Basketball weather arrived in the Midwest this week. I wouldn’t call that a good thing.
Michigan State: You think Iowa basketball is feeling upbeat, thinking big? Michigan State believes it has the goods to cut down the nets not just in Indianapolis at the Big Ten tournament, but in Arlington, Texas, at the Final Four.
At MSU’s Media Day this week, Spartans Coach Tom Izzo said he hasn’t felt this optimistic about his team’s chances to go to the Final Four since before the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons, when MSU did just that and more.
As the aformentioned linked Detroit Free Press story by Joe Rexrode notes, every four-year player of Izzo’s who finished his eligibility at MSU has reached a Final Four. That streak is on the line this year, since Spartan seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne have not been to one.
“I think we have a bunch of guys that understand that this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Izzo said.
Name a college football coach anywhere who would say such a thing.
Penn State: Nittany Lions Coach Pat Chambers is no stranger to enthusiasm himself.
He’s happy to have guard Tim Frazier, a former All-Big Ten player, back from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. To hear Chambers tell it, Frazier became even more of a dynamic player by sitting and watching the game for a year.
“His IQ is off the charts now,” Chambers said in this Onwardstate.com story. “The leadership level that he is showing in the locker room, on the floor, he totally understands by just seeing it, watching it and understanding it. It’s kind of one of those ‘I never knew what was going because I’m in the practice’ things. Now, by sitting out he sees it and by being a leader.”
Chambers claims Frazier’s vertical leap has actually improved by a half-inch from his pre-injury standard.
The Lions better be better this season, because the school added ice hockey this year, and there’s a definite excitement for that on campus. A sellout crowd of 6,370 was at Penn State’s $90 million Pegula Ice Arena for the Oct. 11 home-opener, a 4-1 win over Army.
Nice-looking buiding, eh?
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will scrimmage West Virginia Saturday. These closed-door scrimmages are kept pretty hush-hush, but everybody gets one. Iowa scrimmaged against Kansas State Sunday in Omaha.
When asked Tuesday to name the top five players he’s ever coached, Buckeyes Coach Thad Matta quickly responded with Jared Sullinger, Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Evan Turner. Matta struggled with the fifth, but he threw out names he’d consider, such as Aaron Craft, Jon Diebler, Je’Kel Foster and David Lighty. (Source: Cleveland.com, Ari Wasserman)
Every time I saw Deshaun Thomas play in person last season for OSU, I was wowed. He averaged 19.8 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. But Matta didn’t name him, and Thomas wasn’t taken in this year’s NBA draft until the 58th pick after leaving school following his junior year. He is now playing in France.
Indiana: Assembly Hall, 41 years old, has flaws that need correcting. Indiana Athletics Director Fred Glass acknowledges that in this InsideTheHall.com story, going as far to say:
“I really try to never go to the bathroom there if I can because the restrooms there are so nasty. We just need to do better with that sort of thing.”
Some fans want a new, modern arena. Ain’t happening, Glass said.
“One, because it would be so unbelievably costly,” he said, “and two, because it would by definition, change what right now is a really terrific venue that is different from any place else and gives us that competitive advantage.”
Wisconsin: Bo Ryan has a hill. Well, it’s not the Badgers coach’s hill. It’s in Madison’s Elver Park, and it’s about 150 yards to the top with an 8 percent grade. It’s used for the team’s offseason conditioning.
”The elevation and the pulse. The stamina, the team building,” Ryan said. “There are days when guys struggle. ‘We’ve had days where it’s 90 (degrees). We’ve had days where it’s 40, windy, blustery.”
”I’ve always been impressed with how physically strong and mentally strong our players are over the year. ‘I’ve always felt that the hill was a big part of that.”
Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker, who is on many preseason All-Big Ten lists, didn’t have to run the hill this summer.
”It’s not like I enjoyed the hill,” Dekker said.
”Not my cup of tea.”
Minnesota/Illinois: Since when did Drake become a feeder system for the Big Ten?
Power forward Joey King transferred from Drake to Minnesota and is a likely starter for the Gophers. He averaged 6.9 points and was on the Missouri Valley’s all-freshman team last season. The NCAA ruled him eligible to play this season because of a family situation. King is from the Twin Cities.
Illinois will lean on shooting guard Rayvonte Rice, who transferred from Drake after the 2011-2012 season. Rice, who will be a junior this season, averaged 16.5 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Bulldogs as a sophomore.
“Ray Rice, to be honest with you, could play four positions,” Illinois Coach John Groce said. “Ray’s gift is that he’s very, very versatile.”
Drake, you’ve got to start keeping these guys.