However, another top seed wasn't so lucky


However, another top seed wasn't so lucky

From Comcast SportsNet
Michigan State's surprisingly successful season ended with a thud. The Spartans started the season unranked, then accomplished enough to be a top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament. They advanced to the round of 16 for the 10th time in 15 years, but ended with perhaps their poorest performance of the season. Louisville sent Michigan State home with a 57-44 win Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals. "It's hard to feel good and hard to feel bad," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "It's hard to feel good because I don't think we had anybody that played at all like they played in the last three weeks. But it's hard to feel bad because Louisville deserved it." Michigan State entered the game on a roll, winning three games to earn the Big Ten tournament title and its first two games in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans saved their worst for last. They made just 29 percent of their shots overall and got outrebounded by the Cardinals, whose zone defense slowed down a previously effective offense. "We thought we was pretty well prepared for it," forward Draymond Green said. "It's not our coaches' fault. I think they gave us a great game plan. At the end of the day, players play, and we didn't, we just didn't execute well." Green, though, did for much of the season. The do-it-all forward was chosen the Big Ten player of the year, the conference tournament's most outstanding player and broke Greg Kelser's school record for career rebounds. Green is graduating this spring, leaving the program with a big void on and off the court. The Spartans also will be without departing seniors Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood. Michigan State returns a solid nucleus of players, including point guard Keith Appling, centers Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne along with guard Branden Dawson, whose freshman season was cut short by a left knee injury. Dawson has had surgery and hopes to be ready to join the team for preseason practices next fall. The Spartans have a highly touted recruiting class, including two of the top in-state players, Bay City's Matt Costello, who won the Mr. Basketball award and runner-up Denzel Valentine of Lansing, along with Gary Harris, who was recognized as the top player in Indiana, and Ohio's Kenny Kaminski. Michigan State won the Big Ten title for the third time in four years, claimed the conference tournament championship for the first time since 2000 and advanced to the NCAA's round of 16 for the 10th time in 15 years. For the first time in four NCAA tournaments as a No. 1 seed, Izzo didn't guide the Spartans to at least four wins to reach the national semifinals. His record fell to 7-3 in the round of 16, and he wasn't happy about preparations for the first regional semifinal with just three days off. The team flew to Arizona on Monday night, a day after beating Saint Louis, to prepare for Louisville. "I think I made some mistakes, too, I really do," Izzo said. "I'd never come out on a Monday again. I think we needed more time (in East Lansing). It was just a weird situation for us. Michigan State started the season in an unusual position, not ranked in The Associated Press preseason poll. The Spartans had just two players -- Green and Appling -- who averaged double digits in minutes last year. After setbacks in showcase games against North Carolina on an aircraft carrier and to Duke in New York, the Spartans won 15 straight, including at Gonzaga, against Indiana and at Wisconsin. They then lost three of five in January and rallied with a seven-game winning streak that gave them a piece of the Big Ten title. They ended up sharing it by closing the regular season with two straight losses. Izzo and his players overcame the loss of standout Dawson at the Big Ten tournament in wins over Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa and with two victories in the NCAA tournament. "We had a special year," Thornton said. " We know we did some things at Michigan State that haven't been done in a long time "Our ultimate goal was to make it to New Orleans to the Final Four. We weren't able to accomplish that." Izzo said no one played well, or coached well, in the finale. "We grew together, we won together, we had fun together, we cried together," he said. "You couldn't even look at one guy or blame one guy; collectively we just didn't get it done."

Week 9 Big Ten previews: Huskers-Badgers battle could determine Big Ten West


Week 9 Big Ten previews: Huskers-Badgers battle could determine Big Ten West

There's still more than a month of regular-season football left, but the Big Ten West Division championship could be decided this weekend in Madison.

Nebraska and Wisconsin get together as two teams ranked in the top 11 of the AP poll, and though the standings are a little funky out West, these two are the best teams in the division.

If the Huskers win, they're likely heading to Indy, as they'll still be unbeaten and the Badgers will have a third in-conference loss. But if Paul Chryst's team wins, then it's on. Mike Riley will still be a game up in the loss column, but Wisconsin would need just one more Nebraska loss to own the tiebreaker — and Nebraska still has to play Ohio State.

The West is always wild — so too is college football in November — but there's an awful lot on the line in this game.

Here's a preview of the big Nebraska-Wisconsin clash and all the other games on the Week 9 Big Ten slate. All games played on Saturday, Oct. 29, and all times are Central.

