Penn State Gets Gift Win From Pathetic Illinois’ Special Teams, Offense

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It was one of the ugliest college football games of all time. Certainly one of the ugliest Big Ten games. Not a good showcase of the conference on ABC’s national game. (The national media are going to have a field day ripping the conference after this one). Call it the football equivalent of the infamous 38-33 college basketball game played by these two schools in Champaign 2009.

It was absolutely pathetic on all levels how Illinois (6-3, 2-3 in league play) handed Penn State and Joe Paterno his record breaking 409th win. They completely gave it away.

The Illini offense and special teams were a sick joke in their inability to close the game today, and #19 Penn State (8-1 overall, 5-0 in conference) is now the only remaining unbeaten team in the Big Ten. Who’d have guessed that?

If you like passing and hate punting, this was NOT the game for you. The passing yards in the box score were just ridiculously bad. And you can’t blame it on the weather. Because the snow was only a factor in the first half.

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Penn State’s Silas Redd: Latest RB Star, Leads Big 10 in Rushing

Let the “Hunt for Redd October” puns begin. Only Bobby Rainey of Western Kentucky has had more rushing yards in this month 569-566 then Silas Redd of #21 Penn State. The 5-10, 209 lb sophomore back is even ahead of Alabama’s Trent Richardson, who’s considered a current front runner for the Heisman.

The Nittany Lions tailback has had four straight 100 yards games, and at Northwestern he had 119 by halftime. Redd is a huge reason the Lions are proving the doubters wrong. And he’s becoming the star player on a team that most people believe isn’t a legit 7-1.

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Penn State, Matt McGloin is Your Quarterback, Accept That Already!

I’m a firm believer that when you say you have two #1 quarterbacks, you really have none. And the Penn St. Nittany Lions claim they have two number ones, even though it’s PAINFULLY obvious they have a clear cut #1 and clear cut #2. Matt McGloin IS your QB1, Rob Bolden is your QB2.

Whether you admit it or not.

Fresh off their historical win at Northwestern, where McGloin was a very efficient 17-26 for 192 yards, 2 TDs and no picks, Joe Paterno had this to say:

“No, no they’ll be days when Bolden will play, you guys- we won the game WE WON THE GAME!”

So is Matt McGloin the starting QB?

“Who knows? You guys are the experts,” he responded.

Thanks! I try…..

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Joe Paterno Ties Eddie Robinson For Career Coaching Victories (408)

In both 2010 and 2011, Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno reached a legendary coaching milestone versus  the Northwestern Wildcats. Last year, the all-time FBS coaching wins leader notched his 400th career win in Happy Valley, as the Nittany Lions nipped the Cats 35-21.

This time, the 84-year-old grandfather of 17 and father of five tied Grambling legend Eddie Robinson for 408 career coaching wins. That’s the most all time for an division 1 college football head coach. The 34-24 win at Northwestern meant gridiron history was made this evening on the shores of Lake Michigan just outside Chicago. [Read more…]

Big Ten Power Rankings Week 5

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By Paul M. Banks

1. Ohio State (3-1, 1-0)

Buckeyes post back-to-back shutouts for first time since 1996, and are starting to look like the best team in the conference. Again. Eventually making this year…well, so FUN and EXCITING that I just had to get up and dance (see picture above)! Ok, seriously,  yet another OSU conference title would really suck for ratings; for everybody. Because it would be BORRRRRRRRRRING!  Where are the 2000 Purdue Boilermakers, 1995 Northwestern Wildcats, and 2001 Illini when you need them?

2. Iowa (4-0, 1-0)

Meet senior linebacker Pat Angerer, could there be a better name for a linebacker? Angerer racked up a game-high 14 tackles and two turnovers to help the Iowa defense limit Penn State to only 10 points. Angerer recorded his first interception of the season and rambled 38 yards to set up the Hawkeyes’ second touchdown of the quart. Later he forced a fumble that was recovered by the Hawkeyes at the 18-yard line.

So far, the eyes have it, as the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes look a cut or two above the rest of the Big Ten, but this next group of five teams could all go bowling this holiday season.

