Illinois was 14-8 and in real danger of missing the NCAA tournament on Feb. 6 when coach John Groce banned his players from Twitter.
The Illini have gone 5-1 since. Coincidence?
You can’t say one way or the other for sure. A less-demanding schedule in that stretch helped, though it includes an upset of No. 1 Indiana.
Still, Groce told Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh that he thought his players were getting too much outside noise through Twitter.
“I believe in freedom of speech,” Groce said. “But you get off to a 12-0 start and social media-wise, it’s like these guys are rock stars. Then you don’t play as well, they’re scum.
“I said, ‘Fellas, that’s the way of the world. The reality is you’re not rock stars. You’re not scum. You’re somewhere in between.’ I wasn’t sure we were staying level with social media stuff.”
Illinois now is 20-9 with an RPI of 33.
Wisconsin forward Ryan Evans shot 81.1 percent from the free-throw line in Big Ten games last season. This year, his success rate is 40.9 percent.
So Evans, a fifth-year senior, is expected to change his style Tuesday night against Nebraska. He has been practicing shooting jump shots from the free-throw line.
“He feels right now that’s the best way to make the free throw,’’ UW coach Bo Ryan said Monday. “It’s not unusual to have a different style. So whatever works — as long as he believes in it.’’
Player of the week: Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. The 6-5 junior from Upper Marlboro, Md., had 19 points, nine rebounds and five steals in a win over Michigan State. He scored six points in the final 50 seconds to wipe out a four-point deficit. This is his third career honor and second this season.
Rookie of the week: Nebraska forward Shavon Shields. The 6-6 freshman from Olathe, Kan., had 17 points and seven rebounds in a win over Iowa. This is his second honor this season.
Quote of the week
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, on whether he and his players handle honors talk and NBA draft scuttlebutt better than 10 years ago:
“No, because 10 years ago we didn’t have all the media and the Twitter. All that garbage has affected players tremendously.”
Bits and pieces
Indiana has the most wins over Associated Press Top 25 teams this season with six. Wisconsin has five. ... All sessions of the Big Ten men’s tournament March 14 to 17 in Chicago are sold out. ... Indiana has the two leading 3-point shooters in the league (Christian Watford 49 percent, Jordan Hulls 48.9 percent). ... Nebraska’s Ray Gallegos is still first in minutes played at 37.3 a game.