EAST LANSING, Mich. — The race to the NCAA Tournament is heating up, and several teams are desperately looking for wins to bolster their resumes.
On Friday night, the Wisconsin Badgers have a chance to build some positive momentum and pick a marquee win that will keep them in the conversation. The Badgers are on the outside looking in at the field, and their margin for error is rather slim at best. Many have projected Wisconsin to miss the tournament altogether, and that could very well be the case.
The Badgers visit the sixth-ranked Michigan State Spartans on Friday night, and will be looking for any sort of positive outcome. A win would do wonders for them, while a loss may seal the deal on their tournament chances.
As for the Spartans, a win would be their third in a row, and they would keep pace atop the Big Ten standings with the likes of the Purdue Boilermakers and Ohio State Buckeyes. With the way the Green and White have played in their last two games, another win is expected for the home side on Friday.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In the past, the Michigan State Spartans have had their issues with the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Coming into Monday’s tilt, the Spartans had just three wins over Illinois over the past 10 seasons. Last year, the teams met just once, with the Illini coming away with the 73-70 victory on their home floor.
Monday night had a different narrative, as the Spartans used a strong start to the second half to break away from Illinois as the game wound down. Michigan State shot better than 68% as a team in Champaign, and picked up their second straight win with an 87-74 decision over the Fighting Illini.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Through seven games, the race for the Big Ten title is heating up.
At the top, you have the Purdue Boilermakers and the Ohio State Buckeyes, both of whom are 7-0 thus far. The Boilermakers received a first-place vote in the latest AP Top 25 rankings, while the Buckeyes are knocking on the door of the top 10.
In between the two, you have the sixth-ranked Michigan State Spartans, who are 5-2 in conference play and are looking to pick up their second straight win on Monday night when they face the Illinois Fighting Illini on the road. After a tough stretch of three games, the Spartans bounced back last time out for a big win to keep pace in the Big Ten race.
As for Illinois, they are trending in the opposite direction. They have lost five straight games overall, and are dead last in the conference at 0-7. Illinois is the only team in the Big Ten without a conference win, and they would like to change that on Monday night.
CALGARY, Alta. — It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in the MEAC.
Outside of schedule releases, the bulk of the action has died down in terms of player movement. The 2017-18 season is quickly approaching, and while the Hampton Pirates played exhibition games in Puerto Rico, we’re just itching for the regular season to finally get underway.
So, with more and more schedules being released with each passing day, we decided it was time to look at some of the best non-conference games for the year that feature teams from the MEAC. Now, not all of the 13 teams have released their non-conference slates as of yet, so this is a list that will undoubtedly be revised at a later date.
He may be a graduate transfer who can lead his new team to the NCAA Tournament, but he is also a symbol for Dayton, Ohio.
“I play with passion. I play with a chip,” said Alstork, a Dayton native and former star at Wright State, on Watching with Wesner. “You can tell when someone is from where I’m from, how they play and the passion they play with.”
Alstork is one of the most talented scorers left on the transfer market; he averaged 19 points per game and scored 27 plus points on 7 separate occasions last season.
Last week he narrowed his list to four teams, leaving Illinois, LSU, Pittsburgh and South Carolina as potential suitors.
Throughout the month, Alstork has been frequently posting on social media, chronicling his experiences and campus visits. The 6’5” scoring guard has an altruistic reason for his persistent Snapchat videos and tweets.
“I wanted to take my people from Dayton, Ohio, who have supported me from day one. I wanted them to be with me in the process,” he said. “They have been with me for this long. I don’t want them to feel like that I am going to change up on them or that I am not going to continue to be the same person I am. I’m never going to change who I am.”
Alstork did not want to transfer from Wright State. After all, as a hometown product playing at a local university, the benefits were abundant. However, being a part of the Raiders became toxic.
“During the season, I went through a time with myself that a lot of people don’t get out of. I was frustrated with some of the things — Some of the things at Wright State wasn’t normal,” Alstork recalled. “I actually didn’t want to leave, to be honest. I wanted to stick it out and try to become an NBA player from Wright State.
“It’s not easy leaving your family and friends,” said Alstork. “They can be looking forward to watching me play two times a weekend. It’s a place to come and be happy and smile and enjoy life.”
Two values of importance to Alstork is faith and family. As the son of a preacher, a relationship with God was forged early on — one that has not weakened with age.
“Faith and prayer is a huge part of me being who I am and continuing to be in God and continuing to grow a relationship in God,” he said. “I know God leads my life.”
For many student-athletes, athletics and academics dominate. Add being a transfer with a plethora of top-tier options and a disconnection from core values can occur.
This was not the case with Alstork.
“I know exactly the reason why I am on this earth,” said the 2016-17 Horizon League first teamer. “It has nothing to do with me and it has all to do with God.”
Six visits and fourteen flights later and the memories of a lifetime have been given to Alstork and his family.
“The most memorable moment for me was being able to have my mother and brother there the whole time,” said Alstork. “I’m just glad, I’m able, that God has allowed me to be in this position in my life. I never would have thought that this would happen again. The opportunity that I am having is straight from God.”
Three years after receiving a release from Ball State, Mark Alstork will call one final school home. Another decision must be made; but, with it, perspective and advice will be given to aspiring basketball players in Dayton.
“I’ve had some people hitting me up,” said the Thurgood Marshall High School product. “Older kids who say, ‘You motivate me. You aspire me. Your work ethic speaks for itself. And no matter who gets you, you’re not going to change.’”
Alstork confirmed he will tweet to the college basketball world his decision tomorrow, exclusively on Twitter.
With his decision, one major domino for next season will fall and one team will be closer to a trip to the Big Dance.
ORLANDO, Fla. — UCF guard A.J. Davis dreamed about playing at Madison Square Garden.
Now, he can check it off his bucket list.
The Knights advanced to the National Invitation Tournament semi-finals, fighting off Illinois, 68-58. The Fighting Illini led for only one minute and 53 seconds during a game in which they shot an anemic 30.6 percent.
“Every game we are just trying to not give up threes and layups (and) make guys shoot tough twos,” UCF center Tacko Fall said. “We work on it every day.”