Tom Izzo was pulling hard for Indiana when the Hoosiers faced Connecticut on Saturday. The Michigan State head coach obviously was disappointed when the undermanned Huskies stunned Indiana at Assembly Hall. Izzo probably knew the Big Ten’s reputation among the pundits would take a hit again.
Tom Izzo was pulling hard for Indiana when the Hoosiers faced Connecticut on Saturday. The Michigan State head coach obviously was disappointed when the undermanned Huskies stunned Indiana at Assembly Hall. Izzo probably knew the Big Ten’s reputation among the pundits would take a hit again. The perception of the league usually is not at an all-time high during the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The ACC made it nine straight challenge wins without a loss this season. League-leading Indiana’s 13-game winning streak was stopped by a UConn team missing two players suspended for violating team rules. Izzo does not think that loss or any other non-league defeat should hurt the Big Ten’s image. “One game shouldn’t determine Indiana or the Big Ten,” Izzo said. “I think this league is a lot better, and it’s a lot harder to win on the road than a lot of other leagues. “I’m always going to be sticking up for us. And I think I’m doing it in an educated way, not just because we’re in the Big Ten.” Izzo points to the rankings if anyone questions to Big Ten’s legitimacy. Michigan State, Indiana and Wisconsin are among the top 13 in this week’s Associated Press poll. “Other conferences have the same issues, but for some reason we constantly get that abuse in the Big Ten,” Izzo said. “I’m not saying we don’t get any respect. But you don’t hear anybody talking that we have three teams in the top (13). I’m not sure anybody has that.” Looking Ahead The way things are shaping up, the Big Ten could send as many as five teams to the NCAA tournament. Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State all have at least 15 victories and have reasonable shots at winning the league’s regular season title. Almost six weeks remain in the season. “I said all along I think there’s six teams that are going to have a good chance for an NCAA bid,” Izzo said. Minnesota has lost three straight, but the Golden Gophers (12-6) can put themselves back in contention with a strong stretch run. Game of the Week All is not lost for the Hoosiers. They will hold on to sole possession of first place if they win Thursday at Wisconsin. “We’re coming off a really tough loss on Saturday in a game we certainly could have played better across the board,” Indiana Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said. “But we have a great opportunity coming up against a really good Wisconsin team. We have a chance to certainly right a lot of wrongs and play a lot better. We’re going to need to.” Wisconsin also is coming off a loss. Purdue dealt the Badgers their first league defeat Saturday. Starting Over Indiana’s loss to UConn ended a streak of 29 straight home wins dating to Feb. 11, 2006. Sampson came in with a 27-0 record at Assembly Hall. He broke Branch McCracken’s school record of 25 straight home wins to start a career set from 1938-41. Wooden Watch List Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan (McKinley) and Indiana’s Eric Gordon and D.J. White are among 30 players on the midseason list for the John Wooden Award Player of the Year and All-America Team. Neither Morgan nor Gordon appeared on the Wooden preseason watch list. The Wooden Award recognizes the nation’s top collegiate men’s basketball player. The All-America team will be announced April 12. Ohio State’s Greg Oden and Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker made the Wooden All-America Team last season. The league’s last Wooden Award winner was Purdue’s Glenn Robinson in 1994. 1-2 Punch Gordon and White have a chance to become the first teammates to finish first and second in the league in scoring since Michigan’s Glen Rice and Gary Grant in 1987-88. Gordon went into the week averaging a league-leading 21.7 points. White was averaging 16.8 points. Fast Breaks - Minnesota has not had player record a triple-double since Jan. 26, 1976, when Mychal Thompson finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks against Ohio State. - Gophers Head Coach Tubby Smith will try again for 400th career win tonight at Michigan. - Gordon, Morgan, Ohio State’s Jamar Butler and Northwestern’s Kevin Coble have scored 30 points at least once this season. Gordon has done it three times. Reach Canton Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or email@example.com.