Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Advertisements
Advertisements

The Badger Herald Big Ten Breakdown

After an up-and-down experience in non-conference play, the Big Ten basketball schedule is in full swing. Perennial conference favorite Michigan State is not in its usual position at the top of the conference. The Spartans’ poor play has left the conference title up for grabs, and a group of solid teams are competing to win the Big Ten and place themselves among the nation’s elite before March Madness begins. Without further delay, The Badger Herald sports staff’s Big Ten breakdown:

IOWA

Record (13-5)

Head Coach — Steve Alford

Key Players — Reggie Evans, Luke Recker

Iowa closed out the 2001 season by winning the Big Ten tournament and enjoying a birth in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s Iowa team is looking to repeat that feat and is our favorite to do just that.

Iowa, coached by Steve Alford, returns five seniors to this year’s team. The group includes two of the Big Ten’s most outstanding players in forward Reggie Evans and guard Luke Recker. Last season Evans led the nation in rebounding with 11.9 per game and was an honorable mention all-American by the Associated Press. Recker, a 6-foot-6 guard, averaged a team-high 18.1 points per game last season despite injury.

The only key player lost from last season’s squad is point guard Dean Oliver; filling his shoes will be junior college transfer Chauncey Leslie. Leslie’s play as the season progresses will be key to the Hawkeyes’ success. He is a tremendously talented player but has shown his inexperience at times during Iowa’s losses.

Iowa played a very difficult early season schedule, suffering losses to Missouri and Duke. Entering Big Ten play they were an impressive 10-3. However, they currently sit at 2-2 in the Big Ten after they lost games to conference leaders Indiana and Ohio State. Still, the Hawkeyes are the most experienced team in the Big Ten and may also be the most talented. This combination should prove valuable in their hunt for a Big Ten title

Minnesota

Record: 10-5

Head Coach — Dan Monson

Key Players — Dusty Rychart, Rick Rickert

Third-year Minnesota head coach Dan Monson has the Gopher basketball program headed back in the right direction. Last year’s Minnesota team finished 18-14 overall and just 5-11 in conference play during what could be described as another rebuilding year for the Gophers.

However, this year’s team is more experienced and find themselves 3-1 in the Big Ten, a mark good enough for third place at this early juncture of the season.

One reason for the Gophers’ improved play has been senior Dusty Rychart, the team’s leading returning scorer. Rychart, who averaged 14.6 points per game last season, has been solid again this year, scoring 13.6 points per game. Rychart is just one of the big forwards that contribute to the Gophers, who have a powerful lineup with seven players 6-foot-7 or taller.

However, the biggest and perhaps most important surprise for the Gophers this season has been Rick Rickert. Rickert, a 6-foot-10 forward is averaging a solid 12 points; however, the surprise is that the freshman signed with the Gophers at all. It was a surprising move when the McDonald’s and Parade all-American signed with his home state Golden Gophers. His play has been the source of much optimism for the Minnesota faithful.

While the Gophers are 3-1 in conference play, they have yet to garner a win against one of the conference elites: they lost to Illinois, although they did beat an 0-3 Michigan State team at Minnesota. They will have a chance to prove themselves soon with upcoming games against Ohio State, Indiana, and Iowa.

Ohio state

Advertisements

Jim O’Brien entered the 2001-02 season wondering if two of his starters would be ineligible for competition. The NCAA was threatening to suspend Russian imports Boban Savovic and Velimir Radinovic as part of a sweep of international players whom the governing body suspected of compromising their amateur status while playing in Europe.

Instead, the two have been integral to the Buckeyes’ renewal for a Big Ten championship bid. Savovic is averaging 12.3 points per game and hitting 47 percent from three-point range. The sharpshooter’s consistency supports senior leading scorer Brian Brown and aids in the development of junior Brent Darby, whose play has lifted OSU to 12-2 and a spotless conference record.

The loss of all-Big Ten center Ken Johnson to the NBA was supposed to bring the Buckeyes back to the middle of the conference, but the play of the guards keeps them at the level that took them to the last three NCAA tournaments. OSU beat Iowa at home but has yet to face a stiff challenge on the road and a weak non-conference lineup has kept the RPI low. Expect O’Brien to learn a lot about his club over the next few weeks of Big Ten play.

