Can you see it? I can. It’s stratification in this crazy Big Ten title chase. Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan sit atop the standings with 5-2 league marks. Right behind that trio are Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue with three conference defeats.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — January is about to melt into February. Winter has set in, but spring isn’t that far out of sight. And neither is the NCAA tourney. Wisconsin knows that. So does Illinois. That’s what made today’s game so huge, as a topsy-turvy Big Ten races was about to take another step toward perhaps making some sense. Or, maybe not.
Penn State, college football and the nation have lost an icon with the passing of Joe Paterno, who succumbed to a short battle with lung cancer. For almost the last 50 years, Paterno, 85, became the face of Penn State, if not the college football world. Prowling the sideline of Beaver Stadium in his pant legs rolled up exposing his white socks and sporting his famously thick, black glasses, Paterno would become the all-time winningest coach in major college history.
Find out more about: Joe Paterno
While I wait for some Big Ten team – any Big Ten team – to take charge of this way-crazy, makes-no-sense Big Ten race, it’s time for this week’s 3-pointers from a cornfield somewhere outside Decatur, Illinois, on I-72.
Expectations are big at Ohio State. And William Buford and the Buckeyes aren’t running away from them. It’s Final Four or bust for the Buckeyes. Why not? This team is loaded with talent, including Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, among others.
You have questions, I have answers in this week’s Big Ten mailbag. A nice mix of football and basketball queries in this busy time of year. Should new Penn State coach Bill O’Brien be calling his own plays? What about Wisconsin and Matt Canada? Can Northwestern make the tourney? And what’s wrong with the Hoosiers?
Find out more about: Dienhart's Mailbag
Each week, I visit with our friend CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm about how the Big Ten looks in his NCAA projections. This week, Palm has nine Big Ten teams in the Big Dance. That’s three-quarters of the conference, but no Big Ten teams are projected as No. 1 seeds. There’s lots of basketball to be played, of course, and the Big Ten is a strong league that figures to be well-represented. Click down into this post to listen to my conversation with Palm. And remember: You can go to CBSSports.com to check out Jerry’s updated bracket projections each week.
Find out more about: Jerry Palm
College football players had until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, April 26 and continues through Saturday, April 28 (get more info at NFL.com). The Big Ten saw five players (Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, Iowa’s Riley Reiff, Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy and Edwin Baker and Wisconsin’s Peter Konz) opt for the pros, so here’s my quick look at each one along with some handy links.
Find out more about: Big Ten Blast, NFL Draft
The NFL Combine will run from Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis. It will be the chance for college players to work out and impress NFL executives in anticipation of the draft from April 26-28. The official list of Combine invitees has yet to be released by the NFL, but CBSSports.com has a list of 231 players who reportedly have received initial invites. This initial list includes seniors only and more players are expected to be invited in coming weeks.
Find out more about: NFL Draft
Crazy. There’s no other way to describe what has been a topsy-turvy Big Ten chase this season, and Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor has lived it. His Badgers entered the season with high hopes but struggled through a three-game losing skid from Dec. 31 to Jan. 8 that included two losses on Wisconsin’s home court, a rarity.
The Big Ten features 11 men’s basketball games this week, including an interesting non-league contest that has Michigan playing at Arkansas. Will this week’s slate of games feature as many upsets, further jumbling the conference race? Here’s how I rank the games this week.
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart’s weekly Big Ten player rankings are in, with the same big men remaining at the head of the class. Those players, of course, are Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Michigan State’s Draymond Green and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger.
Find out more about: Hoops Player Rankings
Up is down. In is out. Black is white. Welcome to Big Ten basketball 2012, a season filled with twists and turns that have jumbled the race (standings). And the conference season isn’t even half over. This past week was filled with tumult that scrambled the league standings and made one thing perfectly clear: This is going to be a wild race for the Big Ten championship.
John Shurna knows time is running out. The Northwestern forward knows there’s a sense of urgency for the Wildcats to get on a roll. History is at stake. Specifically: The school’s first NCAA tourney trip.
Find out more about: Big Ten Q&A, John Shurna
The 2011 season was barely punctuated, and the 2012 football polls were already coming out. LSU looks like a consensus pick for No. 1, but the Big Ten is well represented. In the five polls I found, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin all were ranked. And Nebraska appeared in all but one poll. Ohio State, which is ineligible to win the Big Ten title or play in a bowl in 2012 because of probation, is in two polls.
Tom Bradley sits and waits. It’s all he can do at this point. The former Penn State defensive coordinator told me last night that he doesn’t have any coaching jobs in the works despite several schools across the nation being in the market for defensive coordinators. In fact, three Big Ten schools need defensive coordinators: Iowa, Illinois and Purdue. If nothing transpires, the affable Bradley told me that he may explore opportunities in broadcasting. Still, he would offer a lot to any staff that hired him.
You have more questions, and I have more answers in this week’s mailbag. With the basketball season heating up, readers wonder who the best team is in the Big Ten, what’s wrong with Wisconsin, and who have been the top freshmen. But also: Did Montee Ball make the correct decision to come back for his senior year? I’ll tell you what I think but then you can tell me what you think about that question and others in the comments box at the end of my post.
Eight NCAA bids. That’s how many Big Ten teams CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm has in the NCAA tournament. Of course, there’s still a lot of time left in the season until March Madness unfolds, and schools will be working madly to enhance their resumes. Between then and now, I will talk to Palm each Wednesday and upload the phone conversation right here. This week we discussed the Illini’s big win over Ohio State, the upcoming Indiana vs. Ohio State tilt, and how many No. 1 seeds the Big Ten theoretically has right now.
Find out more about: Jerry Palm
On a night when legendary Illinois coach Lou Henson was honored with a banner that was raised to the rafters of Assembly Hall, Illini guard Brandon Paul raised the roof on the place. Paul notched a career-high 43-point effort in propelling Illinois to a 79-74 victory over Ohio State in what could be a season-defining game for the Illini.
Find out more about: Brandon Paul
News that Iowa running back Marcus Coker has asked for his release from his scholarship is bad news for the Hawkeyes. The sophomore, who was suspended for Iowa’s Insight Bowl matchup with Oklahoma for violating team rules, was one of the Big Ten’s top backs, ranking second in the league in rushing (115.3 ypg). He ran 281 times for 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns, bringing a tough, physical presence to the Hawkeye rushing attack after bursting on the scene at the end of 2010.
Find out more about: Marcus Coker
Another week, another look at the top players in the Big Ten. Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger has dominated all year. The question: Will anyone dethrone him this season from his perch atop these rankings?
Find out more about: Hoops Player Rankings
The Big Ten men’s basketball season is really heating up as we enter a third week of league action, so it’s time to roll out the first installment of my Monday basketball column. We’re calling this my Big Ten Whiteboard, because I’ll be drawing up all the good stuff you’ll need to keep track of in the week ahead.
For now, football is in my rear view window and the road for me ahead has plenty of Big Ten hoops. In my first installment of my Big Ten Three-Pointers, my aim is to fire up 3-pointers from around the Big Ten as I look back at the previous week’s news and then ahead to what’s coming. Ready, set, shoot …