Big Ten

2016-17 Big Ten basketball preview: Breaking down all 14 teams

wisconsin-badgers-1109.jpg

2016-17 Big Ten basketball preview: Breaking down all 14 teams

College hoops season is here!

Yes, the football teams are still battling it out on the gridiron, but Big Ten basketball teams will hit the hardwood starting Friday night, kicking off the 2016-17 campaigns.

Be sure to clear your schedule because there are some amazing games Friday night — Michigan State vs. Arizona and Indiana vs. Kansas, wow! — and early next week.

Get up to speed on the Big Ten basketball landscape with breakdowns of all 14 teams below.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Last season: 15-19 (5-13 Big Ten, 12th), no NCAA tournament appearance

The Illini enter 2016-17 surprisingly healthy considering how the past few seasons have gone. The three starters that missed the majority of last season — point guards Tracy Abrams, center Mike Thorne Jr. and forward Leron Black — are back from their respective injuries, and they should provide massive upgrades at those positions. Malcolm Hill also returns for his senior season. He's the Big Ten's leading returning scorer and could carry Illinois as it looks to bring a merciful end to a three-year NCAA tournament drought.

Indiana Hoosiers

Last season: 25-7 (15-3 Big Ten, first), eliminated in Sweet Sixteen

The Hoosiers got terrific news this offseason in the forms of its three top players all opting to return to school for another year. Big man Thomas Bryant was one of the Big Ten's top freshmen last season and shone in the NCAA tournament, scoring in double figures in all three of Indiana's games. James Blackmon Jr. is a sensational scorer who missed the entirety of conference play last year, and OG Anunoby showed incredible explosiveness on both ends as a freshman last year. Losing Yogi Ferrell will be tough, but the Hoosiers can definitely repeat as Big Ten champs.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Last season: 21-10 (12-6 Big Ten, fifth), eliminated in Round of 32

Remember last year's starting five for the Hawkeyes and how good it was? Well, the four seniors from that group are all gone, leaving Peter Jok as the lone returning starter for Fran McCaffery and Iowa. Now, Jok is very, very good, an excellent 3-point shooter who was one of the league's top scorers a season ago. But doing it by himself — without the assistance of Jarrod Uthoff, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury — will be a real challenge. The Hawkeyes will need big contributions from Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl to help Jok out.

Maryland Terrapins

Last season: 25-8 (12-6 Big Ten, third), eliminated in Sweet Sixteen

The Melo Trimble Show is back for an unexpected third season. Trimble, who two seasons ago was the Big Ten's best freshmen and one of the best point guards in the country, struggled shooting the ball last season (despite underrated improvements as a passer and defender) and will be the only returning starter for Mark Turgeon after Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman exhausted their eligbility and Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr. left for the NBA. Trimble is trying to improve his own draft stock, and he'll be trying it with a much different supporting cast this season that includes three top-100 recruits.

Michigan Wolverines

Last season: 22-12 (10-8 Big Ten, eighth), eliminated in Round of 64

It's the last stand for the Zak Irvin-Derrick Walton Jr. tandem in Ann Arbor, both players playing in their senior seasons. There was a good deal of offseason roster change for Michigan, but there's also plenty returning alongside the two stars: 3-point sharpshooter Duncan Robinson, junior scorer Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and productive forward Mark Donnal. And John Beilein landed the country's 65th-ranked recruit in point guard Xavier Simpson. There's certainly enough talent for the Wolverines to get back to the Dance. But how high can they climb?

Michigan State Spartans

Last season: 29-5 (13-5 Big Ten, second), eliminated in Round of 64

It's been a brutal preseason for Tom Izzo's team, which has suffered significant injuries to two important front-court pieces in Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter. That's extra bad news considering the losses the Spartans suffered this offseason at the forward positions, watching Matt Costello, Deyonta Davis and some key reserves leave the program. The good news is Izzo's bonkers freshman class, which features four top-41 recruits (per Rivals' rankings) and is headlined by top-10 prospect Miles Bridges, who's getting preseason awards buzz already.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Last season: 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten, 13th), no NCAA tournament appearance

