Illini coaches have met with Penn State players

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Illini coaches have met with Penn State players

Illinois coach Tim Beckman emphasized his eight assistant coaches did not make "a sneak attack" when they visited Penn State players who are interested in transferring from the school. Abiding by NCAA rules, Beckman said his coaches met with players who contacted the Illinois staff. The meetings took place this week at a Starbucks and another restaurant beyond the Penn State campus.
Beckman did not reveal how many players met with his staff. Penn State players will be able to transfer to other schools and retrain their eligibility after the NCAA handed down sanctions amid the schools child sex abuse scandal.
"We did not go onto their campus," Beckman said Thursday at Big Ten Football Media Day at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. "We only talked to individuals that would be willing to meet with us. We did not go after them. They had the opportunity to come to us if they would like to come to us and speak to us."
Beckman said Penn State was aware which players Illinois would talk to, as Illini staff provided the Nittany Lions with a list of names before the visit. Illinois coaches were seen in State College, Pa., carrying bags with team logos, according to reports. Beckman said he did not make the trip. His coaches talked to players they had previous connections with through recruiting, Beckman said.
"We went there to reach out to the guys that were contacting us previously that we talked to before we went there and then gave them an opportunity to come to us," said Beckman, who replaced the fired Ron Zook, who was 34-51 in seven seasons at Illinois. "We did not go after them. We told them where we were at, and if they would like to come and talk to our coaching staff, we would be willing to speak with them off campus."
While other Big Ten coaches said Thursday they would refrain from recruiting Penn State players out of respect, Beckman said he wants to give players the opportunity if they want to transfer to Illinois.
"I didn't want it to be a big scene or anything like that, and it ended up being more of a scene than it was," Beckman said. "But everything we've done has been NCAA compliant. Penn State knew.
Penn State coach Bill OBrien said Thursday he had yet to speak with Beckman about the situation. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany sounded less than enthused about conference schools recruiting Penn State players, but he conferred with the school presidents.

"My advice to them was this is not a healthy place for us to be." Delany said. "Their response was unanimous. And that was this is not about competition between and among schools. It's about the student-athlete having a full spectrum of opportunities."

During his sessions with the media, Beckman also addressed his transition from Toledo and the Mid-American Conference, his offense and the issue of two ineligible teams (Ohio State and Penn State) in the Leaders Division.
Although Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for the postseason, leaving Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana as the eligible teams among the Leaders, Beckman said his team still has to win games.
As for his quarterbacks, Beckman said hell put his best players on the field. He used two quarterbacks at Toledo, and he suggested the possibility of doing the same at times in the spread offense at Illinois.
Both of them are great leaders, Beckman said. Nathan Scheelhaase runs the football, and Reilly OToole is a little bit more of a thrower. But its still about the success of the team and the success of the offense, so were going to be able to play whichever one is most consistent and can move our offense down the field.
Last season, Toledo averaged 42.2 points per game under Beckman, who went 21-16 in three seasons at the MAC school. Illinois is coming off a 7-6 season. The Illini began 6-0 but lost six in a row before beating UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
"With the offense that we're installing in Champaign, it will be a dual-threat offense," Beckman said. "You'll see two running backs in the football game at times. You'll even at times see two quarterbacks in the football game with quarterback Miles Osei lining up at running back also. So, it's a commitment that our offensive staff has made to running the football, and we've got to establish the run first for us to be successful."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.