NCAA

Even though more than a week has passed since our Thanksgiving turkey feasts, sick I’m just now getting back into the swing of things after being off the grid for a while and having to recover from some awful-looking Illini basketball.

The orange and blue completely collapsed on themselves in the second half Wednesday night against Notre Dame during what is one of my favorite events: The Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

This annual event pits teams from the Big Ten and the ACC against one another, viagra and the winning conference gets to take home the Commissioner’s Cup. The ACC won the first 10 Challenges, there but the B1G had won four of the last six through 2014, according to the Big Ten.

And this year, the Big Ten notched its fifth Challenge victory, winning eight of the 14 matchups.

The ACC winners:

  • Wake Forest (over Rutgers)
  • #10 UVA (over OSU)
  • #21 Miami (over Nebraska)
  • #9 UNC (over #2 Maryland)
  • Notre Dame (over Illinois)
  • #7 Duke (over Indiana)

And the Big Ten winners:

  • Minnesota (over Clemson)
  • Michigan (over NC State)
  • Northwestern (over Virginia Tech)
  • #11 Purdue (over Pitt)
  • #3 Michigan State (over #24 Louisville)
  • Wisconsin (over #14 Syracuse)
  • Penn State (over Boston College)
  • Iowa (over FSU)

The Iowa win was especially dramatic, as the Hawkeyes needed to beat Florida State for the B1G to clench a Challenge victory, and it went into overtime. As you can see here, the Iowa fans were…nervous?

But Iowa came out on top in the end, taking down the Seminoles 78-75. So even though the Illini couldn’t get it done, and the Big 10 has just three teams currently in the AP top 25 and the ACC has six, the Midwestern conference still came out on top.

And, speaking of ranked teams losing to unranked upstarts, UCLA just took down the previously undefeated, #1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats Thursday night.

Fun fact from when these two teams faced off last year:

My, how the tables turned. That’s why I love college basketball.

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Category: NCAA

The week started out so promising.  The then-14th ranked Indiana Hoosiers descended on the Maui Jim Invitational after a 86-65 victory over Creighton, cheap and most of us who made the trip were eyeing a potential championship match-up with Kansas on the last day of the tournament.  Hoosier Nation came out to Hawaii in full force evidenced by the overwhelming amount of cream and crimson everywhere at the team hotel.  In fact, if you weren’t wearing cream and crimson, you stood out.

By the end of the week, however, after the Hoosiers had dropped two out of three games and finished with a 69-72 loss to UNLV, many fans on social media and reporters in the mainstream media were, well, disgruntled to say the least.  After all, the fans had paid thousands of dollars and traveled extraordinary miles to watch the Hoosiers play, and Hoosier Nation expected nothing less than victory (or least a close defeat) from their players and coaches.  So was the trip worth it?

As we consider that question, let’s remember where this tournament was played: Maui.  Yes, Maui.   So after the heart-breaking loss to Wake Forest on the first day of the tournament, although everyone was miserable, it could not be lost on you that you were in Hawaii.  What better place to be to nurse your team’s loss!  The beach, pool, spa, pool bar, or any one of several activities and excursions available on a moment’s notice were there to distract you and remind you how lucky you were to be on a tropical island while the rest of the Midwest dealt with the first real winter storm.  In fact, I would strongly recommend to the NCAA tournament committee that they consider having every Final Four in Hawaii for the fans’ sakes!

As for whether or not going to the basketball games were worth it, I will say this:  Not since college, have I had the opportunity to be able to sit so close to the court and observe the team.  The Lahina Civic Center is smaller than some high school gyms in Indiana.  You really had the opportunity to see the team up-close, hear the coaches barking out instructions, and watch the team from a view point that only a few get to see on a regular basis.  Even though it’s early in the season and line-ups and schemes will evolve, being able to see your team play three days in a row courtside is amazing for a college basketball fan.  In fact, I feel like I had a three day crash course in Indiana basketball that I wouldn’t have gotten from just watching the games at home (we need to fix our defense, and…ahem…turnovers!)

I had also forgotten how physically intense the game of basketball is – something that you just cannot appreciate on TV.  The speed at which the players move, and sometimes collide with each other – and the hardcourt – is extreme.  Anyone who says basketball is not a contact sport has not watched a game courtside.  And watching plays develop and defensive schemes turn on a dime as the players see it, is remarkably different from the bird’s eye view that we have on our couches.

So was the trip worth it?  For me, the answer is a resounding, Yes.  And that includes the basketball.  As I settle back into my routine, fighting off jet lag and getting ready for the holiday season, the one thing I know for sure – It’s going to be awfully hard to go back to my seats in the balcony after these last three games.

