Men's Basketball Tips Off 2005-06 Season This Weekend
Nov. 10, 2005
Big Ten Opens 2005-06 Season: Northwestern tips off the 2005-06 campaign for the Big Ten on Sunday, as the Wildcats will face Lehigh in the opening round of the BCA Invitational in Laramie, Wyo. Iowa joins the fray, opening its non-conference season on Monday at home against Maryland-Eastern Shore in the Guardian Classic. All other conference schools will open their non-league slate the following weekend including the Purdue Boilermakers, who begin a new era under first-year head coach Matt Painter on Saturday against Wofford.
Welcome Back: The Big Ten will welcome back 10 members of the 2004-05 All-Big Ten team, including first-team honorees Illinois' Dee Brown and Minnesota's Vincent Grier (coaches only), who return for their senior campaigns. Four second- team selections will be back on the court in Iowa's Greg Brunner, Michigan State's Maurice Ager (coaches only), Ohio State's Terence Dials and Purdue's Carl Landry. The four third-team returnees are Illinois' James Augustine, Michigan State's Paul Davis, Northwestern's Vedran Vukusic and Wisconsin's Alando Tucker.
Preseason Wooden Award Watch: Six Big Ten men's basketball student-athletes were listed among the top 50 preseason candidates for the 2005-06 Wooden Award All-America Team. The Big Ten's group of honorees includes two players from Michigan State in seniors Maurice Ager and Paul Davis as the Spartans were one of only seven teams in the country to boast a pair of Wooden Award nominees. Also earning preseason recognition was Illinois' Dee Brown, Iowa's Jeff Horner, Minnesota's Vincent Grier and Wisconsin's Alando Tucker. Brown joins Duke's J.J. Redick as the only preseason candidates who were honored last year as members of the 2005 Wooden Award All-America Team. The 50-player preseason list will be narrowed to a midseason top 30 in January. The 10-player Wooden Award All-America Team will be announced on Tuesday, March 28, 2006, while the recipient of the Wooden Award Trophy as the nation's top collegiate men's basketball player will be named on Saturday, April 8, 2006.
Seven of Top Ten Scorers Return: For the second consecutive year, the Big Ten welcomes back the majority of its top scorers with seven of the top 10 point producers returning in 2005-06. Purdue's Carl Landry leads the pack after ranking second last year with 18.2 points per game. Minnesota's Vincent Grier (17.9) and Northwestern's Vedran Vukusic (16.8) follow in third and fourth place, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 is Ohio State's Terence Dials (6th/15.9), Wisconsin's Alando Tucker (7th/15.2), Iowa's Greg Brunner (8th/14.7) and Michigan's Dion Harris (9th/14.3). In the last 13 years, only three other times has the conference had seven of the top 10 point producers return. The Big Ten also welcomed back seven in 2004-05 and 1996-97, while the highest amount of top 10 scorers returning over that time span was eight in 1992-93.
The Injury Report: Indiana sophomore forward D.J. White, a 2005-06 Preseason All-Big Ten honoree, will be sidelined for at least six weeks due to a broken left foot. White underwent an MRI on Monday afternoon to determine the extent of the injury. The 6-9, 242-pound forward is the Hoosiers' top returning scorer and rebounder from a season ago, averaging 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest in his freshman campaign. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2004-05 after leading the conference freshman class in scoring, field goal percentage and blocked shots.
Big Ten in the Polls: The Big Ten was well represented in the preseason Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls with four teams among the top 25 and three programs receiving votes. In the AP poll, the Big Ten tied the ACC with four teams in the top 25 and ranked second behind only the Big East (5) for the national lead. Michigan State led the way for the league in both polls, ranking No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll. Illinois followed at No. 17 in both polls, while Iowa (No. 20/20) and Indiana (No. 23/22) rounded out the top 25. Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin also garnered votes in both polls.
Illinois Vying For Third Straight Title: After clinching its second consecutive outright Big Ten crown last season for the first time since 1951-52, Illinois enters the 2005-06 campaign aiming to become only the third school in Big Ten history to clinch three consecutive outright crowns. Ohio State was the first school to win outright titles in 1960, 1961 and 1962, while Purdue also won three consecutive titles from 1994-1996.