Indiana

Bobby who? Two years after the departure of successful but controversial Indiana head coach Bob Knight, coach Mike Davis has ensured that the Hoosiers haven?t missed a step. Due to his team?s success during the 2000-2001 season, including Indiana?s highest NCAA tournament seed since 1993, Davis has already established himself as a top coach in a league full of great ones.

This season, despite playing many challenging opponents, Davis? squad picked up where they left off last year, winning six of their first eight games. After the hot start, the Hoosiers endured a slump during which they dropped three out of four games to tough opponents Miami, Kentucky and Butler.

Davis had his squad ready for Big Ten action, as they shot out to a 4-0 conference start. Indiana opened up their Big Ten schedule with wins over Northwestern, Penn State, and Michigan State, before posting a convincing 77-66 victory at conference power Iowa?s Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Hoosiers, who are led by 6-foot-10 forward Jared Jeffries, won?t have it easy the rest of the season. They still have to face Illinois twice, have a rematch with Iowa Feb. 2, and travel to East Lansing Feb. 24 to play the Michigan State Spartans, who only have one loss in their past 53 home games.

Despite their tough remaining schedule, the way Davis has his team playing, combined with Jeffries? ability to dominate a game, has made the Indiana Hoosiers the Badger Herald?s consensus pick as the top team in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin

Record: 9-8, 2-2 Big Ten

Coach: Bo Ryan

Key Players: Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, Mike Wilkinson

No one knew what to expect from Wisconsin this season, and so far the team’s play has left many wondering what will become of it. The Badgers are still adapting to new head coach Bo Ryan’s system, but it seems to be catching on.

After a dismal start to the season, falling to UNLV, Weber State, Hawaii and Georgia Tech in the course of 11 days, the Badgers have stepped up their play heading into the Big Ten. Wisconsin opened up the season with a loss to Iowa on the road, then turned around and beat Illinois at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers lost a bit of momentum with a loss to a poor Penn State team, and then stunned Michigan State when their one-point victory snapped the Spartans’ 53 home-game winning streak.

The Badgers are at .500 in the conference, a spot not many thought they would be in at this point, but they have tough tests ahead with Indiana and Iowa still the conference favorites. In order for Wisconsin to stay afloat, the Badgers need the same results that they’ve already gotten from their key players.

Kirk Penney’s team-leading 14.6 points and fearless shooting for outside the arc has lifted his team’s offense. His contributions are aided by freshman Devin Harris’ 12.5 points. The frosh’s output also makes him the leading freshman scorer in the Big Ten.

Purdue

Record: 9-9, 1-3 Big Ten

Coach: Gene Keady

Key Players: Willie Deane, John Allison, Austin Parkinson

Inconsistency may boil Purdue over this season. This year, the squad will try to forget the struggles of last year, which ended for the Boilermakers in the quarterfinals of the NIT. So far, Purdue has done little to improve this season, starting off at .500 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten.

The Boilermakers fell to solid teams in Stanford, Butler, Arizona and Cincinnati in their non-conference schedule, and then lost to conference foes Ohio State and Minnesota. They did pull the upset over Illinois, but in the early going of this season, the Fighting Illini have become the conference’s punching bag for underdogs.

What the Boilermakers do have is a strong player in Willie Deane. The junior guard started his collegiate career at Boston College, and then transferred to Purdue for his sophomore season. Last year the guard averaged 8.6 points for the Boilermakers, and this season he’s more than doubling his output with a team-high (second in Big Ten) 18.3 points per game. He is also grabbing a team-high 30 steals.

Deane is aided on the court by John Allison, who leads the team in rebounds with 6.2 per game, and Austin Parkinson, who’s tallied a conference-high 89 assists thus far.

The Boilermakers now need to turn the solid individual performances they have received into productive team outings. Purdue still has the toughest part of its schedule left with Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa to come.

Northwestern

Record: 8-6, 0-3 Big Ten

Coach: Bill Carmody

Key Players: Jitim Young, Tavaras Hardy

The up side for the Wildcats is that the toughest three-game stretch of their Big Ten schedule is already over. Starting out conference play with matchups against Indiana, Iowa and Ohio State, Northwestern saw the best that the Big Ten has to offer. However, the Wildcats came out of those games without a win, and found themselves close to the bottom of the conference.

What Northwestern can build on is the first six games of their season, all of which they won. The competition wasn’t Big Ten quality, with San Jose State, Chicago State, Florida State, Kansas State, Florida A&M and Liberty falling victim to the Wildcats, but it proved that this team can win games.