3. Penn State (3-1, 0-1)

PSU holds a 13-3 series advantage over the Illini, including a 6-3 edge in Champaign, so 4-1 looks likely. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten (sixth nationally) in allowing just 10.24 points per game. They got a big boost from the return of LB Navarro Bowman: In first full game back from injury, he recorded a career-best 13 tackles (five solo) with three TFLs (-7 yards) against Iowa

4. Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0)

QB Scott Tolzien set career highs with 19 completions, 31 attempts and four touchdown passes against Michigan State. He became the first Badgers’ signal caller to toss four TD passes in a game since ‘06.  Three of them went to Tight End Garrett Graham, the world’s least interesting interview subject.

5. Michigan (4-0, 1-0)

Yes they’re undefeated, after going just 3-9 last year. But their secondary and offensive line units are terrible. To quote TSB Michigan correspondent H. Jose Bosch

“We already knew how lame the secondary was. Boubacar Cissoko and JT Floyd were awful on the corners this week and that situation doesn’t look much better. As for the offensive line, the loss of David Molk hurt more than I thought it would. The slight rearranging to fill in for him affected the line enough to make Tate Forcier’s day a little more difficult.”

6. Minnesota (3-1, 1-0)

Did you know THEY have the 3rd most championships in Big Ten history. (Yes, Michigan and Ohio State are 1 and 2) Is it possible to develop a man-crush on a player whose team you hate? Because if anyone can inspire it- Eric Decker, the early favorite to win the Silver Football award. He could also end up fourth on the Big Ten’s all-time receiving and receiving yardage list at the end of 2009. The feat is more impressive when you consider how the top three WRs on both lists emerged from the statistically-inflated, pass-happy “Basketball on Grass” era at Purdue.

7. Indiana (3-1, 0-1)

Ok, so they’re much better than you or I (or anyone thought) And they deserved a power rankings jump based on Bill Lynch’s angst alone. Which was almost Mike Gundian. They also have Darius Willis going for them (152 yards on 16 carries, 9.5 avg. 2 TDs) His 85-yard score tied for the third longest in school history and the longest run against Michigan in over 20 years.


For these schools….basketball midnight madness is just a couple weeks away

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8. Northwestern (2-2, 0-1)

Last year, the Wildcats set a school record for fewest rushing yards allowed per game. They returned 8/11 starters on defense this year, including everybody’s pre-season All-American Corey Wootton. Yet everyone’s running all over them these days. What gives? Start with Wootton- 0 tackles for loss, just 6 total stops through 4 games. Maybe he’s a real-life, high-brow version of Boobie Miles- never the same after knee injury and rehabilitation.

9. Purdue (1-3, 0-0) illinette3

Are they better than you think, or is Notre Dame worse? Well, 99 times out of 100, ND is much worse than their publicity suggests. Boilers sophomore running back Ralph Bolden, who leads the Big Ten in rushing with a per-game average of 122 yards, is seventh in the nation. But defenses are figuring him out, as he was held to a season-low 64 yards by Northern Illinois and 67 by ND.

10. Illinois (1-2, 0-1)

So where is the allegedly vaunted offense hiding? WR Arrelious Benn was a favorite in August to win the Biletnikoff award. He has a whopping 44 yards receiving on the season. Juice Williams was on every QB award watch list you can mention. Through three games, he has 0 TDs, 3 INTs and a passer rating that would make Rex Grossman vomit. With Penn State coming to town, this season could get ugly quickly, like Lou Tepper or Ron Turner era ugly.

11. Michigan State (1-3, 0-1)

Replacing a QB and tailback is tough, but at Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan, they just re-load instead of rebuild.  They do have a bright spot in WR Keshawn Martin (and how could you not end up becoming a wideout with a name like Keshawn Martin?) At Wisconsin he had four catches, 139 yards and two TDs, including a 91-yard score, the second-longest pass play in MSU history.

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Jared Odrick: Defensive Line Monster

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By Paul M. Banks

Last season Penn State University’s defensive line unit came out of nowhere to have an All-World season, one of the main contributors to that dominance was Jared Odrick, a 6’5” 306 pound tackle now entering his senior season. Odrick has been quoted talking about playing the game “violently” and doing everything he does “more violent overall.” And at times his play can indeed be more violent than a “Die-Hard” movie. That violence has made him a star, as Odrick enters 2009 as a preseason All-American after finishing with All-Big Ten honors last season. I had a sit-down with him at Big Ten Media Day.

