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Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team So far, the eyes have it, as the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes look a cut or two above the rest of the Big Ten, so if you’re an Ohio State or Iowa fan, watching the game with your alumni groups at the sports bar this fall has been, and should continue to be a lot of fun. Of course, Chicago is filled with alumni of all the Big Ten schools, so read on to see where I ranked yours. Unfortunately, the two home teams, Northwestern and Illinois are pretty far down the list.

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, yet another OSU conference title would really suck for ratings. 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.

To read the rest of the power rankings click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ sports-writing at the site he founded The Sports Bank, NBA analysis at  Walter Football.com and his “Patrick Kane Chronicles” at Buffalo Sports Daily

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 Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team  If you follow college football, you know by now that Illinois was pretty much the biggest disappointment coming out of the gate in week one. Of course, that’s another story for another post, they’ll get their shot at redemption tonight when they host Illinois State.

More concerning for the Big Ten conference could be the unexpectedly impressive showing by “Directional Michigan,” who gave the conference numerous problems on Saturday. 15 point underdog Central Michigan upset Michigan State 29-27. (Usually, MSU screws up mid-to late season, and dominates in September. Guess they got started early this season)

Eastern Michigan, a 20 point dog to our hometown Northwestern Wildcats, took NU down to the final seconds before junior place-kicker Stefan Demos nailed a 49 yard field goal with 6 ticks left. And Western Michigan lost to Indiana by just four. Maybe it’s a good thing Northern Michigan is a D-II school in the GLIAC conference. And yes, I did have to look that up. And I’m not sure Southern Michigan University exists, but if they did, they’d likely be a thorn in the side of the Big Ten as well. Not that I’m advocating gambling or anything, but who actually ever picks a school that starts with a direction? Other local favorites in this city, Wisconsin and Ohio State, have looked shaky so far too.

There’s an old football saying claiming, “you improve the most as a team from week one to week two.” If true, it could be a long year for the Big Ten, and maybe a very productive year for the MAC (Mid-American Conference).

“To win a game they way that we did is worrisome across the board. We need to execute better in all aspects. It’s easy when you see the ball run the way it was today, to point the finger at the defensive line. But I’m not prepared to do that yet. I need to watch some video. It is disappointing. We should be better than that,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game. To their credit however, they were missing their top DB (CB Sherrick McMannis) and best DT (Adam Hahn). And their best overall player (DE Corey Wootton) may not even be 100% yet.

 

Another positive to take away is the fact that Northwestern posted its seventh straight victory versus a Mid-American Conference foe, and they avoided their traditional early season slip-up at the hands of a vastly less talented team. Beating EMU by 3 in ’09 is a lot better than losing at home to D-1 laughingstock Duke in ’07 or to D-1AA opponent New Hampshire in ’06. So, the program has shown some growth, at least in the month of September.

And please join in the conversation by commenting in my live college football blog here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Chicago’s hometown Big Ten team, the Northwestern Wildcats, began the season in a manner that most predicted they would. Granted it was against Towson, an FCS (formerly I-AA) opponent, but a 47-14 win is still a 47-14 win.Quarterback Mike Kafka made a lot of plays, starting 7-8 passing and finishing 15-20 for 192 yards. The strength of the team, the secondary had a good day picking off Towson QB Peter Athens twice and holding him to just 140 passing yards. Senior safeties Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith led the way, as their experience helped them make the proper reads and coverage adjustments into what the opposing offense was doing.

The NU air attack was led by senior Andrew Brewer, who caught a 72 yard TD pass from backup QB Dan Persa, and finished with 6 catches for 145 yards. Since NU lost all their starting receivers from last season, the faithful dressed in purple were glad to see somebody step up. “Everyone talks about our no-name receiving corps, but now you guys know Andrew Brewer, so that’s one,” Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

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But it wasn’t just Brewer, as many receivers got in on the act. “It’s always exciting to spread the ball around on offense, I heard 8 different guys caught the ball,” Brewer said.
The spreading the wealth around philosophy also translated to the running back corp, where three of the tailbacks rushed for 30 yards or more, and three of the backs saw at least six carries.

Expect most of the trends from this game to carry over to the rest of the season.

Note: today marks the first installment of The Sports Bank’s new Saturday Live College Football Chat. Check it out here.

Each and every week, we’ll have numerous writers blogging from the press box, at home on the couch, the sidelines, sports bars etc. all around the Big Ten and Midwest. Our comment boards are lighting up with over 60 comments so far, so please join in on the discussion by clicking here.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

Football season commences in about three weeks, and Chicago is the capital of Big Ten Country, so it’s time to sort the league’s macho men from the weaklings. Of course these rankings are highly subject to change. In-depth previews of Chicago’s two teams (Illinois and Northwestern) coming soon!

1. Ohio State

Once again it’s re-loading, not re-building in Columbus. With Boom Herron filling it for Beanie Wells and a wholILLINIROSEBOWLe 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.

2. Penn State

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. QB Darryl Clark, LB Sean Lee and DT Jared Odrick are all ballers, and if this team can find some good replacements at OL and CB, the BCS could come calling.

