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BTN School Days: NU Wildcats

Eight years. Seven national championships. It’s been an incredible, historic — you name the adjective — run for the Northwestern women’s lacrosse program, which claimed national crown No. 7 in May to highlight the 2011-12 Northwestern athletic year. The seven championships rank second all-time behind perennial power Maryland’s 10, won from 1986-2010. Even more impressive, the one year during the streak that Northwestern didn’t win it all, it lost in the 2010 title game to Maryland.

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Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten special teams

It’s the third component of every team. It’s also the most overlooked component. It’s special teams. And it’s often the difference between winning and losing. So, pay attention to these rankings, from 1 to 12, of the Big Ten special teams. Oh, and don’t forget about all of my 2012 unit rankings. Don’t agree with the rankings? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment box at the bottom of the post or tweet me: @BTNTomDienhart.

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BTN School Days: Nebraska Huskers

How good was Nebraska’s first volleyball season as a Big Ten member? Put it this way: The Huskers won the Big Ten crown, with a 17-3 conference record, snapping four-time reigning national champ Penn State’s remarkable eight-year reign atop the loaded Big Ten. Yeah, it was pretty good — so good, in fact, Nebraska’s historic volleyball season highlights the school’s 2011-12 athletic year. Not even an unexpected second-round exit from the NCAA tourney can change that.

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All Gophers: It's Minnesota Day on BTN

As BTN’s Rick Pizzo says, “Hockey! Hockey! Hockey!” For Minnesota, during the 2011-12 athletic year, it was all about the school’s success on the ice. The women’s team won the national title, its first since 2005, with a victory over rival Wisconsin in the championship game, while the men advanced to the Frozen Four, also its first since 2005, losing to eventual national champ Boston College in the semifinals. The two teams combined to go 62-19-3, with the women carding an impressive 34-5-2 ledger.

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Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten secondaries

Big Ten defensive backfields are loaded with talent, including cornerbacks like Michigan State’s Johnny Adams, Iowa’s Micah Hyde and Purdue’s Ricardo Allen, along with safeties like Ohio State’s C.J. Barnett, Michigan State’s Isaiah Lewis and Michigan’s Jordan Kovacs. And some of the units figure to rank among the best in the nation, including those at Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska.

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BTN School Days: Michigan State Spartans

For a change, Tom Izzo and Michigan State entered a season unranked and on the outside of many experts’ list of Big Ten title contenders. Izzo worked his magic, per usual, as the Spartans shared the Big Ten crown, won the Big Ten tournament and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney to highlight Michigan State’s 2011-12 athletic year. To make things even better, star forward Draymond Green won Big Ten Player of the Year and earned first-team All-America honors. The Spartans, ultimately, advanced to the Sweet 16, where it lost to Louisville.

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