 

 

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With two weeks to go in the regular season, rx there are several great match-ups that have the potential to shake-up the CFB playoff picture.  None is bigger, however, than the match-up of the B1G season between the Buckeyes and the Spartans on Saturday.  In fact, ESPN College GameDay is headed to Columbus for the first time since 2010 for the big showdown.  The Buckeyes beat out a valiant effort by Virginia Tech who tried to entice College GameDay to come to their campus to honor retiring head coach Frank Beamer one last time.  But alas, the OSU v. MSU match-up was just too big to turn down. So what will the fans of both the Spartans and Buckeyes be in store for when their two teams hit the field?

Honestly, one can only reason a guess at this point in the season. But one thing looks for sure: Whichever team loses will most likely end their hopes of being in the playoff consideration.  Whoever wins, probably just put themselves in the hunt for the CFP.  Some argue that MSU will be primed for a win after losing a heartbreaker to Nebraska last week.  And some believe that OSU has had a cupcake schedule this year and this is their first legitimate challenge.

While the match-up between these two powerhouses on the field is certainly attracting well-deserved attention, the one story that really caught my eye this week was much more personal in nature. It was the feature ESPN did on the relationship between Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo – a football coach and a basketball coach that have fed off of each other, enjoyed each other’s success, and been there for each other during times of struggle.  And that was important last week after MSU lost its chance at an undefeated season.

“We just talked about how to deal with the media and the fans and players. I asked him how he addressed his players Sunday when he got back,” Izzo said. “Mostly, I was just checking up on a friend.” – Tom Izzo via ESPN.

Being a head coach of a Division I college sport, especially a revenue generating sport that is constantly in the national media must be awfully lonely.  You are either a hero who can do “no wrong” or the fans are calling for your job if the season is not going according to plan.  Let’s face it – we are in a “Win Now, Win Often” era of sports, both at the collegiate level and professionally. A college coach who is guiding young men through the bright lights of the wins and the devastation of the losses have to be able to be motivators, comforters, supporters, and to some extent, fathers.

But where do they turn for their own advice and support?  While I’m sure family and close friends provide a much needed support system, no one but another coach in similar situation can really understand. For Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, they turn to each other.

It probably is not a coincidence that for almost the past ten years that they have been at the helm of the football and basketball programs, MSU has seen a resurgence of success.  If you don’t know a lot about these two coaches, I would highly recommend reading the story.  And for other colleges out there – this is a blueprint waiting to be followed.

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Category: NCAA

Well, ampoule guys, online it was a rough and tumble opening weekend for two Big Ten teams. Illinois lost its season opener for the first time since 1998 and, even more shockingly, Bo Ryan’s nationally ranked Badgers squad dropped their season opener to Western Illinois.

But both B1G teams bounced back in their second games and are now 1-1. And a lot has already been said about these stumbles. So I decided to do something a little different for y’all this week.

In preparation for this season, I started following all of the B1G basketball teams on Twitter. I’ve been fascinated with sports teams’ Twitter feeds since I started following the Cubs at the beginning of this year. @Cubs has struck up a strong social media presence and doesn’t take itself too seriously, tweeting funny gifs and interacting with its 714k followers while also tweeting news and keeping fans informed. I tip my hat to whoever is running that account, and it inspired this project.

So, without further ado, here are my top five favorite B1G men’s basketball Twitter accounts.

1. Wisconsin: @BadgerMBB
Tweets: 22.4k
Followers: 145k
What’s good: They tweet a good mix of emoji, Vines and gifs along with in-game stats and fun tidbits from the team. The account handled the game one loss with aplomb and is still going strong, just like the Badger team itself. A solid follow.

2. Purdue: @BoilerBall
Tweets: 11.9k
Followers: 28.3k
What’s good: This account is all about the retweets and interacting with followers with just the right amount of snark. Their own written tweets are also entertaining and informative, and they stay active even when it’s not game day. Turns out others agree with me:

3. Indiana: @IndianaMBB
Tweets: 8,043
Followers: 70.7k
What’s good: A lot, but here’s two of my favorite tweets from them so far this season:

And, minutes later, this:

Killin’ it, Indiana.

4. Maryland: @TerrapinHoops
Tweets: 4,846
Followers: 29k
What’s good: Their tweet numbers are nowhere near those of Purdue or Wisconsin, but their game is getting there. I may be giving them extra points for retweeting a Parks and Rec gif, which is one of my personal favorite shows, but hey, that’s the kind of power I have when making my own rankings. This is also an instant classic tweet:

5. Nebraska: @HuskerHoops
Tweets: 15.2k
Followers: 47.1k
What’s good: Choosing this fifth spot was tricky. I ultimately chose Nebraska because they like to use the corn emoji for obvious reasons, and they tweet the koala emoji quite a bit in honor of their Australian player Jack McVeigh. The Huskers also got points on my made-up scale because of how active coach Tim Miles is on Twitter (you can and should follow him @CoachMiles).

