Livin’ B1G: The Festivus Edition

It’s the holidays, but I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! In this special edition of Livin’ B1G, I’ll examine those issues and hand out some Human Fund donation cards around the Big Ten.

Nothing says “Happy Holidays!” like getting in your car on Dec. 23 when 96 percent of the workforce has the day off and listening to the engine struggle to turn over. Neighbors are out walking their dogs in their pajamas, kids are arriving at their friends’ for play dates, and I’m pounding on my steering wheel thinking that if I yell at the car loud enough it’ll start magically.

It’s like sticking to your diet for your New Year’s resolution and watching everyone take another trip up to the buffet line. The bland rice cake you’re gnawing on isn’t nearly as delightful as the fried chicken and baked mac ‘n cheese with a side of angioplasty your friends are cramming down their maws.

That’s life during Festivus season, as the piercing voice of Frank Costanza slings through our ears and into our hearts with a sterner tone than a simple “Bah-Humbug!”

And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of grumpiness around the Big Ten. Urban Meyer more often than not has an Abe Vigoda look on his face, and Jim Harbaugh won’t be treating any referees to steak and a glass of milk this holiday season.

But there are some in the conference who haven’t disappointed us recently. So get out the steel pole, put away that distracting tinsel and sit down to a special Festivus edition of Livin’ B1G.

Festivus Miracles

… Michigan has more than just a stocking full of NFL talent on its roster, namely Jabrill Peppers, Taco Charlton and Chris Wormely. And despite the fact that the Wolverines aren’t in College Football Playoff, none of them are even considering sitting out the Orange Bowl to risk injury and a drop in the NFL draft. I laud them, considering I might be more like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Shock Linwood if I was in that position.

Note: Settle down, Ohio State fans. I’d put the Buckeyes in this conversation, too, but since they’re in the CFP with a shot to win a national title, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to play.

… The Big Ten basketball season is about to tip off, and I’d like to direct your attention to the top of the conference standings. There, you’ll find 12-1 Maryland, 11-1 Minnesota and 11-1 Rutgers. No, there aren’t any typos in that previous sentence. However, I’m also a realist and understand those teams’ schedules haven’t exactly featured powerhouses.

Let’s consider, though, that the Terps lost a lot of talent other than Melo Trimble, who only returned to try and sharpen his NBA game. The Golden Gophers went 8-23 last year, and their only loss this season was on the road against a tough Florida State squad. And Rutgers? The Scarlet Knights haven’t won more than 15 games since making the NIT in 2005-06 for their most recent postseason appearance. Schedule be damned, these teams are taking steps towards being competitive in a wide-open conference.

… Congrats to my colleague, Robert Judin, and the rest of the Campus Insiders team for putting together a fantastic video to help standout recruit Jordan Anthony announce his commitment to Michigan. It’s a major recruiting coup for the Wolverines.

Airing of Grievances

… Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has a history of getting wound up. He’s slammed a chair on the court, thrown water bottles and gotten in officials’ faces before getting tossed. So I wasn’t exactly surprised when McCaffery instructed the Hawkeyes to walk off the floor prior to the post-game handshake after their 84-73 win over North Dakota on Tuesday.

McCaffery wasn’t pleased with the Fighting Hawks’ play down the stretch when the game was out of reach, specifically the act in the final seconds. And it didn’t matter to McCaffery that UND head coach Brian Jones was an Iowa assistant from 2001-06, or that Hawks assistant Jeff Horner played at Iowa from 2002-06.

McCaffery later said he regretted not having his players shake hands. I say keep being you, Fran.

… Now for my grievance. Michigan State lost to Northeastern, 81-73, at home on Sunday. Yes, Northeastern. A team that entered with losses to Boston University, LIU Brooklyn, Cornell, Stony Brook and Harvard. This is the point we’ve reached in Michigan State sports right now, and I’m not happy.

Maybe I seem like the spoiled rich kid who’s complaining about getting a Lexus when they really wanted a Benz. I understand the Spartans went to the College Football Playoff last year, and that’s a fantastic accomplishment. But to follow that up with a 3-9 season is completely unacceptable. Mark Dantonio talks about how the program should get the respect Ohio State and Michigan get, but how can that be when something like a three-win season happens?

And yes, I’ve watched Tom Izzo take Michigan State to seven Final Fours, two national title games and win a championship. Those are moments I’ll cherish forever. But please, coach, stop with these brutal schedules at the start of the season – especially this year with such a young team. Losing to Northeastern at the Breslin Center is the biggest travesty of an 8-5 non-conference slate. I know Miles Bridges has been hurt, but he played when Kentucky smoked the Spartans at Madison Square Garden. It’s been too much, and Michigan State hopefully uses the holiday break to recharge the batteries.

Feats of Strength

… There were 21 players from Big Ten schools who earned All-America honors, including six consensus All-Americans and 11 named to the first team. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker and Pat Elflein were unanimous first-team All-Americans. Thats … impressive.

… Purdue sophomore Caleb Swanigan is one of the nation’s premier big men and is proving his decision to return to school for at least another year was the right move. He declared for the NBA draft but didn’t sign with an agent after averaging 10.2 points and 8.3 rebounds as a freshman.

Swanigan had a career-high 32 points and added 20 rebounds in Wednesday’s 91-45 win over Norfolk State, posting Purdue’s first 30-20 game since 1971. Swanigan also joined Blake Griffin as the only players with multiple 20-20 games in the same season over the last 20 years.

… “Biggie” is averaging 26.3 points and 17 rebounds over his last three games for the 15th-ranked Boilermakers, and I’m not even a tad bitter that Swanigan verbally committed to Michigan State before switching to Purdue 27 days later. Just go easy on the Spartans on Jan. 24, Biggie. Please.

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