Minnesota at Illinois, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

It’s Homecoming for the Illini, and the Gophers have been a welcome opponent in the recent past. Just two seasons ago, Tim Beckman won his first Big Ten game with a thrilling Homecoming win over Minnesota. Lovie Smith already has a Big Ten win under his belt — thanks to Rutgers, of course — but can that Homecoming-vs.-Minnesota magic happen again? Illinois is coming off an expected trouncing at the hands of Michigan, but the situation is totally different now out of Ann Arbor. The recipe will need to be running the ball, what with the potential that Jeff George Jr. is once more starting under center. Kendrick Foster, Reggie Corbin and Ke’Shawn Vaughn combined for only 19 carries at Michigan. That number will need to be much higher this week.

Of course, the formula is the same for the Gophers, who succeed when their two-headed running back monster of Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks is getting fed. Minnesota has the fourth-best rushing offense in the Big Ten, and only one back in the league (Northwestern’s Justin Jackson) has more yards than Smith, who is actually the conference’s leader in all-purpose yardage after his monster kick-return touchdown last weekend against Rutgers. Getting Mitch Leidner back from a concussion also helps the Gopher rushing attack. Illinois ranks 10th in the Big Ten in rushing defense, so Minnesota needs to pound the rock.

No. 2 Michigan at Michigan State, 11 a.m., ESPN

This one is certainly less exciting than it was shaping up to be at season’s start. Michigan State’s season has driven off a cliff since a promising Week 3 win at Notre Dame, and now the Spartans might struggle to reach a bowl game, an unthinkable scenario in the preseason, when Mark Dantonio’s team was revving up for another run at a conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff. Instead of postseason glory, though, Michigan State is heading toward its worst season under Dantonio, currently on a five-game losing streak and ranking third to last in the Big Ten in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Injuries have played a role on defense, but the offense has been completely inept, with a revolving door now at quarterback and a run game that can’t do a thing.

That’s all mighty bad news for the Spartans as it is, but it becomes much worse this weekend considering the Wolverines are arguably the best team in college football. With the exception of a 14-7 clash with the elite defense of Wisconsin, Michigan has blown out every one of its opponents this season, winning by an average of nearly 40 points (it goes all the way to 44 when you take out the Wisconsin game). Just two teams in the country are scoring more than the Wolverines (48.7 points a game), and no one is allowing fewer points than the Wolverines (10 points a game). This was supposed to be a titanic showdown with division-, conference- and national-championship implications on the line. But it looks like it’ll be just another blowout win for Michigan.

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue, 11 a.m., ABC/ESPN 2

Few teams in America are feeling better about themselves than the Nittany Lions, who pulled off a stunning upset win last weekend to topple unbeaten Ohio State and give James Franklin a signature win, his first over a ranked team since arriving at Penn State. The follow-up act should be equally as enjoyable, as Purdue has provided little resistance to opposing teams, particularly on defense. The Lions needed special teams wonders to beat the Buckeyes, but against the Boilermakers, Saquon Barkley should run wild and Trace McSorley should have a big day, as well. Somewhat unbelievably, Penn State is in second place in the Big Ten East Division standings, and while Michigan proved in a 39-point win that its the better of the two teams, a slip up or two by the Wolverines, and the Lions could be thinking about a trip to Indy.

Meanwhile, Purdue is playing for what exactly these days? The basement-dwelling Boilermakers have an interim coach after the firing of Darrell Hazell and can’t seem to stop anyone. The silver lining is perhaps quarterback David Blough, who despite consistent turnovers has been mighty productive, the leading passer in the Big Ten with 295 yards a game. He, along with Indiana’s Richard Lagow, is also the conference leader with 11 interceptions, but it looks like he’ll be the first Purdue opening-week quarterback since Hazell’s tenure started to survive October with his starting job. Hey, it’s something.

Maryland at Indiana, 2:30 p.m., ESPN U

These two teams have been knocked down a peg or two since promising starts. Indiana was 3-1 after an awesome overtime win against Michigan State but has lost its three games since to Ohio State, Nebraska and Northwestern. Maryland was 4-0 with one of the best rushing attacks in the country but has dropped back-to-back games to Penn State and Minnesota — and not looking good in either — before pulling off a double-digit win over reeling Michigan State last weekend.

The Terps still have one of the better rushing attacks in the Big Ten, statistically, with only Ohio State and Michigan averaging more than their 249.6 yards a game. They got back on track against the Spartans with 247 rush yards last week. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, looked all-around awful in a road loss at Northwestern, shooting themselves in the foot more times than can be remembered. The Indiana defense has been much, much improved this season and could very well give Maryland fits, but Northwestern put up 408 total yards last weekend and that’s not a good sign.