3. Michigan State

It all depends on how well they replace Javon Ringer. They’ll also be breaking in a new starter at Quarterback, but you can tell the new QB, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” WR Mark Dell, one of the best in the league. Throw in an outstanding defense led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, and they’ll be solid.

4. Northwestern

Sure, they have to replace everybody at the offensive skill positions, but the new starter at QB, Mike Kafka, is an upgrade. 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- 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.

5. Iowa

They have some big, dominating corn-fed boys on the O line who can go to-to-toe with just about any front seven. But losing some of their defensive playmakers (and trying to replace RB Shonn Greene with Jewel Hampton) will take its toll. If their Jewel is IGI Certified, not a Cubic Zirconia 8-4 or better looks reasonable.

6. Illinois

A program with no consistency. 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, 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, defense was lacking last season, and they lost their best playmakers, so mediocrity is imminent.

For the Full Conference Power Rankings click here

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC Chicago Street Team

The Big Ten has history (both recent and long term). Over the last five years, the Big Ten has sent four teams to the Final Four, tying the Big East for the most teams playing on the final weekend. It’s also one of only two conferences (Big East) to advance five different programs to the Final Four this decade. The Big Ten has accumulated a record 40 Final Four appearances, tying the ACC for the national lead. They were second in conference RPI and had the second most teams in the tourney field last season. On top of all that, the league once again led the nation in attendance for the 33rd consecutive year. So with all this strong tradition, what’s with the lack of representation this draft?

The answer lies in the 2010 draft where five Big Ten players are projected to be taken, including Ohio State’s Evan Turner being a top ten prospect. That number could grow if players like Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas (the conference player of the year) or Durrell Summers, or perhaps Turner’s teammate William Buford decides to leave school early. It was simply a sophomore dominated conference last winter.nbadraft

The one guy from the main Midwestern conference who will hear his name called on draft night is B.J. Mullens. And he’s making a mistake. The highly-touted Ohio State freshman seven-footer declared for the NBA Draft after one year in Columbus in which he didn’t even hold the starting job (though he was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year.) While he has the athleticism and potential to be a quality big man at the next level, he is nowhere near ready to contribute anytime soon and should get used to sitting on the bench even more often than he did this past season.

His skill set is still very raw and he would have been better served returning to the Buckeyes to further develop his game, become more physical, and learn how to dominate a game in the paint. A solid sophomore campaign likely would have secured his status as a sure-fire lottery pick in 2010. Instead, Mullens is projected to be drafted in the mid teens/early twenties later this month. When asked about who his game can be compared to Mullens said: “I don’t care myself to one certain person, I can pinpoint certain moves that I do. There are moves that Kevin Garnett does that I like a lot, moves that Dirk Nowitzki does that I like a lot, so I try to work on those moves and try to get them down a lot.”

This draft, the conference’s theme song could be U2’s “One.” I don’t agree with Mullens’ decision, and I think these lyrics from that ballad apply to his mistake. “Well it’s too late. Tonight to drag the past out into the light…One love. One blood. One life. You got to do what you should.”

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the Washington Times, Walter Football.com and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank, NBC5 Street Team Before budding Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose came to the NBA, he owned Chicago prep courts during his career at Simeon. Along the way, he befriended St. Joseph product and current Illinois sophomore Demetri McCamey,  who leads the #19 Illini in scoring. McCamey a.k.a. “Cames” is also fifth in the Big Ten in assists at 5.0 apg. In Big Ten games only, McCamey leads the Big Ten in assists (6.0 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (4.0). Earlier this season, Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber gave McCamey a Sports Illustrated article about the work habits and development of Rose, the 2008 #1 overall NBA Draft pick. demetri

“It talked about how he matured and some of the things he does before games and I took it to heart. It helped,” McCamey said. Cames mentioned how happy he was to see his friend Rose and how hard he wants to work being a “student of the game” to try and reach the league just like the Bulls’ point guard.

“That’s what all the great ones do, that’s how you get better- what Derrick said in the interview. The coaches gave him cards of what defense they play. They’re doing it in the pros and you gotta do it in college {in order} to get to the pros, so you just gotta keep working,” McCamey said.

Cames still has a LONG way to go to reach the NBA “Rose” garden: his shot selection is sometimes suspect, his work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he’s also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential. bulls_rose_300

“If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that’s where he’s got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we’re going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can’t do,” Coach Weber said.

If Demetri matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA.

See more of Paul M. Banks’ work at the NBC Street Team, the Washington Times and The Sports Bank

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank

In December, the Northwestern Wildcats got off to an 8-2 start, the best beginning during head coach Bill Carmody’s time in Evanston. The Cats’ pre-conference performance yielded votes in the polls and a national RPI climbing as high as 11 that month.

But that hot start turned as cold as the recent weather when NU dropped their next five, including the first four of Big Ten play. On Sunday, the Wildcats stopped the slide by upsetting #18 Minnesota who came into the game 16-1.

