Big Ten names All-Conference teams


Big Ten names All-Conference teams

Northwestern and Illinois finished the regular season on opposite pages, with Pat Fitzgerald's upstart Wildcats sitting at a 9-3 record (5-3 in the Big Ten) and Tim Beckman's Illini losing the last nine games to close out 2012.

But each team featured two players on the 2012 All-Big Ten Conference Football teams.

Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien was the only player from either Illinois team to earn a spot on the First Team, while Wildcats running back Venric Mark and a pair of Illinois linemen -- offensive tackle Hugh Thornton and defensive lineman Michael Buchanan -- earned a spot on the Second Team.

Budzien was fantastic, making 17 of his 18 field goals and made all 46 extra points. The junior kicker converted multiple field goals in five games this year, including a 5-for-5 day against Boston College in the third game of the season.

Mark was everywhere for the Wildcats, rushing for 1,310 yards on a 6.2 average, catching 18 balls for 101 yards, and racking up 637 return yards (282 on punts, 355 on kicks). He also scored 14 touchdowns, 11 rushing, one receiving and two on punt returns.

Buchanan, a senior from Homewood-Flossmoor, recorded 48 tackles (6 for a loss), 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, five passes deflected and one interception.

Illinois defensive tackle Akeem Spence was named as an honorable mention after he netted 61 total tackles (5 for a loss), one sack and one forced fumble.

Northwestern featured four players on the honorable mention list -- Ibraheim Campbell, Brian Mulroe, Tyler Scott and Patrick Ward.

Campbell, a sophomore safety, racked up 81 tackles, two forced fumbles and 11 passes deflected. Scott, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior defensive lineman had 35 tackles (8.5 for a loss), seven sacks, three forced fumbles and five passes deflected.

Mulroe, a senior offensive lineman, was named a team captain and was recognized as an honorable mention for the second straight year. Ward attended Providence Catholic and the senior made the switch from right tackle to left tackle in the 2012 season. The two lineman contributed to Northwestern's 238.6 rushing yards per game.

Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!


Observations from Bulls-Lakers: Jabari's back in the rotation and Lakers fans get no tacos!

The Bulls have now lost eight straight. The most recent defeat came in Los Angeles against a LeBron-less Lakers team, and there's not a whole lot to take from it. But we tried to find three items.

1. It was just one game, but Jabari Parker looks reinvigorated

Jabari Parker looks like he's back in the rotation to stay - or until he's traded - and while it was just a one-game sample size, he sure looks like he wants to remain there, too.

Parker's statline won't jump out in the box score but he made a few plays defensively and was arguably the Bulls' best offensive player. He hit a couple tough jumpers, made an important hustle play in the fourth quarter and finished with a jam. He wasn't outstanding defensively but played a few passing lanes and contested a few shots inside.

All isn't forgiven, and he isn't going to give Rudy Gobert a run for his money for Defensive Player of the Year, but it's about baby steps with Parker. Whether it's to help the Bulls progress as a young team, or to showcase his talents (we're using that word liberally) for a potential trade, these are seriously important games for Parker and the Bulls.

Part of his night came in that frantic stretch in the final minutes of the game (see below) and he finished with a team-high 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, a pair of 3-pointers, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in just 17 minutes.

The better Parker plays, the more interest there is in him around the league. His contract still makes him a minimal asset and the Bulls can't expect to get much in return for him, but it beats him rotting on the end of the bench or taking minutes away from Markkanen or Bobby Portis.

2. Shaq Harrison rips out the heart of 21,000+ at Staples Center

If you're a true #AuthenticFan and stayed up through the end of the Bulls game you saw an incredible fourth quarter run in which the Bulls....denied Lakers fans free tacos.

Staples Center and the Lakers run a promotion where if the team wins and holds its opponent under 100 points, all fans in attendance get free tacos from Jack In The Box.

Fans looked to be in good shape as the Bulls had just 83 points with 2:19 remaining. From there, the Bulls' possessions went: 2 made free throws (85), layup (87), 3-pointer (90), dunk (92), one free throw (93), layup (95), 3-pointer (98). There were just 35 seconds remaining at that point, when Jabari Parker missed two free throws and gave the ball back to the Lakers.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope split a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds left. And on the Bulls' presumably final possession, Shaq Harrison missed a 3-pointer, but Ryan Arcidiacono grabbed an offensive rebound and found Harrison on the left wing, who pump faked and drew a foul on Ivica Zubac.

Harrison made the first two free throws to give the Bulls 100 points and send fans home hungry. The entire sequence was amazing.

3. It doesn't get any easier for the Bulls

The Bulls have now lost eight straight games, four more than the second longest losing streak in the league (New York). And the road isn't getting any easier.

They'll finish this difficult West Coast road trip on Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, who were just embarrassed by the Warriors on their home floor. You can bet the West's top seed is going to come out and play with some serious passion. That spells trouble for the Bulls.

On Saturday the Bulls return home to face the Heat, who are all sorts of a mess right now. But that first game after a road trip is a seriously difficult one. That could easily be a loss.

Then the Zion Bowl occurs on Monday: Bulls-Cavs.

It's the Cam Payne revenge game and it's going to be glorious. The Bulls should win that one, but then again....the Cavaliers beat the Lakers in L.A. on Tuesday and the Bulls couldn't do that.

Joe Maddon states that Bryce Harper on Cubs "not going to happen"


Joe Maddon states that Bryce Harper on Cubs "not going to happen"

Per Jesse Rogers of ESPN, after being asked if the Cubs would sign mega-free agent Bryce Harper, Cubs skipper Joe Maddon replied “Not going to happen”.

This retort from Maddon falls in line with the stance that ownership has reportedly taken in the Harper sweepstakes.

The Cubs could no doubt use some help to boost their up-and-down offense but it looks like it won’t come in the form of Harper. As of now, the Phillies still sit as the front-runners for the mega-free agent after reports of a 5-hour meeting between the two side arose