I asked him about people understanding the complexity of playing the defensive end position, which Odrick has occasionally played in practice, and maybe called upon if injuries hurt Penn State’s depth. “There’s a lot of responsibility that goes into being a defensive tackle. People that do understand the game know that the tackle is going to complement what the end does…It works the same way if the Ends are bringing a lot of pressure, then people will have to pay more attention and that helps everybody,” Odrick said.5S-PSU.jpg

And Odrick is certainly a guy who generates a lot of pressure on opposing offensive backfields with his disruptive inside push. But this year, he’ll have less help as PSU lost three defensive ends to the NFL this past spring; Including the All-Everything Aaron Maybin, the 11th overall pick of the Buffalo Bills.

“He was blessed athletically and made some big time plays, and it’s something we’ll definitely miss, but at the same time it’s an opportunity for the people we have to step forward. For some of our younger defensive ends coming up, they can watch film and see some of the things he did,” Odrick said about Maybin’s impact on the program. Regarding the talents and abilities of Odrick himself, I asked him about the best part of his game, “I hate this question. I let people decide that for me. I just try to be a smart player. If you’re a smart player than you can play faster, more efficient and that’s really what I want to try and do,” Odrick said. The gridiron isn’t the only place where Jared focuses on being smart. He’ll graduate a semester early this December with a degree in telecomm. So who’s game does Odrick analogize with? “When I was being recruited, I heard from the Georgia coach the next Richard Seymour, but really no one other than that,” Seymour said. That’s pretty good company.

Exclusive with Linebacker U.’s Sean Lee

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By Paul M. Banks

My alma mater, the University of Illinois, is sometimes called “Linebacker U.” And although they have a strong tradition at that position –producing Dick Butkus, the whose name is on the award given to the nation’s best player at LB- Penn State University has an even richer history of linebackers. Thirteen men who played the position at PSU have been named All-American; a superlative no other University can touch. There are currently four former Nittany Lions playing LB in the NFL, with a fifth battling for a roster spot in training camp. The next man to likely join them is senior Sean Lee, currently projected to be a 2-3rd round draft pick. He was a solid first round prospect before losing his 2008 season to an ACL injury in his right knee. I sat down with Lee for an exclusive interview during Big Ten Media Day.

I asked Lee about what the two-sided equation that is playing linebacker at Linebacker U. There’s glory and fame, but also extreme scrutiny and intense responsibility. “You come to PSU as a linebacker and you realize that all of us, we’re going to hold everybody to a certain standard. Paul {Posluszny- former Lion All-American currently with the Buffalo Bills} lived a certain way, acted a certain way, performed a certain way, and that’s how I tried to live and now pass on to the younger guys,” Lee responded.

Posluszny is Lee’s ultimate role model, on and off-the-field. “I would take it as a tremendous compliment,” Lee said if someone compared his game to Posluszny, the man whose injury forced Lee to step in and see his first collegiate action; in the 2006 Orange Bowl win over Florida State. “I try to play like Paul. If you look at film, you’ll see that we look similar in a lot of situations, and that’s a guy I kind of looked up to, and tried to mimic, and then pass down to the younger guys. And the younger guys will try to keep that leadership going, mainly so we can keep that high level of play up,” Lee stated. seanlee

This year, Lee might move from outside to middle linebacker, like Posluszny and another former teammate, the Carolina Panthers’ Dan Connor did before him. This defensive position switch is considered a huge honor, as is Lee’s being named a two-time team captain. Very few players in Nittany Nation achieve this. One who did was Paul, whose actions tutored Lee.

“Mainly me watching him, how detailed he was when it came to practice. How disciplined he was off the field, when it came to practice, preparing for games, and how he got to the ball. He got to the ball nonstop,” said Lee. Getting to the ball has certainly been one of Lee’s strengths.

In 2007 Lee was All-Big Ten and All-American, finishing second in the conference in tackles to teammate Dan Connor. He has a very realistic chance of finishing his career in the top three PSU career tackles list with Posluszny and Connor. With 17 more stops, he’ll enter the top ten. He enters 2009, a preseason second team All-American and a strong candidate for the Butkus, Bednarik, Rotary Lombardi , Lott and Nagurski awards.

