With March Madness upon us and all the fervor surrounding the Big Ten as a power conference in both men’s and women’s basketball, one member school decided to fire up a little reminder.
In case you had forgotten, Purdue University knows a thing or two about roundball.
The men ended up finishing sixth in the league standings and lost their regular-season finale to rival Indiana, which isn’t exactly headline-inducing. However, many believe head coach Matt Painter
did an admirable job this season.
In fact, prior to the loss to IU, the Boilermakers won five of six games including an upset of ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor to secure a 20-win season and winning mark in arguably the best conference in the country. That’s pretty good production for a team that lost superstars JaJuan Johnson
and E’Twaun Moore
to the NBA and also dealt with the dismissal of junior guard Kelsey Barlow
due to a violation of team rules.
Purdue still holds the Big Ten standard with 22 league titles and has the only men’s basketball program in the conference that owns a break-even or winning mark against every other member school.
The women, meanwhile, also came to the forefront on Sunday when they cut down the nets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis after triumphing at the Big Ten Tournament in thrilling fashion.
Rranked No. 21 coming into the week, PU got 19 points from KK Houser
and hung on to defeat No. 24 Nebraska 74-70 in two overtimes in the tourney final.
Houser, ironically who hails from Lincoln, Neb., also had five steals against her hometown team. Chantel Poston
had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Sam Ostarello
added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Boilermakers (24-8), who won the tournament for the eighth time in 17 years.
The win was a bit of a payback as Purdue lost its regular-season matchup with the Cornhuskers, 93-89 in triple-overtime.
Nebraska, which had dumped Ohio State in the semifinals, also left Indy at 24-8. Lindsey Moore
scored 27 points and Jordan Hooper
added 25 for the ’Huskers, who caught fire during the week. They had lost four of six heading into the tournament but averaged 82 points in their three wins to reach the final. The Big Ten newbies came up just short in their bid to become the first women’s team to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.
At the end of the first overtime, Nebraska’s Kaitlyn Burke
missed an open three-pointer with fives seconds remaining and the score tied.
Purdue entered the postseason as the 4-seed for the conference tournament. In the semifinals on Saturday, the Boilermakers eliminated top-seeded Penn State. Brittany Rayburn
, who scored nine points and hit the game winner against the Nittany Lions, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Penn State earned the top seed for the fifth time in program history after winning the outright regular-season crown with a 13-3 mark in conference play. The Lady Lions will head to the NCAA Tournament with an overall mark of 24-6
Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue all put together 11-5 conference records, creating a four-way tie for second place. The Buckeyes earned the 2-seed by virtue of their 3-0 combined record against the other three teams. However, OSU could not add to its run of three consecutive tournament titles after losing grip of a double-digit lead in the first half against Nebraska.
Six conference teams have taken home the Big Ten Tournament title since the event’s inception in 1995, led by Purdue’s record seven titles (1998-99-00-03-04-07-08). Ohio State is next with four tournament titles (2006-09-10-11) while Iowa (1997-01) and Penn State (1995-96) have each won the title twice. Indiana earned the crown in 2002 and Michigan State took home the title in 2005.
The Big Ten sold all-session passes for $70 and single-session tickets were either $10 or $16 depending upon seat location.
Located in downtown Indianapolis – and formerly known as Conseco Fieldhouse – Bankers Life Fieldhouse also will host the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament March 8-11 with an unprecedented four games on the first day and four more for the Friday quarterfinals. CBS will nationally televise the Saturday semifinals beginning at 1:40 p.m. Eastern and the Sunday championship game beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000, and through the Bankers Life Fieldhouse box office.
Stay tuned to SportsRappUp.com for a preview of the men’s tournament including predictions for each game.
For a look at postseason awards for Big Ten men’s basketball, click here
. Bucks And Wolves Tops Again
After Urban Meyer
was hired as Ohio State’s new football coach and Brady Hoke
was a smashing success in his first year heading up the program at Michigan, Big Ten fans had reason to believe that the rivalry between the two schools and their level of play would soon be on the rise and back to an elite level.
If the results of 2012 recruiting are any indication, The Game is about to be loaded with quality players on both sides once again. In fact, according to Rivals.com, only two Big Ten schools closed on classes that ranked among the top 25 in the country – Ohio State at No. 6 and Michigan at No. 7.
Rivals, like many sites that analyze football recruiting, tabbed Alabama’s class as tops in the country followed by Florida State, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Joining Ohio State and Michigan in the top 10 were Miami (Fla.), Clemson, and Notre Dame.
