Big Ten

Let's dance: Seven Big Ten teams land on NCAA tournament bracket

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Let's dance: Seven Big Ten teams land on NCAA tournament bracket

INDIANAPOLIS — Let’s dance.

Selection Sunday is the best day of the year for college basketball fans, and it once again was a good day for the Big Ten, with seven teams — half the conference’s 14-team total — included in the NCAA tournament’s field of 68.

Big Ten Tournament champion Michigan State earned the league’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. The Spartans are the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region and will take on No. 15 Middle Tennessee State in a Round of 64 game Friday in St. Louis. The Spartans were shockingly not a No. 1 seed. Michigan State is looking for back-to-back Final Four appearances after reaching the Final Four for the seventh time under Tom Izzo last season. Behind Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine — who’s also one of the leading candidates for national player of the year honors — the Spartans will be one of the favorites to get to Houston.

Big Ten Tournament runner up Purdue is the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region and faces off against Little Rock on Thursday in Denver. Purdue looked dominant in its two Big Ten Tournament games prior to Sunday’s championship game, smoking Illinois and Michigan. The Boilermakers, who have had their share of upsetting defeats this season, have looked the part of a contender in recent weeks, getting terrific play from their massive front court and their cadre of shot-making guards.

It sets up a potential rematch of the Big Ten Tournament title game if Michigan State and Purdue both advance to the Elite Eight, a game that would take place at the United Center.

Maryland, which lost to Michigan State in Saturday’s conference tournament semifinal game, received a No. 5 seed in the big tournament and will square off against No. 12 South Dakota State on Friday in Spokane. The Terps felt good about their performance this weekend in Indy despite a tough loss Saturday. They have dropped five of their last eight heading into the NCAA tournament.

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Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana suffered an embarrassing loss in its one and only game during the Big Ten Tournament, losing to Michigan on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Hoosiers earned a No. 5 seed in the Big Dance and will take on No. 12 Chattanooga on Thursday in Des Moines. Indiana looked great at the end of the regular season, finishing on a five-game winning streak that featured three wins over ranked opponents in a four-game span.

Iowa was also eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament in its lone contest, embarrassed in an upset loss to Illinois. The Hawkeyes are in the midst of another late-season collapse, winning just twice in their past eight games. They are a No. 7 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament and play No. 10 Temple on Friday in Brooklyn.

New permanent head coach Greg Gard will look for his Badgers to bounce back from back-to-back bad losses. After winning 11 of 12 in an impressive stretch during conference play, Wisconsin allowed a total of 161 points in losses to Purdue and Nebraska, the latter an embarrassing first-game exit from the Big Ten Tournament. The Badgers are a No. 7 seed in the Big Dance — their 18th straight appearance in the tourney — and take on No. 10 Pittsburgh on Friday in St. Louis.

Michigan found itself on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble, and it will play in a First Four game Wednesday against Tulsa for the right to the No. 11 seed in the East Region. With a win in the First Four game, the Wolverines would play No. 6 seed Notre Dame on Friday in Brooklyn. Michigan entered this week’s Big Ten Tournament needing to impress in order to make the field, and that’s what it did with its big upset of top-seeded Indiana.

Take a look at the full bracket below.

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.