Brown Aiming For Rare Double: Illinois senior Dee Brown could accomplish a rare feat this season as he strives to earn Big Ten Player of the Year honors for a second consecutive year. Only two conference players have claimed back-to-back Player of the Year accolades in Big Ten history. Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves won consecutive accolades in 1998 and 1999, while Ohio State's Jim Jackson was honored in 1991 and 1992. Brown could also become the fifth player in Big Ten history to claim consecutive Defensive Player of the Year accolades in 2006. He would join former standouts - Purdue's Kenneth Lowe (2003 and 2004), Ohio State's Ken Johnson (2000 and 2001), Michigan's Gary Grant (1987 and 1988) and Illinois' Bruce Douglas (1985 and 1986).
Protecting Your Home: Illinois enters the 2005-06 season with the longest current home winning streak in the Big Ten. The Illini were the only league team to go undefeated at home last season and have currently won 21 straight at Assembly Hall with their last defeat occurring on Jan. 10, 2004 against Purdue. Illinois' 21-game streak ranks fourth in the country entering the 2005-06 season (Gonzaga - 25, Southern Illinois - 24, Washington - 21) and still trails the Big Ten record of 53 straight home triumphs set by Michigan State from 1998 to 2002.
Painter Takes Over Purdue Helm: Head coach Matt Painter officially took the reins of the Purdue program on April 1, 2005 after spending the 2004-05 season as the Boilermakers' associate head coach. Prior to returning to his alma mater, Painter was the head coach of Southern Illinois from 2003-04, where he led the Salukis to a 25-5 record and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Painter played guard at Purdue from 1990 to 1993 where he appeared in 109 games, with 50 starts. He averaged 4.5 points per game and totaled 276 assists, while also earning honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors in 1993. Painter also helped lead the Boilermakers to three NCAA Tournament bids and one NIT appearance during his playing career.
Fresh Leadership: With Purdue's Matt Painter joining the Big Ten coaching ranks, six of the 11 conference coaches have been in the Big Ten fewer than five seasons: Painter, Ohio State's Thad Matta (1), Illinois' Bruce Weber (2), Penn State's Ed DeChellis (2), Michigan's Tommy Amaker (4) and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (4). However, the short tenures have led to much success, as these coaches have guided conference teams to one Final Four appearance, one NIT title, six NCAA Tournament berths, four Big Ten Championships and two conference tournament titles
Big Ten Coaching Milestones: Entering his sixth season with a record of 96-67, head coach Mike Davis will aim to become just the second-fastest coach in school annals to compile 100 wins at Indiana. Bob Knight won his 100th game as a head coach during his fifth season as a head coach (1975-76), while Branch McCracken obtained win No. 100 with a victory in the first game of his seventh season (1947-48).
Playing the Best: Big Ten teams have once again scheduled some of the nation's toughest teams for non-conference play, including nine teams listed in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today preseason polls.
29 Years and Counting: Big Ten men's basketball led the nation in total attendance for the 29th straight season in 2004-05, as the conference welcomed 2,255,332 total fans through the turnstiles and led the way with an average attendance of 12,530 per game/session, over 1,000 more than the national runner-up (ACC - 11,097). For the 13th straight season, the Big Ten broke the two-million mark in total attendance as the league played host to 2,146,082 patrons in 175 games for an average of 12,623 fans per contest. The only other conferences to draw two million fans last season were the 12-member SEC and the 14-member Big East.
Looking At The Conference Schedule: The 101st year of league play is set to begin with Indiana and Michigan opening the 2006 season on Tuesday, Jan. 3 in Bloomington, Ind. It will be a showdown of Final Four participants in the opening week of conference play when Illinois hosts Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 5. These two programs will square off twice during the 2005 league slate as the Illini will travel to East Lansing on March 4 to close out the regular season. Opening week will also feature Northwestern hosting Purdue on Wednesday, Jan. 4. Wisconsin begins league play on Jan. 5 against Iowa, while Penn State travels to Ohio State. Minnesota will open its conference slate on Jan. 7, as the Gophers host the Wildcats.
Spartans In EA Sports Maui Invitational: Michigan State will travel to Maui, Hawaii from Nov. 21-23 to compete in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The tournament will boast one of the best in-season fields of all-time with six former national champions taking the court in Michigan State, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas and Maryland. The Spartans will open play against host-school Chaminade on Monday, Nov. 21 at the Lahaina Civic Center on ESPN2. The winner of the MSU-Chaminade game will advance to play the Gonzaga-Maryland winner. Other first-round games in the 22nd edition of the tournament include Arizona against Kansas and Arkansas against Connecticut. Last year, Iowa defeated nationally-ranked Texas and Louisville before falling to North Carolina in the championship game.