The rest of the Rivals top 25 is as follows: 11) Oklahoma, 12) Stanford, 13) Southern Cal, 14) LSU, 15) Texas A&M, 16) South Carolina, 17) Auburn, 18) Oregon, 19) UCLA, 20) Texas Tech, 21) Tennessee, 22) California, 23) Washington, 24) Rutgers, and 25) Virginia Tech.
Meyer’s initial OSU class was headlined by bookend defensive ends Noah Spence
and Adolphus Washington
, each considered five-star talents. Analysts were amazed that he was able to land the top haul in the Big Ten considering Ohio State’s current plight with NCAA sanctions including a postseason ban that goes into effect this year.
Conversely, Hoke and his staff pinned down 20 of their commitments in the spring and summer prior to the 2011 season, although four-star running back Dennis Norfleet
was added on National Signing Day. The class is balanced and loaded. Defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins
is among those expected to make an immediate impact.
The remainder of the Big Ten was ranked thusly by ESPN.com: 3) Nebraska, 4) Purdue, 5) Michigan State, 6) Iowa, 7) Penn State, 8) Northwestern, 9) Illinois, 10) Wisconsin, 11) Minnesota, 12) Indiana.
The Hoosiers not only ranked last compared to their league brethren, they also were left to lament the loss of in-state quarterback Gunner Kiel
, a five-star talent who originally committed to IU. However, Indiana was put in topflight company when LSU also was spurned by Kiel, who finally signed with Notre Dame. Recruiting Tension
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson
, who lost grip of Kiel, wasn’t the only Big Ten coach who came away less than elated from the entire experience.
New Penn State coach Bill O’Brien
– who left his post as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots to help guide the Lions through troubled waters – blasted critics of the PSU class.
“I could care less about player rankings,” O’Brien said on conference call from the Patriots team hotel in Indianapolis the week of the Super Bowl. “What I care about is that we found the right fit for Penn State with all these prospects.”
Scout.com has Penn State’s class ranked No. 49 nationally and No. 6 in the Big Ten, while Rivals.com ranks the group No. 50 nationally and, as previously mentioned, No. 7 in the conference.
Rivals only ranks two prospects in the class, wide receiver Eugene Lewis
and defensive tackle Jamil Pollard
, as recruits worthy of at least four stars. Scout had only Lewis attaining a four-star rating and everyone else falling in line as a three-star or lower.
But O’Brien’s testy response was nothing compared to the firestorm that surrounded Meyer’s recruiting tactics. The former Florida coach, who cited the dog-eat-dog approach of the SEC as a concern when he took time away from coaching, came out guns a-blazin’ on the recruiting trail and actually flipped no less than seven prospects who previously had committed elsewhere.
The two that caused the most reaction were offensive lineman Kyle Dodson
– an original Wisconsin commitment who ended up announcing a change of heart and inking a letter-of-intent with OSU on signing day – and defensive end Se’Von Pittman
of Canton McKinley, who appeared to be a solid verbal to Michigan State for months but changed his mind and opted for the homestate Buckeyes.
“Se’Von Pittman had a relationship with Luke Fickell
,” Meyer explained as the keynote speaker of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association clinic in February. “I think we helped it when I made that phone call. He recruited us after a little bit. The phone call went something like this: ‘Are you interested?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Come on down for a visit.’
“I get a phone call the next few days. ‘Come on up, we’ve got good news for you.’ Can’t say I had a lot to do with that other than, Hey, let’s go. He always wanted to be an Ohio State Buckeye.
In response to comments by Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema
, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio
and MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi
, Meyer also reportedly said, “You’re pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we’ve got nine guys who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time.”
Bielema made pointed remarks after signing his class, which forced Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
to bring up the issue while meeting with the football coaches in Chicago days later and asking them to play nice.
That discussion was somewhat productive.
“There are a few things that happened early on that I made people aware of that I didn’t want to see in this league,” Bielema said, “that I had seen take place in other leagues, other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal.”
Bielema went on to mention Meyer specifically.
“I was very up front and was very pointed to the fact, actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him,” Bielema said. “The situation got rectified.”
Meyer, though, doesn’t sound like someone who is backing down.
“We’re hired to go after recruits as hard as we can,” Meyer said. “I mean as hard as we can.”
OSU also received signatures from two players who originally committed to Notre Dame – including well-rated OL Taylor Decker
– and three who once had pegged Penn State. It’s long been suggested that there’s an unwritten agreement within the Big Ten that once a recruit commits to a school, all other Big Ten coaches will leave the player alone.
Two coaches who steadfastly adhered to that policy, Dantonio and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel
, were especially careful about how they contacted prospects that were committed to MSU and OSU.
