In the end, Ron Zook couldn’t make Illinois a consistent winner. So, the school announced today that it’s turning the page by firing him after seven seasons. The Zook era will be remembered for tremendous highs and lows, finishing with a 34-51 mark and two bowls. The zenith of his tenure was a trip to the Rose Bowl following the 2007 season, the program’s first junket to Pasadena since the 1983 season. That year, Illinois finished as Big Ten runners-up and knocked off an unbeaten Ohio State team on the road.
So, the stage is set. It will be Michigan State, representing the Legends Division, and Wisconsin, representing the Leaders Division, in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game on Saturday in Indianapolis. The two teams met earlier this season, with the Spartans winning a last-second thriller on Oct. 22. To help preview the rematch, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart considers most important numbers for each team in this post.
Indiana freshman Cody Zeller is off to a fabulous start to his college career. The highly touted Mr. Basketball has won each of the conference’s first two Freshman of the Week honors and a third could be on the way when the latest honors are released Monday morning. In Sunday night’s game against back-to-back national runner-up Butler, Zeller went for 16 points, two of which came on this emphatic reverse slam, eight rebounds, two blocks and three steals. It’s easy to see why Indiana fans are so excited about this kid. Watch the big-time dunk now.
If you’re fielding a dunk contest of only 7-footers, there might not be a better contestant than Illinois’ Meyers Leonard. The 7-foot-1 sophomore is an absolute freak of an athlete. People his size aren’t supposed to run the floor and move as smoothly and easily as he does. See what we’re talking about in this video of Leonard bringing down the house at Assembly Hall with a rim-rattling slam. Pretty impressive, huh?
(BigTen,org) The Big Ten will be well-represented at the 2011 NCAA Volleyball Championship, as eight conference teams have been selected to the tournament’s field of 64 for the second consecutive season. The eight chosen squads ties a conference record and gives the Big Ten the most tournament teams of any conference in the country. See the official NCAA.com bracket.
Legends Division champ Michigan State comes in at No. 13 in the latest BCS Standings, released Sunday night. The Spartans pace five Big Ten teams in the poll, as No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan, No. 19 Nebraska and No. 21 Penn State represent the conference’s other ranked teams. As for the Big Ten getting two teams in the BCS, remember that a team must finish in the top 14 to earn an at-large bid. That could spell trouble for Michigan, which many thought would earn a bid following its win over Ohio State.
Four Big Ten women’s basketball teams were in action Sunday, including a pair on BTN. Northwestern lost to DePaul in the first game and No. 18 Ohio State topped No. 20 LSU in the nightcap. Catch up on all the day’s action and stats on our Big Ten women’s scoreboard and read recaps for all the games in this post. Watch our highlights from the Buckeyes’ impressive victory over ranked LSU now.