So what does Lee consider his strongest of strengths? “I think my leadership, my intensity, a sense of urgency in trying to become a better player, encouraging others to become a better player,” Lee responded before answering my query as to what he needs to improve upon the most. “I’m always trying to work on every facet of my game when it comes to stopping the run, pass coverage, blitzing. I want to be a step faster, become stronger. I’m always trying to find as many things as I can to get better at.” Lee has a reputation for being extremely hard-working and passionate about the game of football, and that last quote is perhaps the best testimonial to his reputation.

Big Ten Power Rankings

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By Paul M. Banks
Now that Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago are over, and the cases have been made for the strengths and weaknesses of the league’s 11 teams in the “City of Broad Shoulders,” it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. And, of course these rankings are highly subject to change.

Last year’s record (and when applicable, bowl appearance) is in parentheses


1.    Ohio State (10-3, 7-1, Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas)
Once again it’s re-loading not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a whole slew of new talent filling in at key defensive positions, the scarlet and grey will have a new look this fall. Although the Bucks have looked terrible in January bowls lately, they’re still the class of the league, and look for the “sweater vest” to maintain that primary position again this season. Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Terrelle Pryor will be fun to watch.

2.    Penn State (11-2, 7-1, Rose Bowl loss to USC)
Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game” and the 82 year old Joe Paterno and his staff have innovated the “Spread HD” enough to make the Nittany Lions consistently win again in spite of turnover. Offseason defections hurt again, but there’s still plenty left. QB Darryl Clark, RB Evan Royster, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements on the OL, and possibly another CB, the BCS could come calling.

3.    Michigan State (9-4, 6-2, Citrus Bowl loss to Georgia)
It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback (Kirk Cousins or Keith Nichol) but you can tell the new QBs “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” as in WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. With him, as well as an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, this team will be very good.

4.    Northwestern (9-4, 5-3, Alamo Bowl loss to Missouri)
Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade in my opinion. With a QB rushing record already on his resume, he’s more of a dual threat (and less of an interception risk) than C.J. Bacher. Not to mention the heart and soul of this team (the defense) returns mostly in tact from last year’s campaign- when they set a school record for stopping the run. And the easy schedule (Towson, Eastern Michigan, no Ohio State or Michigan) just screams ten win season.mikekafka

5.    Iowa (9-4, 5-3, Outback Bowl victory over South Carolina)
Wow! Do they have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line. Their hogs up front can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their playmakers on defense (and trying to replace Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified and not a Cubic Zirconia then another 8-4 looks reasonable.

6.    Illinois (5-7, 3-5)
This program has no consistency at all. The orange and blue often falter under high expectations and only seem to thrive when people don’t take them seriously. This fall, projections are mixed/somewhat positive so 7-5 and a third-tier bowl sounds about right. With the combination of QB Isaiah “Juice” Williams and WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn (go to 7-to-9.com), the offense will shine brighter than the diamond in Juice’s right ear. However, the defense was lacking last season, and lost its best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.

7.    Wisconsin (7-6, 3-5, Champs Bowl loss to Florida St.)
Can you feel that seat getting warmer and warmer, Mr. Bielema? Wisco will once again have plenty of talent at the RB and TE positions, but questions abound at QB and all-over-the-place on the defensive side of the ball. They have enough talent to surprise, but another 6-6 level season looks more likely.

8.    Michigan (3-9, 2-6) There is talent on this roster, but there’s also a hot mess at numerous positions; including quarterback which as you know, is quite an important position. They’ll take a step forward this year, but then again how could they really take a step back?gophercheer

9.    Minnesota (7-6, 3-5, Insight Bowl loss to Kansas)
It’s hard to find a team that had a more bipolar season than the Gophers in ’08. They were golden in the first 8 games, but far from a precious metal in November and the postseason. With local boy and baseball star Eric Decker at WR they have one of the best offensive players in the league, and the guy throwing to the Big Ten’s Wes Welker, Adam Weber isn’t half-bad either. But after that, the roster isn’t that overwhelmingly impressive.

10.    Purdue (4-8, 2-6)
Transitions are very tough, but they don’t often last very long. Joe Tiller left a very favorable mark on this program, and there is lots of “Hope” for Danny his successor, just not this year. I’m not sold on QB Joey Elliot, the least signal-caller we’ve seen in West Lafayette in quite some time. Don’t expect anything resembling “basketball on grass” this fall.