The other nine teams are also worth a follow, as my top five is completely arbitrary. I put together a Twitter list to put all the teams in one place for you, check it out here.

Happy following! And happy basketball season!

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It’s that time of year when the national college football rankings are shuffling around on a weekly basis, medicine the playoff and bowl situation is starting to take shape, capsule and the Heisman watch is heating up.  But before we get to the players who will likely be the top candidates to take home the famed prize, did you know that the Heisman trophy’s earliest roots are right here in Chicago?

John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger, who played halfback for the University of Chicago Maroons football team, was the first winner of the Heisman Trophy (then called the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy) back in 1935.  Berwanger became the first player to be drafted by the NFL in 1936 and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Eagles then traded his rights to the Bears becaue they didn’t think they could pay him what he would want.  Berwanger never played for the Bears, however, because after he chose not to sign in 1936 so he could compete for a spot on the U.S. Summer Olympic team in 1936, he and George Halas could never agree on his salary  – they were $2,500 apart.

Wow.  $2,500.  My how things are different for the top Heisman candidates in 2015.  According to ESPN, the top five vote-getters in the race after last week are:

  1. Derrick Henry of Alabama. The current Heisman frontrunner had a fantastic game against LSU and is leading the FSB in rushing touchdowns with 17.  Against LSU he ran for 210 yards and had three touchdowns to  jump ahead of Leonard Fournette in votes.  Up next is Mississippi State for the Alabama running back.
  2. Leonard Fournette of LSU. Is he unfairly losing ground because of his game against Alabama? He still has the FSB rushing lead with 172.9 yards per game. Many have speculated that he may have lost the trophy for good after he directly went up against Henry last week (and Henry clearly took that round), but isn’t that why we play all the games?  And with Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M left on LSU’s schedule, Fournette could post some big numbers.
  3. Corey Coleman of Baylor.  Now here is an interesting case – he is the only wide receiver in the top five vote-getters last week.  He had 5 first-place votes (more than any other candidate) but is sitting in third place because he did not receive any votes on three of the ballots.
  4. Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State.  Big Ten fans know Elliott well as he most likely has run through you favorite team’s defense at will since he has rushed for 100 plus yards in 14 consecutive games.  To say he is a workhorse is an understatement.  He will also have a great opportunity to show how he performs against OSU’s multiple ranked opponents in the last month of the season.
  5. Christian McCaffrey of Stanford. McCaffrey has climbed back into the top five after being out for one week.  He rushed for 147 yards against Colorado and even threw a 28-yard touchdown pass during the game.

While it looks like the top two front-runners of Henry and Fournette seem to be going head-to-head in the last few weeks of the season to grab those final and definitive votes, we have all been shocked by Heisman winners in the past – will we be this year too?  One thing is for sure.  There won’t be any future NFL deals blown up because of $2,500.

 

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Those familiar with Chicago sports know all too well that the Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. (Heck, no rx let’s be honest, cialis everyone knows that.)  And quite frankly, stuff it is difficult to find any sports records that go beyond that century plus mark.  Well, we found one! For the first time in 112 seasons of Big Ten football, 1903 to be exact, there are three undefeated Big Ten teams headed into Week 10 – Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.

Seven Big Ten teams have already won the required six wins to qualify for post-season bowl games: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northwestern, in addition to the three undefeateds.  And Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana each need two more wins to qualify.  This is familiar territory for the Big Ten and its fans as 2014 saw its best bowl season ever with ten teams receiving invitations. There could be a repeat this year if Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana can each grab two wins and qualify.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, this time of year in college football is the home stretch and a lot can happen.  So here are some Big Ten match-ups to watch this weekend:

  • Penn State at Northwestern. Both teams are coming off big wins, Penn State over Illinois and Northwestern over Nebraska before their bye week last week.  Northwestern’s defense has been strong all year and will need to hold down PSU’s running game.
  • Wisconsin at Maryland. After losing to Iowa, the Badgers need to win out and get help to win the West Division. But getting Corey Clement back last week helps move them in the right direction. Their staunch defense should be able to hold off Maryland.
  • Michigan State at Nebraska. Undefeated MSU takes on a Nebraska team that may be headed for its first losing season since 2007.  MSU’s offense has been on fire, but you can’t count out Nebraska, especially at home.
  • Minnesota at Ohio State. This is Minnesota’s first road game under their  interim coach  who took over the team after their head coach  retired because of his epilepsy.  Minnesota made it a really close game against Michigan at home last week and Ohio State has had anything but an uneventful off-week with their starting quarterback being suspended for driving while impaired on campus.

After this weekend, will the Big Ten standings be shuffled because of upsets, or will we still be looking at three undefeated teams?  All indications are that there will be three undefeated teams heading into week 11 – which makes for an awfully exciting home stretch to the 2015 season.

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Category: NCAA
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