Today's links: Here comes Indiana vs. Michigan State

There are story lines galore for this Sunday’s Michigan State at Indiana game. So, let’s start Friday’s daily links right there. Tom Izzo will be matching wits with his protégé, Tom Crean. The battle of big men Adreian Payne and Cody Zeller will be epic. Also fascinating: How Indiana fans will react to Michigan State freshman Gary Harris, an Indianapolis area product who shunned the Hoosiers for the Spartans.

“They’re going to be on me like crazy,” Harris told Diamond Leung of MLinve.com of Indiana fans. “I already know I’m going to be ready for it. It’s kind of tough once people who said they loved you and adored you and wanted you to come to school, and then the minute you decide to do something else, they say they hate you, say they didn’t want you. But that’s just how it is sometimes. Then when I got Mr. Basketball they just thought Yogi deserved it since he was staying in-state, and I was a traitor for going out of state. It’s just their opinions.”

Izzo gets the angst of IU fans, but he just wants to win in Assembly Hall. In fact, he is calling it a must-win contest.

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Big Ten Standings
Conference Overall
W-L W-L
Michigan State 6-1 17-3
Michigan 5-1 18-1
Indiana 5-1 17-2
Ohio State 4-2 14-4
Wisconsin 4-2 13-6
Minnesota 3-3 15-4
Purdue 3-3 10-9
Northwestern 3-4 12-8
Illinois 2-4 15-5
Iowa 2-4 13-6
Nebraska 1-6 10-10
Penn State 0-7 8-11
View Full Standings

Glenn Robinson III may not be as good as his dad, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, the 1994 consensus national player of the year who led Purdue to the Elite Eight that season. But GR3 is good. Really good. So, Boilermaker fans everywhere wonder: Why isn’t he at Purdue?

Here’s the kicker: Purdue coach Matt Painter never really recruited the kid. Says he ran out of scholarships. GR3 says he has no hard feelings. I’m sure he doesn’t, as he plays a starring role for a likely Final Four team and possible national champion. Yes, I think playing at Michigan is gonna work out just fine for GR3.

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After suffering a third loss in a row following a 15-1 start and reaching No. 8 in the polls, Minnesota is showing cracks. Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press knows how to fill them.

Turnovers have been killer, along with a lack of bench production. And where has Rodney Williams been? Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wants answers.

It’s not too late for the Golden Gophers to get back on track. But, a game at Wisconsin this weekend will make it difficult.

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Speaking of Wisconsin, when it steps to the free-throw line, you may want to look away. It’s not pretty.

The team’s 52.1 shooting from the charity stripe may have cost it the game vs. Michigan State. For the season, Wisconsin is clanking freebies at a 61.1-percent rate, which is 332nd out of 347 Division I schools. Making this more vexing: Two years ago, the Badgers paced the nation and set a program record in free-throw shooting by hitting 81.8 percent. They were at a respectable 73.9 percent — the fifth-best mark in program history — last season. The Badgers need to improve with Minnesota coming to Madison for a big game this weekend.

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The Big Ten looks like a four-team race between Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State. But if the Buckeyes want to remain in the hunt, they must find consistent scoring help for Deshaun Thomas. Here are what four Big Ten TV analysts—Dan Dakich, Scoonie Penn, Jim Jackson, Clark Kellogg–have to say about the subject.

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Who doesn’t enjoy looking back? The Champaign News-Gazette does just that with this article by Loren Tate that ran back in March 1996. Illinois had lost nine is a row to the Fab Five and Michigan before finally ending the skein. I miss Richard Keene, Kiwane Garris and Jerry Hester, don’t you? Man, Garris was quick and could shoot it.

Running this piece seems appropriate with Michigan coming to town this weekend. If the Wolverines win, they just may ascend to No. 1 in the polls. Who knows, maybe the Illini can knock off Michigan? Maybe? Remember,Illinois is coming off a 20-point win at Nebraska that may have it back on track after a three-game losing skid.

That players-only meeting called last week may be paying off the Illini. But the next five games will test—and I mean REALLY test—Illinois: Michigan, at Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, at Minnesota. Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald-Review says a 3-2 record would be a spectacular achievement during those five games but even 2-3 would keep Illinois in the hunt thanks to a more forgiving finishing stretch.

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Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times knows the Big Ten is the nation’s best conference. But, at times, down is up and up is down.

Gould notes that there will be times when the league doesn’t look so good. There already have been. Just chalk that up to a league that has so much quality depth that bottom-feeders who make shots will frustrate contenders who don’t.

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The Indianapolis Star has a neat series that looks back on the evolution of Tom Crean as a coach. The guy has come a long way since rarely playing on his high school team to rising to become one of the top coaches in America.

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Bob Flounders of the Harrisburg Patriot-News sneaks a peek at Bill O’Brien’s offseason to-do list.

No. 1 on the list: Find a quarterback. Honestly, did you really have to ask? The 10th item is a luxury problem—finding playing time for all of the standout tight ends on this roster. It’s a ridiculous amount of talent.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: The Badgers could use the big fella’s shooting touch.

My take: What a luxury to bring a guy like this off the bench.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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