“(The agreement) has been between the coaches,” Narduzzi said while speaking at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton, Ohio, according to the Canton Repository. “Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio would never call or talk to each other’s commitments. People coach Dantonio knows well don’t come in and take players away. When you do, you lose friendships over that.
“It sets a tone and starts a recruiting rivalry. I guess it’s fair game. You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s how it is.”
Meyer intimated that he believes there is an ethical way to recruit committed players.
“There are some people that say, ‘How can you go and recruit a young guy that’s committed to another school?’ ” he said. “You ask a question, ‘Are you interested?’ If they say no, you move on. If they say, ‘Yes, very interested,’ then you throw that hook out there. If they’re interested, absolutely, especially if they are from your home state.
“Is it gratifying to go a take a guy from another school? Not at all. Is it gratifying to know that we got the two offensive tackles that we went out (for) from day one? That amazes me.”
Furthering his point, Meyer added, “We went after a young guy in Cleveland, Ohio. I asked him if he was interested in Ohio State. He said no. I wished him the best of luck, do well in school, move on. If a kid isn’t interested, we’re done. We move on.”
Meyer likely was referring to five-star OL Kyle Kalis
of Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, who signed with and pledges his allegiance to Michigan.
Meyer did receive some support during the controversy, including a comment from, of all people, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez
“Recruiting is recruiting until they sign,” the AD said. “If we had somebody who changed their mind and came to us, that’s OK.”
Ohio State AD Gene Smith also had his coach’s back.
“I am disappointed that negative references have been made about our football coaches, and particularly head coach Urban Meyer regarding recruiting,” Smith said in a statement. “In our league appropriate protocol, if you have concerns, is to share those concerns with your athletic director. Then your AD will make the determination on the appropriate communication from that point forward. The ADs in our league are professionals and communicate with each other extremely well. Urban Meyer and his staff have had a compliance conscience since they have arrived.” Hot Streaks
Northwestern forward John Shurna
, the Big Ten’s leading scorer this season, was particularly warm in wins over Nebraska and Illinois at the outset of the Wildcats’ February schedule.
He played all but two minutes in those victories and scored 52 points on 20-of-28 shooting (71.4 percent). He also was 5 of 10 from three-point range in the two contests.
Penn State leading scorer Tim Frazier
had a four-game blitz this year in which he scored 81 points, which is 37.2 percent of the Nittany Lions’ total points in that span. The junior guard also added 17 assists in the four games.
Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas
was held under double digits in a home loss to Michigan State on Feb. 11 but caught fire after that in the Buckeyes’ remaining six league games. He scored 12 points in a win at Minnesota on Feb. 14 then followed that up with 25 points – and a career-high 13 rebounds – against Michigan on Feb. 18. He closed out the regular season with 19 points, 23, 19 and 12 to give him a scoring average of 18.3 ppg in those final six games.
In those game, the 6-7 left forward hit 41 of 76 shots, good for 53.9 percent from the field. Quick Hitters
* Ohio State’s victory at Wisconsin was the Buckeyes’ 20th of the season, giving Thad Matta
’s Buckeyes their eighth consecutive 20-win season. That is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and also the second-longest in conference history, trailing only Illinois, which did it nine times (1983-91).
* On Feb. 17, Painter announced that Barlow had been dismissed from the program and that junior guard/forward D.J. Byrd
had been suspended for the team’s subsequent game against Michigan State. Both actions were a result of violation of team rules.
“This is an unfortunate situation, but we will move forward as a program,” Painter said. “We expect our student-athletes to live up to a high standard, and when their actions become detrimental to the program, there are consequences.”
The West Lafayette Police Department is investigating allegations that Byrd assaulted a bouncer at Where Else bar near campus. Byrd, 21, was under suspicion of public intoxication at the time of the incident.
A spokesperson for local police said Barlow had been at Where Else earlier but either left or got kicked out of the establishment. Barlow then came back, believing he left his wallet there. Where Else, however, refused to let him back in.
Barlow left and returned later accompanied by Byrd, teammate Robbie Hummel
and other members of the basketball team. This resulted in some type of confrontation, during which Byrd is suspected of assaulting a bouncer.
Byrd was booked into the Tippecanoe County Jail and released five hours later.
* Several Big Ten players were named as members of the United States Basketball Writers Association All-District team for District V, which includes student-athletes in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The USBWA unveiled all of the all-district coaches and players on March 6.
The District V winners were as follows: PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Draymond Green, Michigan State COACH OF THE YEAR
Tom Izzo, Michigan State ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
William Buford, Ohio State
Trey Burke, Michigan
Jae Crowder, Marquette
Draymond Green, Michigan State
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette
John Shurna, Northwestern
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Cody Zeller, Indiana