The good news is that the Gophers' top two scorers from a season ago, Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy, return for the 2016-17 campaign. Things have been sliding backward for Richard Pitino since he arrived in the Twin Cities. After winning 25 games and the NIT in his first season, Pitino has posted 18-15 and 8-23 records, last season being completely miserable. Hope comes in the form of freshman guard Amir Coffey, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Minnesota who was ranked just outside the top 50 by Rivals.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Last season: 16-18 (6-12 Big Ten, 11th), no NCAA tournament appearance

Since that great fourth-place regular-season finish in the conference in 2013-14, things have been going the wrong direction, with the Huskers finishing below .500 in each of the past two seasons. Terran Petteway seems like a distant memory, and now Shavon Shields is gone from the program, too. Plus, after evaluating his draft options this past offseason, Andrew White III transferred away from Nebraska. This season, the weight falls on Tai Webster's shoulders, and he'll hopefully get some assistance from Glynn Watson Jr., who impressed as a freshman last year, and Louisville transfer Anton Gill.

Northwestern Wildcats

Last season: 20-12 (8-10 Big Ten, ninth), no NCAA tournament appearance

Chris Collins keeps knocking down doors, turning his recruiting success into the program's first 20-win season last year. There will be a big hole in the post and on the score sheet with the departures of Alex Olah and Tre Demps, but the Cats have one of the country's best point guards in Bryant McIntosh, who can produce points and move the ball. Plus, Vic Law returns after missing the entirety of last season. Add in expected improvements from Scottie Lindsey and Dererk Pardon, and Northwestern will once more seek its first-ever invite to the Big Dance.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Last season: 20-13 (11-7 Big Ten, seventh), no NCAA tournament appearance

There's plenty of talent on this Ohio State roster, with returners leading the charge in Jae'Sean Tate, Marc Loving, JaQuan Lyle, Kam Williams, Keita Bates-Diop and Trevor Thompson. That's a mighty solid core that could have Thad Matta's crew challenging for a Big Ten title for the first time in a while (since finishing tied for second back in 2012-13).

Penn State Nittany Lions

Last season: 16-16 (7-11 Big Ten, 10th), no NCAA tournament appearance

Patrick Chambers' home-run recruiting class finally comes to State College this season. Ranked in the top 25 in the country by Rivals, the new batch of Nittany Lions includes two four-star prospects and two three-star prospects. The top two members of the class are a pair of Philadelphia products in point guard Tony Carr and small forward Lamar Stevens. Penn State finished .500 last season, but the new group of freshmen gives fans plenty of hope for the future.

Purdue Boilermakers

Last season: 26-8 (12-6 Big Ten, fourth), eliminated in Round of 64

It's another promising season for the Boilermakers, who return big man Caleb Swanigan and scorer Vince Edwards to go along with a solid supporting cast featuring Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Ryan Cline. And this season, a Big Ten veteran joins the team in point guard Spike Albrecht. Albrecht came up huge during his time at Michigan and tries to bounce back from injury this year with the Boilers. Purdue will again have big expectations after last season's runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament and embarrassing first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Last season: 7-25 (1-17 Big Ten, 14th), no NCAA tournament appearance

A new era begins this season at Rutgers, with Steve Pikiell taking over for the fired Eddie Jordan, who only mustered seven wins last season, just one of which came in conference play. Corey Sanders returns for his sophomore season after leading Big Ten freshmen in scoring, assists and steals last year.

Wisconsin Badgers

Last season: 20-12 (12-6 Big Ten, sixth), eliminated in Sweet Sixteen

The Badgers are the Big Ten favorites heading into the season and for very good reason. Greg Gard led an exceptional turnaround after the midseason retirement of Bo Ryan, and his first full season has the entirety of last season's roster back. That includes All-Big Ten First Team selection Nigel Hayes, reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ethan Happ and clutch point guard Bronson Koenig. It doesn't seem like any team in the Big Ten has a big three quite that good, and the experience and talent has some preseason prognosticators picking Wisconsin to return to the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

jeremy_larkin.jpg
USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

anderson.jpg
USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.