Wednesday Links: Tourney Could Be Wild One

The heart of the Big Ten Tournament could be the Hoosiers, but conference balance should translate into a wild tournament. Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t want bowls to be limited to picking seven-win teams. Fran McCaffrey is disappointed that Matt Gatens wasn’t first-team All-Big Ten and Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t want bowls to be limited to picking seven-win teams. What do these stories have in common? They’re all in my Daily Links for Wednesday. Dive in and have a look.

The heart of the Big Ten tournament could be the Hoosiers, writes Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times. I think Gould has it correct. To me, Indiana may be the team to beat in the Big Ten tourney, which starts on Thursday in Indianapolis. The No. 5 Hoosiers arrive as the hottest team in the conference, having won seven of their last eight games and opening vs. No. 12 Penn State; win that, a date with No. 4 Wisconsin looms on Friday; win that, and a game with No. 1 Michigan State could loom on Saturday. It’s difficult not to get ahead of yourself when talking about the Hoosiers. Big man Cody Zeller has been a revelation in the paint, opening options on the perimeter for an array of primo shooters like Jordan Hulls, Will Sheehy and Matt Roth. Bottom line: Watch Indiana, which will be shooting for its first Big Ten tourney crown—and just may get it. (Full tourney bracket here.)

Balance should translate into a wild tournament, writes Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal. No doubt. The regular season ended with a three-way tie between Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State in what was an ultra-competitive Big Ten. And Wisconsin and Indiana have proven they can beat anyone in the league. Plus, Purdue has mojo and the ability to play with all the teams if it’s shooting well. What’s it all mean? This could be one of the best league tourneys in the event’s 15th season.

Illinois had a football banquet with a twist, says Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. In doing so, new coach Tim Beckman is making it clear: discipline will be key. The Illini hope it works. This is a program that has struggled to maintain success, only experiencing spurts over the past 25 or so years under coaches Mike White, John Mackovic, Lou Tepper, Ron Turner and Ron Zook. Each had their moments—but none could keep Illinois among the Big Ten’s best. Beckman arrives from Toledo with that objective. Know one thing: You better be on time if you are gonna play for Beckman.

Fran McCaffrey is disappointed that Matt Gatens wasn’t first-team All-Big Ten, writes Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Really? While I think Gatens is an exceptional player and perhaps the best shooter in the Big Ten, I don’t think he was one of the top five players in the Big Ten. Guys like Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor, Penn State’s Tim Frazier, Michigan’s Trey Burke, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Northwestern’s John Shurna all deserved to be honored over Gatens. Sorry, Fran.

Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t want bowls to be limited to picking seven-win teams, says Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. I beg to differ with Fitz on this. There are too many middling bowls that feature middling teams. Where is the reward for going to the postseason when .500 teams are able to play in bowls? There is no reward. It’s akin to youth soccer, where every kid gets a trophy for playing. Look, I love football. But more isn’t always better—and that’s the case with a postseason that has a six-win minimum. Push the bar to seven wins for bowl eligibility. It will improve the quality of the bowls—and make getting to the postseason more meaningful. If not, just scrap most of the bowls and let everyone play a 13th regular-season game. And we also will give juice pouches and Gold Fish to everyone!

OTHER LINKS OF NOTE:
Illinois
Bruce Weber’s road is the bumpiest of all, writes Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette. And Illinois A.D. Mike Thomas is non-committal on when he will evaluate Bruce Weber, says Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald-Review.

Indiana
The Hoosiers to treat the Big Ten tourney like February, says Pete DiPrimio of the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel. Plus, he’s for real: Cody Zeller is all that Indiana hoped for, says Andy Proffet of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star.

Iowa
Tourney losing streak isn’t a record, but it’s dangerously close, according to Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. And as Bryce Cartwright goes, so go the Hawkeyes, says Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The Hawkeyes begin quest to win four games in four days, writes Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Also, one coach’s advice to Devyn Marble rings of encouragement, says Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register.

Michigan
Nick Baumgardner of AnnArbor.com wonders: Will Indiana surprise? Will Michigan State overcome? Will Michigan win it? John Beilein has turned around Michigan Mark, says Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan State
Branden Dawson injury shouldn’t end the Spartans’ hopes, says Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal.In football, record football season tickets sales are expected, according to the Detroit News.

Minnesota
Coaches looking ahead to the Big Ten tourney, says Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Nebraska
Push for leadership starts with the players, says Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald. And Bo Pelini just says ‘no’ to yes men, writes Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star. What’s Taylor Martinez up to? He’s looking to take the next step, says Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star. Plus, the Huskers hope offseason bonding pays dividends, Christopherson adds. Read this Husker grid notebook, by Rich Kaipust and Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald.

Northwestern
JerShon Cobb is getting back into the flow, writes Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune.

Penn State
From the Associated Press: Tim Frazier emerges as one of the Big Ten’s best guards.

Purdue
Quarterbacks are eager for competition, writes Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal-Courier.

Wisconsin
Football recruit Bart Houston to undergo shoulder surgery, says Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com and will post his Daily Links on weekdays. You can subscribe to the Daily Links RSS here, find Dienhart’s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.

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