Big Ten

Big Ten Tournament Day 4 preview: Can Northwestern reach championship game?

Big Ten Tournament Day 4 preview: Can Northwestern reach championship game?

WASHINGTON — The Big Ten Tournament marches on in the nation's capital Saturday with the two semifinal games. Here's a look at the action to come in D.C. Listed start times are Central.

No. 4 Minnesota vs. No. 8 Michigan

12 p.m., CBS

This matchup might seem a little funky, but it might not have been terribly difficult to predict considering the way these two teams were playing to close out the regular season. Minnesota has been one of the best teams in the world since the start of February, rattling off eight straight wins before stumbling the regular-season finale against Wisconsin. But the Golden Gophers got back on track with a win over Michigan State on Friday. Richard Pitino's team didn't play out of this world — it probably should've smoked Tom Izzo's group, which shot horribly — but it got the win it needed to get back on track and has now won nine of 10. Michigan, of course, is the feel-good story of this week's tournament, winning twice in two days after enduring that horrifying aborted takeoff on Wednesday. And the Wolverines have looked incredible in winning the games they've won, blowing out Illinois before grabbing a huge win over top-seeded Purdue on Friday.

While both teams have stellar point guards in Nate Mason and Derrick Walton Jr., the bigs could determine this one. Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson have taken turns starring for Michigan with an ability to score inside and out. Meanwhile, Reggie Lynch is the newly minted Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and backed it up with five blocks Friday. Jordan Murphy ain't no slouch, either, turning in a double-double against the Spartans.

[TICKETS: Get your Big Ten Tournament seats right here]

No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Northwestern

2:30 p.m., CBS

It's a rematch of a Feb. 12 game in which Northwestern went up to Madison and grabbed a landmark, NCAA tournament resume-building victory. That was just the Badgers' second loss since Thanksgiving at the time, but it started a losing stretch of five defeats in six games. For the Wildcats it was an anomaly during a 2-5 stretch. Northwestern played near-perfect defense in that game and turned the remainder of Ethan Happ's season into an inconsistent roller coaster by double-teaming him at every opportunity and sending him to the bench the majority of the second half he was so ineffective.

Wisconsin is playing better now, the winner of back-to-back games including Friday's tournament win over Indiana in which it flexed its league-best defense. It'll need to flex it again as Northwestern's offense has been sensational in two games in Washington, shooting 60 percent against Rutgers and 55.3 percent against Maryland. Scottie Lindsey — who didn't play in that game up in Madison — and Vic Law have found their grooves after searching for their shot down the stretch of the regular season, combining for 66 points in the two wins. But the Badgers can shoot, too, anf they buried 10 triples in Friday's win.

The Cats will likely be the sentimental favorites, on the verge of their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance with a chance at more program history this week in D.C. But the Badgers are the No. 2 seed for a reason.

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

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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

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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.