Dec. 14, 2009
FACES of the BIG TEN
ANDREW JONES, penn state junior forward
Jones did not begin to play organized basketball until his sophomore year of high school. He arrived at Penn State a slender and raw athlete who compensated for his relative inexperience with energy and hustle. Since then, he has added more than 30 pounds of muscle to his frame and developed into a skilled player and vocal team leader. He averaged 10.0 points per game and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per contest during Penn State's 2009 NIT title run and has led the Nittany Lions in field-goal percentage and offensive rebounding the last two seasons.
BIG TEN. BIG NOTES.
Purdue is off to its best start in 17 years, improving to 9-0 with a pair of wins last week. The Boilermakers have won 14 of their last 15 games after recording five consecutive victories in postseason tournament action in 2008-09 and victories in their first nine outings this year. With a win over Alabama on Saturday, the Boilers tied their fourth-best start in school history with the 1992-93 and 1937-38 teams while also extending the second-longest winning streak during Matt Painter's tenure as head coach. Purdue is now within five games of matching the 1993-94 squad for the best start in school history (14-0). Neighboring Big Ten foe Northwestern is also enjoying a six-game win streak after improving to 7-1 in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history with a victory over North Carolina A&T on Sunday. The winning stretch is the longest during Bill Carmody's 10 seasons at the helm of the Wildcat program.
Wisconsin's Bo Ryan became just the third coach in UW history to record 200 career wins in Saturday's 72-63 victory over rival Marquette, joining the elite company of Harold "Bud" Foster and Walter "Doc" Meanwell. The win also marked Ryan's 125th at the Kohl Center as the Badger mentor improved to 125-10 in home contests, which includes a 17-1 mark against in-state rivals. He now owns a 200-75 record with the Badgers and is the second-fastest coach to reach the 200-win plateau. Indiana's Tom Crean also picked up his 200th career win as a head coach in the victory over Pitt last Tuesday. In his 11th year as a head coach, the Hoosiers' skipper is now 200-125 overall. Golden Gopher head general Tubby Smith is also nearing a milestone, sitting one win shy of his 50th triumph at Minnesota after inching closer to the mark with a pair of wins last week. Illinois' Bruce Weber enjoyed his 100th game at Assembly Hall with a victory over Western Michigan on Sunday. The Illini are 84-16 at The Hall under Weber.
30 THE NEW 20
The Big Ten saw three players post 30-plus point performances last week in Penn State's Talor Battle, Northwestern's Drew Crawford and Indiana's Maurice Creek. Although recognized as "smalls" on the court, the guard trio has proven that their shooting is anything but. No stranger to the scoring column, Battle notched his second 32-point game of the season in as many weeks, comprising nearly half of PSU's offensive production in home contests against Virginia and Virginia Tech. The 6-0 junior became the first Nittany Lion to post multiple 30-point games in a season since 2001 and now owns two of PSU's 11 30-point efforts this decade. Crawford scored a Big Ten season-high 35 points against North Carolina A&T, stamping his name in NU lore for most points by a Wildcat newcomer. Red-hot from behind the arc, Crawford connected on eight-of-13 attempts from long range to help the `Cats set a Big Ten record with 20 made triples in a single contest. Fellow freshman Creek led the Hoosiers with a career-high 31 points against No. 4 Kentucky. The 6-5 guard is the first IU newcomer to score 30-plus points against UK since freshman became eligible in 1972-73, achieving the highest-tally by any Indiana player since 2007.
There are very few utilities that have the ability to do it all. There is the Swiss Army Knife, but perhaps even more resourceful are two of the most versatile players in college hoops - Ohio State's Evan Turner and Michigan's Manny Harris, who currently lead the nation when combining all-around performance figures in points, assists and rebounds per game. Turner suffered an injury in the Buckeyes' game versus Eastern Michigan on Dec. 5 and will be out for at least eight weeks.
JOIN THE CLUB
Wisconsin's Trévon Hughes is nine points shy of punching his ticket into the century club having amassed 991 career points in games played to date. The senior guard will have the chance to break the 1,000-point plateau when UW plays host to Cal Poly on Wednesday. If Hughes were to accomplish the feat, he would become the eighth Badger under head coach Bo Ryan to achieve the benchmark and expand the Big Ten's list of active players with 1,000-plus career tallies to nine overall. Nearing another career milestone is Ohio State's William Buford who currently owns 481 points in his second season at OSU. The sophomore guard has reached double figures 27 times in his career, including three 20-plus point performances, most recently last week against Butler. With two home matches on this week's slate for the Buckeyes, the young sharpshooter is poised to meet the century guild half-way.
UP FOR A CHALLENGE
To be the best you have to play the best, and according to the latest RPI report, the Big Ten Conference is not afraid of a challenge. Collectively, the conference has gone up against 16 of the top 50 rated teams in the nation (32 percent), with four of the Big Ten's own ranking among the upper echelon of the RPI carousel. Of those matchups, the Big Ten is 9-11 against top-50 foes with its most notable win coming against top-rated Duke. The Big Ten's slate does not appear to be lightening up anytime soon as Michigan prepares to face No. 1-ranked Kansas on Saturday.