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I wrote recently about how college football needs uniformity when it comes to conference scheduling. The five major leagues all need to play the same number of conference games. The Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC are on board, with each now playing nine or with plans to. But not the SEC, which recently decided that it will remain at eight games. The College Football Playoff Committee won’t tell the leagues what to do. Too bad.
The final spring football attendance figures are in. And the Big Ten accounted for three of the nation’s top six crowds. The Big Ten’s largest? That would be Penn State, which welcomed 72,000 to get a first look at James Franklin’s team.
The Spartans put a bow on spring drills on Saturday. And, this team looks good. Yes, it has some areas to shore up, like defensive tackle and the offensive lines. Still, there is a lot to like. So much so that there is … national championship talk? Yes, your ears aren’t deceiving you.
Northwestern’s union vote will take place on Friday. Hard to really tell what will happen, but results of the vote may not be known for months as the NLRB hears the school’s appeal of it the players are employees. In the meantime, NU is taking no chances, as it has put on a full-court “no union” campaign.
Is there a more hip and social media savvy coach than Penn State’s James Franklin? Nope. Oh, but there are pros and cons. He discusses it here. Franklin’s embrace of social media is a stark contrast to Bill O’Brien, who abhorred it. In fact, as legend goes, O’Brien called Facebook “Spacebook.” So, there you go. It’s gonna be a blast to see where Franklin can take this Penn State program.
Hey, I’ll be one of the first to admit it: I like Iowa’s chances this coming season. The Hawkeyes have enough to win the new Big Ten West, with Nebraska and Minnesota looking like the top competition. But Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register thinks fans should be concerned because guys like me like the Hawkeyes.
Nice piece by Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com on how the Big Ten is excelling at developing NBA players. It’s also nice that most are guys who stayed at least two years. Lesmerises says it’s those guys in the middle – good enough to go early but not sprinting out the door from day one – who have elevated the play in the Big Ten.
Can’t get enough college player union talk? Good. Here’s more: David Jones of Pennlive.com talked to a law professor about Northwestern’s fight to unionize. Long story short: expect a long battle. Jones writes that “many hoops remain through which the process must jump before we see college athletic unions at even the private institutional level, let alone for public universities such as Penn State. Even if NU players vote to unionize, there certainly will be appeals.”
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The Big Ten released its ABC/ESPN schedule of night games. And—big shock—Ohio State led the way with three prime-time slots. Nebraska and Penn State each have two. Michigan and Michigan State have one, while Iowa and Wisconsin have none. Weird how Iowa hasn’t had one since 2009.
Badgers quarterback Joel Stave missed the Wisconsin spring game with injury. And Tanner McEvoy took advantage by excelling. It has been a weird career for McEvoy, who arrived from a JC as a quarterback, moved to safety and is now back at quarterback.
Uh-oh: Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave has been shut down for the rest of spring practice with a shoulder issue. He says he’ll be OK for fall camp. Too bad. Stave needed all the work he could get after an, ahem, uneven 2013 season. Tanner McEvoy has assumed the No. 1 chair. The quarterback spot in Madison bears watching.
UConn’s win last night showed how good Michigan State could have been. Don’t follow? Well, it’s about guard play. The Huskies rolled to the title behind the backcourt tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. The Spartans had a similarly skilled backcourt in Keith Appling and Gary Harris.
Wisconsin’s season ended one game short of the national title game. The loss to Kentucky on Saturday was close, painful and soon won’t be forgotten in Madison. Still, as Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, there are many good memories from one of the best seasons in school annals.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
How about those Minnesota Gophers! In his first year on the job, Richard Pitino led the Golden Gophers to the NIT title, as Minnesota downed Larry Brown and SMU last night. Yes, Pitino inherited some nice talent from Tubby Smith. Still, Pitino acquitted himself as a coach. The guy has a bright future. And, think of this: He’s just 31. Now, if Pitino can recruit like he can coach, Minnesota could be on to something.
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Lots of excitement in the Dairy State, as Wisconsin gears up for its first trip to the Final Four since 2000. And that also has stirred memories of the coach who led the Badgers there: Dick Bennett. Yes, his style wasn’t always exciting. But the guy could coach. I miss him.
In case Wisconsin fans need a reminder, the Badgers will be facing a young and hot Kentucky team in the national semifinals on Saturday. One month ago today, Kentucky lost to a South Carolina club that would go on to finish 13th in the SEC. UK shot 27 percent in the 72-67 setback. Now, look at the Wildcats.
Still trying to catch your breath after that wild weekend of hoops games? The Big Ten had a great chance to get three teams into the Final Four. Alas, only one made it: Wisconsin, perhaps the least likely of all.