Northwestern at No. 6 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

The Wildcats are on some kind of hot streak with three straight wins in which the offense has looked absolutely terrific. Things were a bit tricky in the second half last weekend against Indiana, as Northwestern rode a 24-point first half to a 24-14 win. But that should take nothing away from the fact that the Cats have the Big Ten’s leading rusher in Justin Jackson (113 yards a game) and the Big Ten’s leading receiver in Austin Carr (102.9 yards a game). Plus, Clayton Thorson no longer looks like a freshman at quarterback. This is a potent attack all of a sudden, and going on the road won’t intimidate Pat Fitzgerald’s team, which strung together wins at Iowa and at Michigan State before beating Indiana last weekend in Evanston.

But, and this is a big but, Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country. Even in last weekend’s upset loss at Penn State, when J.T. Barrett was under siege and sacked six times and the special teams fell on their face, the Buckeyes’ defense played very well, limiting the Lions to 276 total yards. Ohio State still ranks in the top five in scoring defense (14.4 points a game) and total defense (279.7 yards a game) and has 11 interceptions, a nation’s best four of which have been returned for touchdowns. Barrett, Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel still have the Big Ten’s No. 1 rushing attack (eighth nationally). So while Northwestern rolls into this one on a three-game win streak, Ohio State is still one of the best teams in America. And now the Buckeyes’ margin for error is zero if they want to get back to the College Football Playoff.

No. 7 Nebraska at No. 11 Wisconsin, 6 p.m., ESPN

The Big Ten West Division title might be on the line Saturday night in Madison. These two meet as highly ranked teams with the division’s future in the balance. The West is actually still quite wild, if you look at the standings. Undefeated Nebraska sits at the top, but it’s Northwestern with just one conference loss in the second spot despite its three losses overall. Wisconsin, despite its No. 11 ranking, is tied in the loss column with Iowa and Minnesota because of two in-conference losses to two of the best teams in college football, Michigan and Ohio State. So it might be safe to say that if Nebraska comes away with a win Saturday night, Wisconsin won’t be going to Indy. Even if the Badgers win, the Huskers will have to lose another game just to force a first-place tie — and what if Northwestern keeps winning?

When it comes to this matchup, the Badgers seem to have the edge, not just because they’re playing at home but because this defense has been and remains out-of-this-world good. Wisconsin ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense (14.3 points a game) and ninth in the country in total defense (300.6 yards per game). Nebraska has some big-time playmakers on offense, but Wisconsin’s defense is so good — you might remember it held Michigan (No. 3 in American in scoring) to just 14 points — it just might not matter.

If the Huskers are going to win, it would certainly take an all-around effort, with Tommy Armstrong needing to play mistake-free football against a defense this stout. That being said, though, Nebraska has a defense, too, a good one with a strong secondary that could cause some real problems for Alex Hornibrook and the Badgers. Wisconsin’s offense looked great against a great defense in the first half against Ohio State, but when the clampdown came, the Badgers couldn’t budge, doing minimal second-half damage. And last weekend, Wisconsin mustered only 17 points against an Iowa team that’s been carved up numerous times, though Badger mistakes — missed kicks and fumbles — had more to do with that.

As in any big game with title implications, the team that takes care of the football will likely prevail.

Kyle Schwarber not medically cleared to play the field, will not start in Games 3-5 of World Series

Kyle Schwarber not medically cleared to play the field, will not start in Games 3-5 of World Series

Kyle Schwarber has not been cleared by doctors to play the field and will not start for the Cubs in Games 3-5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday.

Schwarber was seen with a glove in left field during the batting practice portion of the Cubs' workout Thursday at Wrigley Field, but Epstein said Cubs' doctors and Dr. Daniel Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys surgon who performed the surgery on Schwarber's torn ACL and LCL in April, were "Convinced there’s too much risk in playing the outfield.” The risk of having Schwarber move quickly in the outfield was too great and Epstein said the Cubs didn't want to "throw caution to the wind" to get Schwarber in the lineup over the weekend.

"It's not disappointing at all," Schwarber said. "It was a long shot at the most." 

Added Schwarber: "There's no being sad about it, there's no nothing. I know my role now and I'm going to embrace it. 

Schwarber doubled and walked in Game 1 of the World Series and collected a pair of RBI singles and walked in Game 2 in Cleveland. He started and hit fifth as a designated hitter in both games and will be available as a pinch hitter in Games 3-5.