Michigan’s Manny Harris, Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas, Ohio State’s Evan Turner, Penn State’s Talor Battle and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson have all been named to the District 7 first team. Illinois’ Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale, Michigan State’s Goran Suton, Northwestern’s Kevin Coble and Penn State’s Jamelle Cornley were all named to the second team. The student-atheletes were selected and voted on by member coaches of the NABC. The 240 student-athletes from 24 districts, are now eligible for the State Farm Coaches’ Division I All-America teams to be announced on Saturday, April 4.
We Have a Score: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue have all racked up 20 wins this season. With a win over Indiana on Saturday, Ed DeChellis’ Nittany Lions became the fifth team in the Big Ten to reach the 20-win plateau. The Nittany Lions have reached 20 triumphs for the 10th time in school history and for the first time in the regular season since 1995-96. The Illini have now produced 26 20-win seasons in the history of the program, including five of the six years Bruce Weber has been at the helm in Champaign. MSU’s Tom Izzo has guided the Spartans to 10 20-win campaigns in his 14-year tenure. Michigan State has now accumulated 18 seasons in excess of 20 wins. The Golden Gophers have put together nine seasons of 20 or more wins since the program’s inception. Head Coach Tubby Smith has guided Minnesota to back-to-back 20-win campaigns in his first two seasons in Minneapolis. It is the first time in the history of the Golden Gophers’ program that back-to-back 20-win seasons have been posted. In his fourth year at the helm of the Purdue squad, Matt Painter has guided the Boilermakers to his third season with a score or more wins. Purdue has now hit the 20-win mark 21 times in the program’s history.
Top of the Line: Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan were recognized as two of the top-10 collegiate coaches in the country by Forbes Magazine. Over the last four years, the duo is among the collective that has recruited the best classes and steered their players to the most wins and championships.
Painter Among Candidates for Coach of the Year Laurels: The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has announced finalists for the 2009 Henry Iba Award, to be presented to the association’s national coach of the year. Purdue’s Matt Painter is among the 10 finalists for the award.
Consistency is Key: Minnesota’s Tubby Smith has now won at least 20 games in 16 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the nation and the third-most all-time. Smith joins former North Carolina Coach Dean Smith, who recorded 27 20-win seasons from 1971-1997, and former Arizona skipper Lute Olson who is second on the all-time list with 20 consecutive seasons from 1988-2007.