Big Ten Headlines: On Hoops & Football

In today’s links we take a look at what some think the previous Illinois athletic director would have done with Bruce Weber. Plus, Michigan State’s men’s basketball team has incredible chemistry, but is that enough for the Spartans? Purdue’s shooting is heating up just in time. Could the Nebraska men’s basketball job search be warming up, too? And let’s shift gears to football where one writer reports linebacker is the deepest position on the Michigan team. Lots of others links plus the Big Ten Blast video, too.

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In Champaign Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette thinks former Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther would’ve made a change in basketball coaches, too. I am sure as heck not gonna argue with Tate. The guy is legendary. I just wonder what direction the university will go with Bruce Weber gone. Some early speculation has mentioned potential candidates like Alabama’s Anthony Grant, Marquette’s Buzz Williams. VCU’s Shaka Smart, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, South Florida’s Stan Heath. Will the job search target a minority? A big key for whoever takes over will be roster retention. Is sophomore Meyers Leonard gonna come back or bolt to the NBA? What about the six players in the talented freshmen class? Will some of them transfer? While the basketballs have stopped bouncing in Champaign, there is still a lot to do.

The Spartans have incredible chemistry, but is that enough? Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press explains. Well, chemistry is a good place to start. And this is a team that Tom Izzo has said that he likes—a lot. What’s not to like about a player like Draymond Green? He’s like a coach on the floor, delivering Izzo’s message in his own voice. And that’s a powerful influence on his peers. But MSU’s strengths extend well beyond just chemistry. Yes, this isn’t an overly gifted offensive team and can fall into extended scoring funks. And there’s no doubt MSU will miss Branden Dawson, who is out with a knee injury. Plus Travis Trice continues to deal with a bad ankle. Still, the Spartans have a nice array of shooters in Brandon Wood, Keith Appling and Austin Thornton, as well as plenty of beef inside with Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix. This could be a Final Four team.

Linebacker is the deepest position on the Michigan team, says Kyle Meinke of AnnArbor.com. No doubt, Wolverine defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have a lot of talent to work on his linebacking corps in 2012, headed by Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens and Desmond Morgan. But Michigan needs to do some work along the defensive front with the likes of Mike Martin, Will Heininger and Ryan Van Bergen gone. And it will be vital for the revamped line to protect this deep collection of linebackers if the Wolverine defense wants to continue to evolve coming off a surprisingly successful season that ended with a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech.

The Boilermaker shooters are finding the range at the right time, says Jeff Washburn of the Lafayette Journal-Courier. Without the hot shooting down the stretch, I wonder if Purdue even would have made it to the NCAA tourney. Players like Robbie Hummel, Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd were clutch over the last month and a half, literally and figuratively shooting Purdue to some big wins—including an NCAA-bid clinching triumph at Michigan that was the Wolverines’ lone home loss of the season. If the Boilers want any shot of making it to the Sweet 16, they must continue to shoot the lights out.

John Groce’s Big Ten connections and his recruiting past make him a logical candidate for the Nebraska hoops job, says Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star. Groce will be a hot commodity for several jobs, as he also is mentioned for the Illinois post. First up, Groce will coach his Ohio Bobcats vs. Michigan in a first-round NCAA game. Whoever takes the Nebraska job will find practice and locker room facilities that are unmatched in the nation. And new arena is slated to open in 2013-14 that will be state-of-the-art. What’s missing? Top-shelf talent. And getting it will be the chief marching order of the new coach.

Illinois
Paul Klee of the Champaign News-Gazette tells the story of Bruce Weber’s firing—and what’s on tap. Then read these football thoughts from Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette.

Indiana
How Tom Crean pulled Indiana from unthinkable depths, by Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports. And the injured Verdell Jones will cheer on the Hoosiers, says Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star.

Iowa
Fran McCaffrey steers clear of Wisconsin controversy, writes Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register. But did you see this amazing shot by Andrew Brommer?

Michigan
Michigan looks to rename Crisler Center, by Kellie Woodhouse of AnnArbor.com. And in the tourney Michigan looks to stick around awhile, says Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News. Ohio’s defense is a focus for Michigan, says Rod Beard of the Detroit News.

Michigan State
Tom Izzo is wary of the athleticism in the West, says Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press. And yet, Michigan State takes a punch, and punches back, writes Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News. The history says a deep run is ahead for the Spartans, says Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal. Either way, injured Branden Dawson to join the Spartans for the tourney, Rexrode adds.

Minnesota
Ralph Sampson III is expected to play in the NIT, writes Ameila Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The NIT keeps freshman class in session, writes Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Nebraska
Jamal Turner is embracing opportunities at receiver, writes Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal Star. Brion Carnes benefits for football school, says the Lincoln Journal Star. In Husker hoops, Maryland assistant Scott Spinelli gets a strong endorsement for the hoop job from his boss, says Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. And back in football, Taylor Martinez impresses Tim Beck with his footwork, say Rich Kaipust and Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald.

Northwestern
The Wildcats’ goal in the NIT? An historic run to the title, says Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. And the man in charge, Bill Carmody, is the focus before tipoff, writes Tina Akouris of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ohio State
New offensive coordinator can’t wait to put the pads on in spring drills, says Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Penn State
Penn State trustees issue a report on the ouster of Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, obsereves Patrick Lester of the Allentown Morning Call.

Wisconsin
Montana isn’t deep but is ready for the challenge, writes Jim Polzin 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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