Big Ten

Five B1G-gest things: Sparty spiraling, Purdue gets signature win and ... Iowa back?


Five B1G-gest things: Sparty spiraling, Purdue gets signature win and ... Iowa back?

Too busy freezing your butt off this weekend to pay attention to Big Ten hoops?

Here are the five B1G-gest things you missed.

1. Michigan State has five losses

Things are not going great for the Spartans, who already have five losses on the season before Big Ten play has even begun. The first four could have been explained away, as they came against teams currently ranked in the top 20, but Sunday night's mind-boggling loss to Northeastern in East Lansing is much more difficult to sell. Tom Izzo is laying the blame on his unproductive upperclassmen, specifically Eron Harris and Kenny Goins. The former is missing way too many shots — and got benched at the end of Sunday's game for not playing hard enough — while the latter is barely averaging three points a game. Injuries and that brutal schedule have played large roles, too, in this nightmarish start for Michigan State, and talk's going 'round the Internet that the Spartans' two-decades-long NCAA tournament streak could be in jeopardy.

2. Indiana should stop playing in-state teams

A roller-coaster non-conference season continued for the Hoosiers on Saturday with a loss to Butler, Indiana's second defeat of the season. You might remember the first one came at Fort Wayne. The Bulldogs are a high-quality program and a high-quality team and played fantastically Saturday, just so much better than the Hoosiers. Maybe it's just something about facing off against fellow Indiana teams? That, of course, would bode well for Purdue come conference play. It's darn near impossible to judge Indiana right now, as it boasts the country's two best wins, over Kansas and North Carolina, but two losses including one of the country's worst (Fort Wayne). On paper, with Thomas Bryant, James Blackmon Jr. and an expected-to-be-healthy OG Anunoby, the Hoosiers should still be a Big Ten favorite, but who knows how they'll show up on any given night.

3. Northwestern is building a tournament resume

"Signature wins" usually come against top teams and cement the winner's status as an NCAA tournament squad. None of that happened Saturday night at the United Center, but Northwestern's somewhat-frightening win over Dayton went a long way in building a tournament resume for the Cats, a program not used to having a tournament resume of any kind. As Northwestern looks for its first-ever invite to the Big Dance, that win over Dayton, a perennial tournament team, should help, especially when added to wins over name non-conference foes Texas and Wake Forest. No one's saying those are wins over the best teams in the country, and certainly the Cats have a ton left to do during the Big Ten season — specifically not losing a whole bunch of games in a row, as they've been prone to doing under Chris Collins — if they're going to finally make the tourney. But we're seeing them take the steps Collins is always talking about.

4. Purdue gets its signature win

Before Indiana lost and Michigan State lost, it looked like Purdue's epic comeback win over Notre Dame would be the Big Ten story of the weekend. The Boilers erased a 14-point halftime deficit for an awesome comeback victory over a ranked team that gave them the statement win they needed to boost their NCAA tournament resume. Prior matchups against ranked foes saw Purdue losses to Villanova and Louisville, but this game was the shot in the arm the team needed from a perception standpoint to be elevated to contender status. It was interesting how the comeback was fueled by Caleb Swanigan and Vincent Edwards. Swanigan played pretty much the entire second half while Isaac Haas sat out pretty much the entire second half, indicating maybe that Purdue is better off with one big at a time. And Edwards had a big game coming off the bench, where he's been relegated while not playing as well as initially expected.

5. Iowa back?

After that huge win over in-state rival Iowa State, Iowa took it to another intrastate foe in Northern Iowa on Saturday, the Hawkeyes blasting the Panthers by 23 points. UNI has made seven NCAA tournaments since 2004 — remember that win over Kansas?! — but is just .500 so far this season. Still, a fine job by an Iowa team we left for dead a couple weeks ago after that loss to Omaha. Peter Jok continues to be excellent, and he scored 21 points with eight rebounds Saturday. The Hawkeyes have now rattled off three straight wins after a four-game losing streak, winning those games by an average of 21 points. Despite its woes this season, Iowa is still the second highest scoring team in the Big Ten.

More B1G-ness

— Ohio State couldn't make it back-to-back years with a huge upset win at the CBS Sports Classic. After taking down then-No. 4 Kentucky last season, the Buckeyes lost to No. 2 UCLA on Saturday. It was just a three-point game at the half, but the Bruins pulled away late. Still, credit Ohio State for holding the second highest-scoring team in the country more than 10 points below its season scoring average.

— Wins by both Northwestern and Illinois at the United Center were wins, but they weren't terribly confidence-inspiring. The Wildcats led Dayton by 23 at the half and 22 with 10 minutes left but made just one basket over the final 10 minutes and nearly collapsed in epic fashion. Meanwhile, the Illini held a 16-point edge in the first half and watched that evaporate almost down to nothing, barely holding off BYU. Still, wins are wins, right?

— Minnesota and Rutgers are both 11-1, tied for the best overall record among Big Ten teams (Maryland, too, is 11-1). The Gophers didn't play this weekend, while the Knights added a win over Fordham. Minnesota has wins over St. John's, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, while Rutgers beat the Big East's DePaul and gets its first shot at a big win Friday against Seton Hall.

— Nebraska lost to Gardner Webb, which is bad. You might remember the Bulldogs from such Big Ten upsets as Purdue in 2014. The Huskers were just 3-for-17 from 3 and are now 5-6 on the season, including two losses at home.

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


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


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.