The play of Wildcats’ top individual players will keep this team out of the conference cellar. Jitim Young leads the team (eighth in the Big Ten) with 15.0 ppg, and he also leads the conference in steals with 2.29 per game. Also chipping in for Northwestern in Tavaras Hardy, who leads his team and is sixth in the Big Ten in rebounds, pulling down 7.0 per game.

If Northwestern wants to keep itself in the thick of the Big Ten race, it will have to ride these two players.

Big Ten Previews

Wisconsin

Record: 9-8, 2-2 Big Ten

Coach: Bo Ryan

Key Players: Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, Mike Wilkinson

No one knew what to expect from Wisconsin this season, and so far their play is still leaving many wondering what will become of this team. The Badgers are still adapting to new head coach Bo Ryan’s system, but it seems to be catching on. After a dismal start to the season, falling to UNLV, Weber State, Hawaii and Georgia Tech in the course of 11 days, the Badgers have stepped up heading into Big Ten play. Wisconsin opened up the season with a loss to Iowa on the road, then turned around and beat Illinois at the Kohl Center. The Badgers lost a bit of momentum with a loss to a poor Penn State team, and then stunned Michigan State when their one-point victory snapped the Spartans’ 53 home-game winning streak.

The Badgers are at .500 in the conference, a spot not many thought they would be in at this point, but they still have tough tests ahead with Indiana and Iowa still the conference favorites. In order for Wisconsin to stay afloat they are going to need the same results that they’ve already gotten from their key players. Kirk Penney’s team-leading 14.6 points and fearless shooting for outside the arc has lifted his team’s offense. His contributions are aided by freshman Devin Harris’ 12.5 points. The frosh’s output also makes him the leading freshman scorer in the Big Ten.

Purdue

Record: 9-9, 1-3 Big Ten

Coach: Gene Keady

Key Players: Willie Deane, John Allison, Austin Parkinson

Inconsistency may boil Purdue over this season. This year, the squad will be trying to forget the struggles of last year, which ended for the Boilermakers in the quarterfinals of the NIT. So far this season Purdue has done little to improve, starting off at .500 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers fell to solid teams in Stanford, Butler, Arizona and Cincinnati in their non-conference schedule, and then lost to conference foes Ohio State and Minnesota. They did pull the upset over Illinois, but in the early going of this season, the Fighting Illini have become the conference’s punching bag for underdogs.

What the Boilermakers do have going for them is a strong player in Willie Deane. The junior guard started his collegiate career at Boston College, then transferred to Purdue for his sophomore season. Last year the guard averaged 8.6 points for the Boilermakers, and this season he’s more than doubling his output with a team-high (second in Big Ten) 18.3 points per game. He is also grabbing a team-high 30 steals. Deane is aided on the court by John Allison, who leads the team in rebounds with 6.2 per game, and Austin Parkinson, who’s tallied a conference-high 89 assists thusfar.

The Boilermakers now need to turn the solid individual performances they have been receiving into productive team outings. Purdue still has the toughest part of its schedule left with Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa scattered throughout their schedule.

Northwestern

Record: 8-6, 0-3 Big Ten

Coach: Bill Carmody

Key Players: Jitim Young, Tavaras Hardy

The up side for the Wildcats is that the toughest three-game stretch of their Big Ten schedule is already over. Starting out conference play with match-ups against Indiana, Iowa and Ohio State, Northwestern saw the best that the Big Ten has to offer. However, the Wildcats came out of those games without a win, and found themselves close to the bottom of the conference.

What Northwestern can build on is the first six games of the season, all of which the team won. The competition wasn’t Big Ten-quality, with San Jose State, Chicago State, Florida State, Kansas State, Florida A&M and Liberty falling victim to the Wildcats, but it proved that this team can win games.

What will keep the Wildcats out of the conference cellar is the play of their top individual players. Jitim Young leads the team (eighth in the Big Ten) with 15.0 ppg, and he also leads the conference in steals with 2.29 per game. Also chipping in for Northwestern in Tavaras Hardy, who leads his team and is sixth in the Big Ten in rebounds, pulling down 7.0 per game.

If Northwestern wants to keep itself in the thick of the Big Ten race, it will have to ride these two players.

