Happy Day-After Christmas, I hope you are having a wonderful time with your family and friends. Or, if you're imbibing by yourself in an unheated ranch in a small Memphis suburb, alone thanks to that horrible first marriage and without a hope in the world, I'll try to bring some joy and radiant beams to that frown of yours. That's right, OTE is now a center for Big Ten Basketball coverage. It's sure to be a work in progress, but we couldn't ignore the amazing platform and community we have on OTE and SBN, and the way hoops could seamlessly fit into our B1G-centered niche.
Probably the best thing about this development? The Big Ten is stacked on stacked on stacked with talent and exciting All-American caliber players. Now we all have a place to come and discuss our six Top25 teams and what may be the best college basketball conference in America. And hell, even if our writing turns out to be subpar, surely our writing inadequacies will be glossed over by the high quality of basketball being played in our conference.
We're featuring 9 writers so far, including the excellent Apy5000, a transplant from the former Big Ten Powerhouse. Although we've got a wide variety of writers, we need more. There are no Indiana, Minnesota, or Illinois writers on OTE, and each of these teams deserve solid coverage. Let me know if you're interested in joining the OTE Basketball writing team.
So sit back with your eggnog, open up another fruitcake, and let OTE guide you to a land where Trey Burke dashes to the hoop, Cody Zeller rejects your stuff for being too weak, and Tom Izzo gets all red in the face, all the time. As part of our opening salvo, some of our basketball writers offered their B1G basketball background and the reason why they love B1G hoops so much. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section.
My love of Nebrasketball is basically all tied back to radio games on Saturday afternoons. I may not be an expert on everything B1G for CBB, but I can tell you about a glorious Nebraska run to the NIT Championship that I was there for back in 1996. If we want to talk about the NCAA Tournament, I'll just have to bow out of the conversation, though. We still haven't won a game in the Big Dance... but at least we've been there, though, right? [stares directly at Northwestern]
I love Big Ten basketball because it's the best damn conference in the land. I love the arenas, the coaches (some of them) and the legendary players. I've been blogging about Iowa basketball since 2009 and a Hawkeye hoops fan since Dr. Tom paced back and forth at Carver Hawkeye Arena. I've got plenty of memories of Iowa basketball but the most recent ones ring true as I attended Iowa during the Alford/Lickliter dark years. If I had to pick one I'd go with the 2011 win over #6 Purdue in Iowa's final game of the season. It signaled the turn of the corner for Hawkeye basketball and has propelled them to where they are today.
Up until the winter of 2004, I didn't watch much college basketball outside of March Madness. That changed when, as a freshman at Penn State, I decided to throw my support behind the basketball team. Although the 2004-05 season was a relatively miserable one, the experience wasn't a total loss. The Lions had a very talented freshman named Geary Claxton who was fun to watch, and it's not like me and my friends had anything better to do on cold State College Saturday afternoons.
Tolerating some uninspiring play during that first season turned out to pay dividends down the line. Four years later, Talor Battle and Jamelle Cornley led Penn State to an NIT title, and two years after that, Penn State earned an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2001. And it's not just Penn State that improved over time. The whole Big Ten has risen to elite status, and now we finally have what any great basketball conference needs: a great blogging community!
I grew up watching Purdue Basketball with my family. My Dad would get frustrated to the point where he would stop watching the games if the Boilers were playing poorly, which is a habit I inherited. I'm not sure that I appreciated just how good Glenn Robinson was at the time, but I sure do now. If I could change the outcome of any Purdue game in any sport, it would be that Duke Elite Eight game.
I've followed college basketball as long and as closely as I've followed college football. I even played against guys like Gary Grant, Loy Vaught & Steve Scheffler. And the focus has always been on the Big Ten. When I think of Big Ten basketball, I think of the days when Bob Knight, Gene Keady & Lou Henson patrolled the sidelines. Not only did the Big Ten have iconic players and coaches, but could any conference boast a better 1-2-3 hair punch than the Big Ten did with Lou Henson, Gene Keady and Jud Heathcote? Talk about unbreakable records.
I love the conference's history. Not just Magic & Mateen, But Steve Smith & Kevin Willis. Not just Big Dog, but Troy Lewis, Steve Scheffler & Jim Rowinski. And not just the Fab Five, but Gary Grant and the Glen Rice-led national champions - a team that sent seven players to the NBA. Will that ever happen again?
But I'm also excited about the present - the renaissance of both the conference and the Michigan basketball program. Maybe renaissance isn't the appropriate word for the conference, since it never really went away and continued to put forth top teams, but it is certainly appropriate for Michigan. After a roughly a decade-and-a-half of virtual irrelevance, John Beilein appears to have Michigan back on track and should have them in contention for the conference championship. This should be a fun year for Big Ten basketball, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
Two words: Fab Five. Don't act like that never happened, like the golden era of Webber, Funderburke, and Jimmy Jackson was all an agent-paid mirage. That era hooked me. Time for the B1G, and Michigan, to be nationally relevant again.