11.    Indiana (3-9, 1-7) It looks bleak for the two Big Ten football teams in “the crossroads of America.” But hey, it’s a basketball state anyway. At least the Hoosiers can boast quite possibly the most interesting man in college football. DE Jammie Kirlew, is more than just a stud lineman, he’s spent summers interning for the Obama campaign, producing movies, and learning Italian while studying abroad in Florence. By far, my favorite part of media days was discussing the Renaissance and European culture with him. Seriously.

Big Ten Tournament Preview and Predictions

By Paul M. Banks

When the 12th Annual Big Ten Men’s basketball tournament tips off Thursday morning it will feature one of the deepest fields in recent years. If a couple of the bubble teams make a strong showing at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, as many as nine teams could have a case to be in the big dance occurring the following week. One thing I can’t figure out though is why Chicago, the city where the league is headquartered, and home to the conference’s largest media market and alumni population by miles, doesn’t host it every single year? I guess the “city” of Indianapolis ought to have something going for it.

Michigan State (25-5, 15-3) claimed the No. 1 seed after capturing the Big Ten title for the fifth time under Tom Izzo. Illinois (23-8, 11-7) earned the No. 2 seed, while Purdue (22-9, 11-7) clinched the No. 3 spot. Wisconsin (19-11, 10-8) claimed the No. 4 seed and Ohio State (20-9, 10-8) earned the No. 5 seed. Each of the top five teams receives a first-round bye and will start tournament play on Friday the 13th. Feel the chills!

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Thursday #8 Minnesota (21-9, 9-9) takes on #9 Northwestern (17-12, 8-10) at 11AM. Look for our hometown Wildcats to tie the school record for single season wins at the expense of “Tubby Time.”

The tournament’s second game at 1:30 features #7 Michigan (19-12, 9-9) against #10 Iowa (15-16, 5-13). I’m calling another mild upset here as Iowa’s Jake Kelly, a Carmel, IN native with two Big Ten Player of the Week awards this past month, will come to play in front of the hometown fans.

#6 Penn State (21-10, 10-8) and #11 Indiana (6-24, 1-17) square off at 4. Watch the Penn State fans act Bush League again and storm the court to celebrate winning another game they were supposed to win.

Remember, brackets never appear in nature composed of 11 teams, so the irregular format unfortunately needs explanation every year. For your convenience, I linked the bracket for you to look at here.

Day two begins at 11AM with top-seeded Michigan State facing the game one winner. The Spartans are the No. 1 seed for the third time in tournament history (’98, ’99) and seek to become the first squad in Big Ten Tournament history to win three tourney crowns.

Izzo is too good a coach to be caught off guard by the Princeton Offense of Northwestern again. Sparty won’t get back-doored like they did in East Lansing this past January. State advances while NU goes on to host and win an NIT game next week therefore breaking the school record for victories in a season!

However, nothing is guaranteed in this tourney as the No. 1 seed has won the tournament only four times (Wisconsin last year, Ohio State 2007, Illinois 2005 and Michigan State 1999).

The day’s second game at 1:30 is between the last two tournament champions: Wisconsin and Ohio State. I’m predicting Chicago St. Joseph product Evan Turner, arguably the conference’s best player, leads his Bucks forward.

Nobody has a better record in this tournament than Illinois (21-9), the #2 seed, who will likely end Iowa’s season slowly and painfully in yet another low-scoring game. This contest will tip off at 5:30. The Illini will remain one of just four schools (Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State are the others) to have advanced to at least the quarterfinals in every year of the event. Another thing the orange and blue have going for them, which is nice, is this fact: the #2 seed remains the event’s leader in championships. No. 2 seeds are 15-5 and have won four titles, been to the finals five times and in the semifinals on six occasions.

And by the time all the heavy drinking has started Friday night, #3 Purdue faces the winner of Penn State-Indiana. Since Purdue is 0-4 in Indy for some reason -so much for homecourt advantage- look for Penn State to upset the Boilers.
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The Big Ten Tournament semifinals and championship takes place during the weekend when most of you will be busy getting sloshed at St. Patty’s Day parades.  On Saturday at 12:40 p.m. MSU will begin their conquest of OSU. This contest features two of the league’s best players (and sophomores, so get use to these guys) in the Buckeyes’ Turner and Sparty’s Kalin Lucas. When it’s over, State will declare “THIS…IS…SPARTA!”

