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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Give the Big Ten a Gold Star

I was impressed with Penn State's perseverance tonight in digging out the NIT championship against Baylor. Just another example of the Big Ten's strength this year. Can you believe the Nittany Lions finished with 27 wins?!

More specifically, I was impressed with Jamelle Cornley. The undersized, injury-plagued senior forward was a great representative for the Big Ten Conference. He must have gotten the memo. Cornley turned in some gritty performances in the NIT after hurting his shoulder. Penn State will miss his game enormously next year.

Penn State also loses two other seniors who logged a lot of time in Happy Valley in Stanley Pringle and Danny Morrissey. The team loses almost half of its scoring and a third of its rebounding with those three, so I am not sure where the Nitts will fall in the conference pecking order next season. Battle returns of course, and Penn State also has a pair of big, long bodies in Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks that flashed potential.

As for the real tournament, the Big Ten would have been expected to post a 6-7 record based on seeding alone, but has already secured a winning record thanks to the run by Michigan State. Add an 8-7 record (or maybe even 10-6 if MSU gets crazy) in the NCAA Tournament to Penn State's postseason success, and you almost forget about Indiana's epically embarrassing season and Iowa's impending disaster.

The future looks bright for the conference despite not having any incoming McDonald's All-Americans. The all-conference team was littered with sophomore stars, so keep an eye on April 26 -- the deadline for early entrants to declare for the NBA Draft. Purdue's JuJuan Johnson has already announced he will be back (as expected), while Ohio State's Evan Turner seems the most likely to bolt.

Marcus Landry is in Detroit as I type this, awaiting his chance to display his skills in the NABC College All-Star Game on Friday night. After that, Landry's next stop will be the Portsmouth Invitational event out in Virginia next week to see if he can get any indications that an NBA team might want to take a chance on him. Best of luck to him. Joe Krabbenhoft must settle for getting bashed (along with his father) in the comments section on a hometown newspaper site. Unbelievable ...

So the question is, can I root for Michigan State this weekend? In a word, yes. With conference pride. And also because it helps my ridiculous bracket.

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