Dec. 29, 2008
Big Ten Title Chase Begins: The Big Ten tips off the 104th season of conference play this week as all 11 teams will be in action starting Tuesday, December 30. Regular-season runner up Purdue will host Illinois on Tuesday to start conference play. Eight more programs tip off Big Ten play on Wednesday, as Wisconsin begins defense of its 2008 Big Ten title. The Badgers travel to Ann Arbor to meet a red-hot Michigan team. In other Big Ten match-ups, Northwestern travels to Penn State, Ohio State welcomes Iowa and Minnesota hosts Michigan State. Indiana tips off its Big Ten slate on Saturday when the Hoosiers travel to Iowa.
Heading Into Conference Play: With the majority of non-conference play now complete, 10 conference squads have suffered three or fewer defeats. Minnesota (12-0) remains perfect in non-conference action joining only eight other teams in the nation with unblemished records. The Golden Gophers are one of six teams with 12 wins to lead the nation. Illinois (11-1) and Ohio State (9-1) enter the conference slate with only one loss each. Penn State's 11-2 record marks its most wins ever, entering Big Ten play, as the Nittany Lions are off to their best start since the 1995-96 team began 13-0. Purdue is also 11-2 entering Big Ten play. Michigan and Michigan State are both 9-2 entering the week. Iowa (10-3) and Wisconsin (9-3) have each suffered three losses during the non-conference.
RPI Success: The Big Ten remained second overall in the non-conference RPI ratings to the ACC (.5995) with an overall adjusted RPI of .5851. The Big Ten has three teams among the RPI top 25 in No. 10 Northwestern (.6415), No. 21 Michigan (.6245) and No. 22 Illinois (.6238). A complete listing of Big Ten squads’ RPI rankings appears on page 5.
A Strong Non-Conference Season: The Big Ten wraps up the non-conference season with a 105-25 overall record in seven weeks of action. The .808 winning percentage ranks second in the nation, behind the ACC, which leads with a .824 winning percentage (112-24). Twenty-three of the 25 losses by Big Ten teams have come at the hands of squads that advanced to the postseason a year ago. Of the 25 deficits, nine were narrow contests, in which Big Ten teams fell short by 10 or fewer points.
Winning Percentage by Conference
1. ACC 112-24 .824
2. Big Ten 105-25 .808
3. Big East 151-39 .795
4. Big 12 108-29 .788
5. SEC 105-32 .766
More on the Non-Conference Slate: The Big Ten heads into conference action with a .800-win percentage. Standing at 105-25 (.808) overall, the Big Ten solidified its best non-conference start since the 1988-89 season when it amassed an .824 winning percentage against non-conference foes. Since the 1905-06 season, there have only been eight times in which the Big Ten has finished .800 or above against non-conference teams during the regular season.
Big Ten Debut: Indiana’s Tom Crean will get his first taste of Big Ten action as a head coach on Saturday when the Hoosiers travel to Iowa. Crean joined the Hoosiers after spending nine years as head coach at Marquette, where he led the Golden Eagles to an 190-96 record, a Conference USA title, five NCAA Tournament appearances and a Final Four berth.
Then There Were Nine: Nine teams now stand undefeated entering the seventh week of the college basketball season. The Big Ten has one representative yet to suffer a loss this season. The ACC (Clemson, North Carolina, Wake Forest) has three undefeated teams, while the Big East (Connecticut, Pittsburgh) has two. The Big Ten joins the Pac-10 (Stanford), MVC (Illinois State) and Big 12 (Oklahoma) with one perfect team each.
Illinois State 12-0
North Carolina 12-0
Wake Forest 11-0
Still Perfect: Minnesota is one of only nine teams that remain undefeated on the 2008-09 season. The Gophers are enjoying a perfect record for the first time this late in the season since the 1948-49 campaign when the team started 12-0.
A Note from the Road: The Big Ten has compiled a 10-8 (.556) record away from the friendly confines of home to join the ACC (.720) and the Big East (.640) as the only three conferences with win percentages over .500 on the road.
Five in the Polls: With five teams--Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue--ranked in the AP poll this week, the Big Ten leads all conferences with 46 percent of its members among the top-25. The Big East is second with seven of its 16 teams ranked, representing 44 percent of the conference’s contingency. The Boilermakers return to the top 10 after a two-week hiatus, checking in at No. 9. The Spartans round out the top 10, while the Golden Gophers are 21st. Michigan moves up a slot to No. 23 this week and Ohio State rounds out the Big Ten’s contingency at No. 24.
Battle for Scoring Title Heats Up: This week the Big Ten saw a new sophomore climb his way to the top of the leaderboard in scoring. Penn State’s Talor Battle edged out Michigan’s Manny Harris after netting 36 points over two games last week. Battle and Harris are now averaging just over 19 points per game, amassing 249 points (19.2 ppg.) and 209 points (19.0 ppg.), respectively, in non-conference action. The battle for the top will continue as the two teams enter conference play this week.
Grand Company: Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan became the second active Big Ten player to score 1,000 points when he tallied eight points against Oakland last week to boost his career total to 1,000 points. Three other conference standouts are on pace to join Morgan as Northwestern’s duo of Craig Moore (988) and Kevin Coble (868) and Penn State’s Danny Morrissey (834) are also within 170 points of that scoring plateau. PSU’s Jamelle Cornley (1,240) entered the 2008-09 campaign with more than 1,000 career points.
Sensational Sophomores: A group of sophomores leads the Big Ten in seven of the 13 major statistical categories in games played to date. Penn State’s Talor Battle leads the young pack, pacing the conference in both scoring (19.2 ppg.) and minutes played (36.15 per game). Michigan State and Ohio State each feature two players at the forefront of the leaderboard. Spartan Sophomores Kalin Lucas leads the conference with a 6.45 assist-to-turnover ratio, while sharp-shooter Durrell Summers paces the Big Ten in three-point field goal percentage (.536). Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Dallas Lauderdale also lead the conference in steals (2.70 spg.) and blocked shots (3.20 bpg.), respectively. Illinois’ Mike Davis rounds out the list of sensational sophomores, leading the Big Ten with an average of 6.15 defensive boards per contest.
Other Conference Leaders: Mid-way through the regular season, Michigan State leads the conference with three Spartans at the top of the leaderboard in their respective categories. In addition to the two sophomores, Spartan junior Raymar Morgan leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage, shooting 62-of-95 (.653) in games to date. Iowa joins Ohio State with two athletes on top of the charts, including leaders Matt Gatens in free-throw percentage (.964) and Anthony Tucker in three-point field goals made (35). Illinois saw one player at No. 1 in senior Chester Frazier, who paces the conference in assists with 6.46 apg. Junior DeShawn Sims represented Michigan in the conference standings, leading the conference in rebounding with 9.2 rpg. Indiana’s Tom Pritchard is the only freshman to top the charts, pacing the conference in offensive rebounds, averaging 3.75 per outing.
Big Ten. Big Blog.: The Big Ten will launch its men’s basketball blog today as the race for the title begins. The Big Ten. Big Blog. will feature up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening around the conference. In addition to the latest news, the blog will include video courtesy of the Big Ten Network, previews and reviews of each night’s Big Ten action, and statistics. The latest blog entry can be found at: http://bigten.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/122808aaa.html.