ANN ARBOR, Mich -- The people in Michigan still haven't forgotten when Dane Fife left Clarkston and, as the state's reigning Mr. Basketball of the 1998 season, chose to play for the Hoosiers. For the past three years, the Crisler Arena fans gave him a hard time, and the fourth time around was no different.
Things were already going pretty bad for Tommy Amaker and his Michigan Wolverines. They had struggled after a 3-3 start in the conference, but after a tough loss to Illinois and a victory over Penn State last week, the Wolverines seemed to be getting things together. That changed this week. The strain of four games in seven days caught up to Michigan (10-13, 5-7 Big Ten), who dropped an overtime game at Colorado State Monday before getting whipped at Purdue Wednesday, 79-43.
The Hoosiers travel to Iowa City Sunday in search of their first victory over Iowa in the last 12 meetings. IU's last victory at Iowa came in 1967. This will be a homecoming for head coach Duane Goldman, who was an All-American wrestler at Iowa from 1983-86. The No. 2 Hawkeyes (14-3, 4-1) are coming off victories over Penn State and Wisconsin and won five of their last six matches. Their lone Big Ten loss was to No. 1 Minnesota. Goldman knows that it will be a tough place to compete in.
The Big Ten couldn't get any more out of whack. IU, Ohio State, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin all have a legitimate chance to win the conference and are all separated by two games or less. Northwestern and Michigan State are both just three games back.
When asked this week whom they consider the league's most valuable player, Big Ten women's basketball coaches couldn't help but mention Minnesota point guard Lindsay Whalen. The sophomore averages 22.7 points, 6.7 assists and 2.6 steals a game, propelling the No. 15 Golden Gophers to only their fourth winning season in 20 years.
IU's men's track team is full of athletes who run without a scholarship. There are a limited number of scholarships available and many positions to fill. One of these walk-ons to the team has helped play a large role in the teams' success this season. Junior Matt Harris is a 60 meter hurdler who currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten. He also is the school record holder with a time of 7.98 seconds.
Just over one month into his season, sophomore Coyte Cooper went through what no athlete wants to experience. At the Midlands Tournament at the end of December, Cooper strained his knee and partially tore his MCL. The injury kept Cooper out until the start of the Big Ten season. Throughout the recovery process, Cooper managed to keep a clear focus.
So this is what life is like without Jared Jeffries. IU hobbled through Wednesday night's Big Ten matchup with Wisconsin. Jeffries, who sprained an ankle in a win against Louisville Saturday and bruised his thigh earlier in the week, hobbled through warm-ups. Then, the Big Ten's leading scorer sat and stood during the game before somberly walking off the Assembly Hall floor after the Badgers upset No. 22 IU 64-63. Not once did he remove his red warm-up jacket or his candy-striped pants.
Coming home isn't a big deal anymore for Charlie Wills. Wills, an Angola, Ind. native, came back to the Hoosier state Wednesday, content with the thought that coming home again isn't important. You couldn't tell. Wills, a fifth-year senior, lit up IU for a game-high 17 points Saturday as Wisconsin upset No. 22 IU 64-63 in Assembly Hall.
Start with two high school coaches. Add the son of IU's all-time winningest football coach and the younger brother of the school's athletics director. Throw in some sprinkles that include someone who experienced the Notre Dame coaching fiasco from the inside, a coach from Graceland and a running back coach who spent a season in the XFL. And top it off with two well-traveled coordinators.
Coach Bo Ryan remembers the last time Wisconsin won in Assembly Hall. Ryan was a Badger assistant. He was 29 years old and Wisconsin hasn't won in Bloomington since Feb. 24, 1977. That's 22 losing trips, average losses of more than 15 points per game and only eight games decided by less than 10 points.
The pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fall into place. The stars are aligned at just the right time. And so on. In other words, as the second week of February in the Big Ten begins, the No. 22 Hoosiers are in first place, by themselves, and in control of their future. That future becomes the present starting tonight. After fighting past Louisville Saturday, IU begins its final six games of the regular season tonight when it faces Wisconsin at Assembly Hall at 8 p.m.
Rachelle Boone and Danielle Carruthers are more than just some of the best runners in their events at IU. They are also some of the best runners in the country. The two juniors have trained and raced together during the past three years here at IU. As members of the 2000 and 2001 Big Ten Championship 4x400-meter relay team, these women have proven that they not only are fine athletes, but devoted to their team as well.
The prayers continue. The hospital visits continue. And the waiting continues. Women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett's return to the sidelines after a car accident remains indefinite. Her team can only plan to have associate head coach Trish Betthauser at the helm for the near future.
Junior cornerback Clarence "C.J." Young, 21, was arrested Friday at his residence in connection with an alleged sexual assault that reportedly occured at a party in the University Commons apartment complex Oct. 6, 2001. Young is being charged with attempted rape, a class B felony; sexual battery, a class C felony; criminal confinement, a class D felony; and battery, a class A misdemeanor.