Illinois

Record: 14-4 (3-2 Big Ten)

Coach: Bill Self

Key Players: PG Frank Williams, F Brian Cook, C Robert Archibald

Illinois had high expectations coming into the 2001-02 basketball season. The Fighting Illini had last season?s Big Ten player of the year Frank Williams returning, and they returned three starters and nine lettermen from the team that made the EliteEight last season, with the addition of high-flying guard Luther Head and forward Roger Powell. 7-foot-2 Nick Smith gave the squad some additional depth. Not only was another trip deep into the tournament a possibility; it was almost expected.

Early on though, Illinois? difficult early-season schedule took its toll. After a 5-0 start, the Illini dropped two out of three games to tough Maryland and Arizona squads. The Illini then won six straight before dropping two out of their first three Big Ten games to Wisconsin and Purdue, both on the road.

Despite their slow conference start, the Illini are in no way out of the Big Ten race. A convincing win over Iowa, in which Illinois shut down dominating big man Reggie Evans, seems to have gotten the Illini back on track.

Williams is the main reason Illinois is still one of the favorites to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament. The 6-foot-2 junior, who will enter the NBA draft after this season, often completely takes over games with his ball distribution and ability to hit clutch shots.

Due to uneven Big Ten scheduling, Illinois won?t get to face off against Iowa again. Two games against both Michigan State and Indiana should provide the Illini with plenty of healthy competition before making what they hope are long runs into both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Michigan State

The Spartans made history in 2001 by winning a record fourth consecutive Big Ten title, but Michigan State’s 0-3 start quickly equaled the team’s conference losses in each of the last two championship seasons.

The departures of Jason Richardson to Golden State and Zach Randolph to Portland were expected to hurt, but not this much. Team scoring is down more than seven points a game, and coach Tom Izzo’s characteristically productive bench consists of two players: freshmen Alan Anderson and Chris Hill.

Hill and Anderson join Kelvin Torbert as three impact freshmen but for now, sophomore Marcus Taylor carries the scoring load at 15.7 points per game.

The biggest surprise of 2002 may not be that Michigan State has fallen out of the Associated Press top 25 for the first time in 71 polls but that the Spartans are a lopsided 0-6 on the road compared to 8-1 at the Breslin Center, where they beat Arizona and Seton Hall. Road games are historically difficult in the wide-open Big Ten, and the Spartans need to pick up a few away from East Lansing if they hope to crawl back up the conference ladder.

Michigan

It’s out with the old and in with the new in Ann Arbor. The old is former coach Brian Ellerbe, who took over a program under NCAA investigation in 1997 as the interim coach and gained the permanent job after leading the Wolverines to a Big Ten Tournament championship in his first year. Tommy Amaker is the new, who has the task of rebuilding a program in disarray.

Unfortunately, Amaker did not show much capacity for generating stability when player fights and on-court disasters left a highly-touted Seton Hall team on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble last year. The former Duke point guard now carries the label of a man who cannot deal with the pressure, none of which he will find at Michigan.

The Wolverines are still a few years away from contending in the Big Ten. Junior LaVell Blanchard and sophomore Bernard Robinson Jr. led the way to two early conference wins, but Michigan soon came back to earth with three bad losses, including one to Northwestern at home. One problem is Amaker has no one to handle the ball, with the timid senior Mike Gotfredson sharing time with last year’s turnover-prone starter Avery Queen.

Penn State

The Penn State Nittany Lions are coming off one of their most successful seasons in program history, which included a shocking defeat of North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament to secure their first Sweet Sixteen birth since the 1954-55 season.

This Penn State team, however, is not the same squad that defeated Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State and UNC last season. The Lions were severely hurt by the loss of four of their top five players to graduation.

Enter Sharif Chambliss, the newly anointed savior of the program. Chambliss, a shifty 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, has been shooting the ball impeccably, connecting on 96 percent of his free throws and 48.6 percent of his three-point shots. Guard Brandon Watkins has also been impressive, averaging 13.5 points per game.

Youth, though, will be the Lions? Achilles’ heel this season. Out of the seven players who play more than 13 minutes per game, only one is an upperclassman. Despite a conference win over Wisconsin, the Lions remain 1-2 in Big Ten play and 5-9 overall. Lack of experience, combined with a Big Ten league that is very tough from top to bottom, will probably relegate the Lions to the bottom of the conference.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *