Big Ten

Mark Smith picks Illini, giving Brad Underwood a huge recruiting win

Mark Smith picks Illini, giving Brad Underwood a huge recruiting win

Brad Underwood's tenure at Illinois hasn't gotten off to the smoothest start, but that will all be forgotten after a huge recruiting win Wednesday.

Mark Smith, the Land of Lincoln's Mr. Basketball out of Edwardsville High School, picked the Illini on Wednesday night, spurning a host of other suitors including Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Kentucky and Duke.

Smith is not just committed to Illinois but already signed to a National Letter of Intent, the school announced, making him an official member of the program's incoming freshman class.

For Underwood, landing Smith — ranked as the No. 52 prospect in the Class of 2017 — will not just cushion the blow of a pair of losses from earlier this spring, with Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett asking out of their National Letters of Intent. It will provide a spark of excitement across the fan base.

It's the kind of huge recruiting win that Underwood's predecessor John Groce could rarely claim. Only Tilmon and the rest of this year's recruiting class marked big-time success on the trail for Groce, and he was fired before he was able to coach any of those players.

Smith had a tremendous senior season, averaging 21.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.1 steals during a 30-win campaign. He scored 30 or more points in eight games and scored in double figures in all but one of his team's 32 contests.

Smith's commitment to Illinois restores much of the prestige to a halved recruiting class that once again claims a trio of four-star recruits, Smith joining Trent Frazier and Da'Monte Williams after the departures of Tilmon, a four-star recruit, and Pickett, a three-star recruit.

Underwood now can claim some serious momentum after a rocky beginning to his Illinois tenure. In addition to the departures of Tilmon and Pickett, the Illini lost out to Kansas on former Morgan Park star Charlie Moore, who transferred after one season at Cal. Illinois is reportedly still in the mix for Kansas transfer Carlton Bragg Jr.

Underwood also adds Smith to what was a roster short on scholarship players, particularly after the decisions of Tilmon and Pickett. Smith, along with Frazier and Williams, join returning players D.J. Williams, Kipper Nichols, Te'Jon Lucas, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Leron Black, Aaron Jordan and Michael Finke for Underwood's first season in Champaign.

Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'

Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'

The Big Ten announced on Thursday that they will not play any non-conference games this fall, if they’re able to play at all.

The move comes after the Ivy League cancelled all fall sports earlier in the week.

In the statement the Big Ten said, “By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic.

“In addition, the Conference announced that summer athletic activities will continue to be voluntary in all sports currently permitted to engage in such activities. Furthermore, Big Ten student-athletes who choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarship honored by their institution and will remain in good standing with their team.”

The Big Ten also said they’re prepared to cancel their fall sports entirely, if needed to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes.

This all leads to more questions as to how the Big Ten schedule will ultimately take shape. For instance, the first three games on the University of Illinois’s schedule are all non-conference games. Will more in-conference games be scheduled to replace them, or will the Fighting Illini simply begin their season on Oct. 3 with their first conference game against Rutgers?

All of that remains to be seen, as the conference said more details regarding the conference-only schedule will be released later.


RELATED: Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

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USA Today

Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Northwestern football will no longer host their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field. The university announced the decision on Wednesday.

The Wildcats were supposed to play the Badgers at the Friendly Confines on Nov. 7. Although the university didn’t officially announce it, team's website says the game will be played at Ryan Field.

“This is a disappointing conclusion to reach, but absolutely the right one in our current environment,” said Jim Phillips, Northwestern’s Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation. “The uncertainty of football and baseball schedules, and the possibility of limited attendance, made this an easy choice to make for our student-athletes and fans.

“We’re grateful for our outstanding partners from the Cubs, and look forward to bringing the passion and pageantry of college football gameday to the city’s north side when we can do so safely and securely with a packed house.”

Northwestern initially brought college football back to Wrigley in 2010. Previously the last college football game at Wrigley was played in 1938. Since then, Northwestern has hosted both lacrosse and baseball games at Clark and Addison.

The university is still on track to kick off their season on Sept. 5 at Michigan State.

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