They say it’s difficult to beat a team three times in one year, and Penn State will learn that the hard way when Bruce Weber and the Illini finally figure out a way to beat the pesky Lions in the late afternoon game. Star sophomore guard with a porn star name Talor Battle can rest easy though, as Penn State has already punched their ticket to the big dance.

And after all the upsets I’ve picked, I still find myself with a #1 vs. #2 final game. Which is usually what happens in March Madness anyway- all the upsets occur in the first couple rounds, and it’s almost always high seeds within the final stages of your brackets. This is the final game airing before the Selection Show, and really won’t end up meaning much because 1.) Both these teams are already in 2.) Seeding and placement has mostly been determined by the time the clock turns to zero. It is hard to defeat a team three times in one season, but Michigan State gets it done beating the Illini, who will finish second for the fifth time in tourney history.

Big Ten Power Rankings

By Paul M. Banks, David K, & Peter Christian

1. Michigan State

-Momentum is on the Spartans side right now
-Izzo finally beat Bo
-If you can beat this team on the boards, you’ll likely go far come March

2.Purdue

-Getting healthy and regaining their chemistry at the perfect time
– 10-1 with Hummel in the line-up in conference play, 0-3 without him
-Cuonzo Martin must love this team

3. Illinois

-33 point games aside, they are playing well beyond expectations
– Gutsy performance in win at The Ohio State University
-3rd ranked scoring defense compensates for those nights when the motion offense stands still

4. Wisconsin
-Finally coming together to end the season.
– Trevon Hughes is terrible.  I’m surprised Bo hasn’t strangled him yet.
-Sort of traded places with Michigan since January

5. Penn State

-Big Ten’s leading scorer and nearly 20 wins has to count for something, right?
– Hanging on the bubble by a thread
-Tailor Battle may have a porn star name, but he can ball

6. Minnesota

-Inconsistency is the new constant for Tubby’s team
– Only chance is when their defense is unstoppable
-41 points at Illinois, no bubbly in Champaign

7. Ohio State

-Nice win over Penn State almost helps forget the three consecutive losses by a combined 10 points
– Snapped 3-game skid in a crucial game against Penn State
-Dallas Lauderdale may have a porn star name, but he’s a solid contributor

8. Northwestern
-Another season without a tournament appearance. I’d say “maybe next year” but another Chicago team has that copyrighted
– Hey, an NIT birth isn’t terrible for the Cats, right?
-After last season’s 8-22, 1-17 catastrophe, any postseason berth will do

9. Michigan
-Promising start turns into a disappointing finish. Wolverine fans have to feel like giving themselves a swirly right about now.
– Must win Sunday at Wisconsin if they want any hope of dancing.
-Sort of traded places with Wisconsin

10. Iowa
-Iowa is ranked 10th because Indiana has to be ranked 11th.
– I mean, at least they’re keeping games relatively close.
-Do their own fans even want to watch this team?

11. Indiana
-At what point does Tom Crean just say “Screw it, I’m calling Eric Gordon to find out where I can buy some weed”
– Lost at home to Northwestern for first time in 33 games.  HAHA.
-I’m loving watching this train wreck in circus clown pants season continue

College Hoops 101

By David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Rewind

-It’s becoming obvious that Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin will undoubtedly win Player of the Year honors.  But the Sooners could actually complete the trifecta.  Jeff Capel has to be one of the top names for Coach of the Year and after what Willie Warren did Saturday night against Texas, he has to be a top contender for Freshman of the Year.  With Griffin out due to a concussion, Warren carried the Sooners on his back scoring 27 points in a five-point loss.  If the tournament started today, I would probably pick Oklahoma to win it all.

-A 22 point, 23 rebound performance against Hasheem Thabeet has thurst DeJuan Blair into the National Player of the Year discussion.  Blair absolutely owned the 7’3 Husky, as Thabeet fouled out in 23 minutes, finishing with just five points, four boards, and two blocks.