Click here to read the rest of this story on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank 

At 14-2, our home-state Illinois Fighting Illini currently possess the most wins of all Big Ten teams. After last season’s abysmal 16-19 showing — a school record for losses — this year looks MUCH better than most people expected at midseason.

The Illini have two signature wins: a triumph at No. 9 Purdue (the program’s first road victory over a top ten team since the 1989 Final Four “Flyin’ Illini” days), and an utter thrashing of No. 25 Mizzou in the “Braggin’ Rights” game. Sure, Purdue has not looked like the preseason conference favorite that they were hyped to be, and maybe Illini Nation no longer feels the need to abuse their bragging right privileges obtained from handing the Missouri Tigers their first loss this season.

Click here to read the rest of this post on nbcchicago.com.

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank Most college basketball geeks around the country didn’t expect much from Illinois -predicting them to reach the NIT at best- and Northwestern, who has never reached the NCAA tournament in program history. Their conference, the Big Ten, was expected to be very weak as far as the six power conferences go. Yet our state’s two Big Ten teams have a combined record of 11-1 today. As the made-for-ESPN event that is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge begins, the Midwestern power conference has a 55-9 overall record, second to (yes, you guessed it) the ACC’s 61-10. What’s the secret to this early season success? Defense, as the Big Ten is first in scoring against average, holding opponents to 59.3 points per game. Northwestern is second only to Ohio State with a 50.2 scoring against average. Illinois is third, yielding 56.2 ppg.ill-nwu

After a 59-43 drubbing of UC-Riverside, NU coach Bill Carmody spoke about the size added to his lineup this year and how it’s improved his team’s defense. “They (bigger teams getting extra shots) have plagued us for years. I don’t know if the big guys necessarily get all the rebounds, but they’re always at least keeping their man away from it, so maybe it’s just our presence inside,” Carmody said. Senior guard Craig Moore, holder of the school record for three-pointers, talked about the team’s new crashing-the-boards philosophy and how it helps augment the team defense. “Coach always says in practice, keep crashing, keep crashing, he told me to crash and I looked at him like he was crazy, but it’s a different style and we’re just trying to play hard and really get after it on defense,” Moore said.

On the other end of the floor, both teams have found unexpected leaders. Point guard Juice Thompson runs NU’s Princeton offense with a solid 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And if you play the one at a Big Ten school, “juice” is the perfect word to describe your on-campus reputation. The Illini were expected to rely heavily on their guards for offense this year, but their leading scorer, Mike Davis actually plays the four. Mike Tisdale, his complement in the post, was just named Conference player of the week. Sure, the season is less than a month old and the Big Ten has largely feasted on cupcake teams with almost as many hyphens in their names as victories, (both UI and NU beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by about 20 points) but both squads look much better than expected so far.

For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank According to legend, the traditions of both homecoming and tailgating started at my alma mater, the University of Illinois. Although it’s difficult to scientifically prove these facts, anyone who’s seen a football game at the newly renovated Memorial Stadium would concur. Homecoming, the Christmas of college football, saw Illinette alumni dancing on the sidelines, marching band alumni sitting in with the current band and myself working and socializing with my fellow media alums at this year’s Champaign campaign. Like Kanye West & Coldplay’s Chris Martin sing, “I’m coming home again.”

However, what we lacked was a win over a 12 point underdog University of Minnesota team that Illinois out-gained in total yardage 550-312. Next to me in the press box was my Lakeview neighbor, and UI classmate, Paul Schmidt of Chicago Sporting.com. We witnessed the Illini making a lot of mistakes: short yardage inefficiencies, twice kicking off out of bounds for some odd reason. (I didn’t get the press release stating that the Golden Gophers had Devin Hester as their return specialist.) From our 8th floor vantage point, the two of us might have sounded like a young-man college football version of the Muppets’ Statler & Waldorf. (Two old guys in the balcony always criticizing the show.)  (“You know the Illini red zone offense isn’t half bad,” and then the other could respond, “no they’re all bad.” Ok, we didn’t really do that, but you get the idea!

 

Conversely, the 27-20 outcome had some bright spots. Sophomore stud wide receiver Arrelious Benn set new career highs in receptions (12) and yards (181, 5th most in school history). “The things that we did and the plays that we made, as far the numbers, I would never have thought we would lose, but that’s how stuff goes,” Benn said.

Benn’s mentee, freshman receiver A.J. Jenkins also had a huge day catching a career high three passes for 117 yards and 2 TDs. “Rejus has kind of been a big brother to me,” said Jenkins. Of course, I can’t write an Illini post without mentioning Illini junior QB Juice Williams, who set a Memorial Stadium (est. 1924) record for single game passing yards (462) and total offense (503). It was the second highest total offense total in school history behind Dave Wilson in 1980. However, Head Coach Ron Zook said it best in the post game presser, “we had a lot of great individual performances today, but this is a team game, not an individual game. And the object is to win.” For more Chicago Sports Analysis and discussion.

For my Washington Times.com blog “Chicago Blue State.”

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