Posts Tagged ‘Michigan State’

Is it too early for NCAA Bracket Busters? Oakland University says no. In fact, the Golden Grizzlies are already begging to be advanced on your tournament bracket.

No need to check your calendar, it’s only December. But the Golden Grizzlies are already making a case for their third invitation to the national tournament, and second as many years.

Last year, Oakland made a quick exit dropping a first-round decision (89-66) to Pittsburgh, but early indications point toward a possible Cinderella story this season.

So far in the 2010-2011 campaign, the Golden Grizzlies have played against four top 25 teams and have had legitimate shots to win three. Tuesday was the fourth in Knoxville taking on the seventh-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.

Walking into an arena with so much history and tradition could have been overwhelming for the Summit League leaders, but they proved the previous three upset attempts weren’t flukes when the Golden Grizzlies defeated the Volunteers 89-82.


Kevin CobleEAST LANSING, Mich. – Everyone knew that Bill Carmody’s Northwestern Wildcats were going to be a bit better this season than they have in recent years. But did anyone honestly expect them to beat seventh-ranked Michigan State?

Surprise! It happened.

The 70-63 loss was the first suffered by the Spartans since being thumped for 32 points by North Carolina on December 3, and the first time losing at the Breslin Center in 28 games. The Wildcats haven’t won at Michigan State in 25 years.

Northwestern built and maintained its lead behind steady shooting from the outside late in the game and an impressive game-high 31 points from Kevin Coble. Coble seemed virtually unstoppable at times, sinking nearly everything he put up. The 6-foot-8 forward made 10 of his 16 shot attempts and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line until watching one rattle off the rim in the closing seconds of the game.

It was only the second Big Ten Conference win for the much improved Wildcats who became the new best friends of their conference foes to the south.

No. 24 Illinois had just dropped a game to the Spartans on Saturday, a game well within reach for the Illini, for the team’s second conference loss of the season. With Michigan State losing its first, the Illini sit only one game behind the Spartans and are one of four Big Ten teams with only two conference losses (pending the outcome of Wisconsin’s visit Wednesday night at Iowa).

The Big Ten has already turned heads. Annually dubbed by the experts as one of the worst Division I-A conferences in the nation, this year’s top four Big Ten teams (Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue) have a collective record of 61-12 with seven of the losses coming within the conference, and are all ranked in the top 25. The Big Ten is suddenly looking forward to being represented well in March.

CHICAGO — Another draft is in the books, and amazingly Chicago Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo stuck to his plan of addressing his team’s most dire needs.


With an offense ranked 27th in the league last season, Angelo finally realized that the most glaring problems weren’t at quarterback or running back, but the offensive line. So with the 14th overall pick, the Bears selected Vanderbilt offensive tackle, Chris Williams. At 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, Williams should be able to help provide Rex Grossman the protection he needs to get the ball down the field.  The team added two more linemen – Chester Adams (Georgia) and Kirk Barton (Ohio State) — in the seventh round counting the most offensive linemen the Bears have taken in a single draft since current center Olin Kreutz was picked up in 1998.


And despite confusing a number of fans by not using one of their 11 remaining picks to jump up and select Chicago Area native and former Fighting Illini running back Rashard Mendenhall, the Bears used the 44th overall pick to take what looks like an exciting playmaker in Tulane running back Matt Forte. He will no doubt create competition for Cedric Benson.


“I felt like our running game was one of the weak spots on our football team,” Angelo told the team’s website. “He gives us a big back, a three-down back. He’s got enough speed to get to the outside and he has the ability to make people miss at the second level. Those are two areas where we could really never find any consistency, which made us an easy team to defend from my perspective.”


Angelo also finally admitted that perhaps Benson didn’t turn out to be the back the Bears thought they drafted in 2005.


“Maybe he’s not the featured back we thought he’d be. He played well as a complementary back with Thomas [Jones]. When we thought we were starting to see a little something [last season], then he breaks his ankle. I felt that we needed to make sure that we protected that position.”


Now with four running backs on the roster, surely the Bears can find a combination that will help balance out the offense. But perhaps the best offensive pickup in terms of skill players came on Day 2 when the Bears gave Grossman another weapon in Vanderbilt receiver Earl Bennett.  


With little help at quarterback, Bennett became the SEC’s all-time leading receiver in just three years, and has drawn comparisons to Hines Ward.  Just when the Bears seemed to have thrown away any chance of having an air attack in 2008, they added a playmaker to complement Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd, the still unproven Mike Haas, and assuming he can learn the offense, deep threat Devin Hester. This is all assuming the line gives Grossman time to throw.


“If you watch the tape, he comes up big every game,” Bears’ director of college scouting Greg Gabriel told the team’s website. “He was their go-to-guy. Everybody knew that’s who they were going to throw to … yet he still came up with big catches.”


Despite Angelo declaring a need for more competition at the quarterback position, and expressing the desire to carry up to four next season, the Bears exhausted 12 picks without drafting a signal caller. But with added protection on the line, they might not be in horrible shape. Top prospects that could make their way onto the Bears roster as free agents are Colorado State quarterback Caleb Hanie, and Southern Illinois University product Nick Hill. A lot of experts seem to think both have a future in the NFL. They are both worth a shot. Still not convinced? Last I checked, a former Eastern Illinois University standout isn’t doing too badly for himself after joining the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent.


*Other notable picks that might turn into positive additions include defensive tackle Marcus Harrison (Arkansas), speedy and hard-hitting safety Craig Steltz (LSU), 6-foot-7 tight end Kellen Davis (Michigan State), and 6-4 wide receiver Marcus Monk (Arkansas).