-ESPN’s Mike Patrick was off his game when calling Saturday’s Marquette-Georgetown game.  He constantly misidentified players, gave credit to guys who weren’t even on the floor, and kept calling MU “the Warriors.”  Seriously ESPN, hire me.  I am sane and actually watch college basketball.  (Yes, that shot could also be directed at Verne Lundquist and Brent Musburger, who I am convinced, takes naps during stretches of games that he is calling.)

-Penn State 38, Illinois 33. Yes, that was really a FINAL score.  (I’ll be shocked if Paul M. Banks does not edit this portion out)

My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. Pitt (25-2)
2. Oklahoma (26-2)
3. UConn (25-2)
4. North Carolina (24-3)
5. Memphis (24-3)
6. Louisville (21-5)
7. Duke (22-5)
8. Marquette (23-4)
9. Clemson (22-4)
10. Wake Forest (20-5)

Nipping on their heels:
Villanova (21-5)
Michigan St. (21-5)
Arizona State (21-5)
Missouri (23-4)

Fast Forward

Oklahoma at Kansas (Monday, 8:00 ESPN)
Missouri at Kansas (Sunday, 1:00 CBS)

First place is on the line in the Big 12 as OU and KU enter this game at 11-1.  Griffin is going to be a game-time decision due to the aforementioned concussion he suffered against the Horns.  Mizzou is right behind them at 10-2, making Sunday’s match-up in Lawrence just as important for the Jayhawks.

Penn State at Ohio State (Tuesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Loser’s bubble is likely burst.

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UConn at Marquette (Wednesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Marquette at Louisville (Sunday, 11:00 CBS)

All three of these teams and Pitt are in a logjam atop the Big East standings.  Some sort of separation has to come after this week.

Memphis at UAB (Thursday, 8:00 ESPN2)
So much for a re-building year for Memphis…  The Tigers have now won 18 straight, 53 consecutive Conference USA games, and could land a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.  UAB is in second in C-USA and must win this game if they want to be dancing.

With UCLA fading faster than Aubrey O’Day’s once promising career, the winner of this game takes control of the Pac-10.

The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season…

Games watched through 2/22: 200

Games watched this past week: 13
Pitt at UConn
Texas at Texas A&M
Michigan State at Purdue
Wisconsin at Indiana
Washington at UCLA
Butler at Davidson
Marquette at Georgetown
Utah State at St. Mary’s

Oklahoma at Texas
Illinois at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Wake Forest at Duke
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Illini Lose Ludicrously Ugly Game

By Paul M. Banks

When you saw the box score of #16 Illinois’ (21-6, 9-5) 38-33 home loss to unranked Penn St. (19-8, 8-6) on Wednesday night, you might have thought you were glancing at a Girls’ high school basketball result. In football, the two schools combined to score 62 points last fall, in roundball just nine more.

If you ever wondered why the Big Ten, the 2nd highest rated conference in RPI, doesn’t nationally receive the respect it might deserve, it’s because of ugly games like these.

Wednesday night’s affair made the Dick Bennett “stall-ball” era at Wisconsin look like Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” years at the Great Western Forum. This contest was about defense, but it was much more about ludicrously bad offense. The Illini motion attack stood still, and the Nittany Lions (notice how their team name starts with N-I-T) got an offensive boost from the officials.

The home crowd at the “House of Paign” were boisterously critical of the refs, and perhaps rightfully so, given the disparity in free throws: Penn State attempted 11, Illinois zero. “Very flat, not moving, didn’t get good cutting,” Illini coach Bruce Weber said of his team’s non-existent “O.”

Illinois Senior guards Trent Meacham and Dr. Chester Frazier “led” (I can’t make air-quotes strong enough to invoke the necessary sarcasm) the Illini with 7 points apiece. The other three starters contributed 6, 5, and 4 points. But at least the scoring was balanced. “They played good defense all night, we missed some shots we usually make, it was a combination of both,” Meacham said. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was in attendance for this game: which was to offensive fundamentals what his predecessor Rod Blagojevich was to ethical governance. In the nearly 50 year history of Assembly Hall, this game broke records for: lowest winning score, fewest combined points, worst combined field-goal accuracy, and fewest point scored by Illinois.

Penn State Coach Ed DeChellis was asked if he had seen anything like this in all his years of college basketball. “It was uncharted water, sometimes I looked up at the score and I didn’t know what half we were in. At the end, we set this back a few years, Naismith must be rolling over in his grave,” the winning headman replied.