It's the Big Ten Mailbag with a video twist

You have questions, I have answers. I reach into my mailbag and address queries that deal with March Madness and spring football. What does Northwestern have to do to make the NCAA tourney? What’s on Purdue’s to-do list for spring ball? The answers to those questions and more are all here. Plus, this week I’m experimenting with a video question for my readers who are willing to try something new. Do you want give others your very own video prediction on the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament? Learn how easy it can be in this post.

Who do you think will win the Big Ten tourney? – Dan

I know Michigan State is the No. 1 seed, but I like No. 2 Michigan and No. 5 Indiana. They are two of the hotter teams in the Big Ten. I love the Wolverines’ guard play led by Trey Burke. And Zack Novak and Stu Douglass also are forces on the wing along with Tim Hardaway, Jr. Josh Morgan has played well inside, too.

The Hoosiers are a deep team with an array of shooters in Christian Watford, Matt Roth and Jordan Hulls, among others, and have a special weapon inside with Cody Zeller. Even juicier: With the way the bracket is set up, Indiana and Michigan could meet in the title game. That would be great. In case you were wondering, the teams split their two meetings this season, with the Hoosiers prevailing in Bloomington (73-71) and the Wolverines winning in Ann Arbor (68-56). Oh, and Indiana never has won the Big Ten tourney and has been to the championship game only once (2001), while Michigan won the first event back in 1998 but hasn’t been to the title game since.

What is this? BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart gives video analysis and responses to the best of your Big Ten men’s basketball questions via the Vyou.com platform. Today he’s asking you: Who will win the Big Ten Tournament. Want to respond? It’s easy! If your computer has a web camera, record your answer below and submit it. Once we approve a video response, it will appear with the other answers below.

How could you not put Purdue forward Robbie Hummel on your first-team all-conference team? – Phil

You can make a great case for Hummel, who was named first-team by the media and the coaches. My first team included Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor; Penn State’s Tim Frazier; Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger; Northwestern’s John Shurna; Michigan State’s Draymond Green. Can you really quibble with that quartet?

In addition to Hummel, I think you could make a case for Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Michigan’s Trey Burke to be first-team picks.
I think you HAVE to have Sullinger and Green on the team. You also need some guards, so you need Frazier and Jordan. Then, who is your fifth guy? Shurna? Hummel? Zeller? You really can’t make a bad choice. But Shurna is Northwestern’s all-time leading scorer and has the program on the verge of its first NCAA bid. Pretty heady stuff.

Purdue opened spring practice this week. What are you looking for? – Pete

There will be much focus on the quarterback spot, with Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve—granted a sixth year of eligibility–and Rob Henry—back after missing 2011 with injury–all competing for the job. Will a clear-cut No. 1 emerge? Doubtful, but it doesn’t really matter because Danny Hope figures to play two signal-callers in 2012. But there will be other issues to monitor. The Boilermakers will be breaking in a new defensive scheme, with three new staff members on that side of the ball headed by coordinator Tim Tibesar. The new scheme will be a base 4-3 but have the ability to morph into a 3-4. The offense needs to find three starters up front on the line. Bottom line: There is a lot for Danny Hope to do as he preps for his fourth season at the helm in West Lafayette.

Where do you see the Big Ten teams seeded in the NCAA tourney? -Just a fan

I think six already are locks—Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue. As for seeds, I think the Spartans, Buckeyes, Wolverines, Badgers and Hoosiers all could be No. 4 seeds or higher. The last time a conference had five teams seeded No. 4 or higher was the Big East. The Boilermakers look like a No. 6-8 seed. Of course, much will depend on what happens in the Big Ten tourney in Indianapolis.

Still, look for the league’s top five teams to have high seeds for a conference that ranks No. 1 in the RPI and is looking for its first national championship since Michigan State won it all in 2000. But know this: The last time the Big Ten was No. 1 in the RPI was 2006; and that year, the league went 3-6 in the Big Dance.

What does Northwestern need to do make the tourney? – Evan

Aside from assuring themselves a spot by winning the Big Ten tourney, I think the No. 7 Wildcats need to win at least two games in Indianapolis. That means toppling No. 10 Minnesota on Thursday and dumping No. 2 Michigan on Friday. The good news: Both games are winnable for Northwestern, as the Gophers are slumping with seven losses in their last nine games and the Wolverines are a nice matchup for a Wildcat club that lost twice in overtime to Michigan this season. Northwestern owes Michigan, right?

How will Michigan State be without Branden Dawson? – Carol

The freshman sensation is out the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee suffered in the loss at home to Ohio State on Sunday. Dawson, the Spartans’ second-leading rebound and third-leading rebounder, was playing some of his best ball of the season when he went down. Dawson will undergo surgery and is expected to be out five to seven months, with no plans to be redshirted.

In the interim, the Spartans will be without a dynamic athlete on the wing. Dawson is an explosive finisher around the basket who also can crash the boards and was defending better. Without Dawson, MSU’s postseason hopes may take a hit. This is the second time in three years that Michigan State has been hit with an untimely injury, as point guard Kalin Lucas went down in the second round of the NCAA tourney in 2010. But that didn’t derail the Spartans’ run to the Final Four. Maybe MSU will be as fortunate this time, too.

To compensate, look for the Spartans to possibly play a bigger lineup with Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne. Tom Izzo also could turn to redshirt freshman Russell Byrd and freshman Brandan Kearney to play bigger roles.

Michigan State is the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tourney and won’t play until Friday, when it will meet the winner of the No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Illinois game. Win that, and the Spartans figure to meet No. 4 Wisconsin or No. 5 Indiana on Saturday with a trip to the title game on the line. Stay tuned. This is gonna be interesting for a Michigan State team that’s still looking to secure a high NCAA bid.

Draymond Green should be in the discussion for national player of the year. Why doesn’t he get more attention for that honor? – Stan

He probably should, as Green has been a walking double-double all season for a Michigan State club that has won the Big Ten and earned the top seed in the league tourney. And Green also is an off-the-charts leader, a senior who embodies all that is good about college sports.

But he is overshadowed by players on teams that are doing even better than Michigan State. I’m talking about Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, among others. It will be difficult for any player to get much acclaim over either of those players in what essentially looks like a two-man race for the national player of the year accolades.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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