Today's links: On challenges, polls & ticking clocks

It’s no secret. In fact, it’s well-known to anyone who watches Big Ten hoops: Ohio State’s sophomores need to step up if the Buckeyes want to have a big season. Let’s begin daily links right there, since Ohio State has a big home game tonight vs. Wisconsin.

I’m looking at you, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross. The visit from the always-rugged-on-defense Badgers will be a nice test for that quintet (read Wisconsin Ohio State game preview here). Time to give Deshaun Thomas some consistent scoring help.

Wisconsin sophomore Traevon Jackson is driven by high expectations. Hey, that’s usually the case when you are the son of a former college All-American.

If being Jimmy Jackson’s son  isn’t tough enough, Jackson also is following Jordan Taylor as the Badgers’ point man, who just happens to be the all-time NCAA leader in assists-to-turnover ratio. Alas, Traevon Jackson is shooting only 34.0 percent from the field overall and 26.7 percent from 3-point range in Big Ten games. He also has more turnovers (14) than assists (12) in league play. But, he’s putting in extra work. Let’s see if it pays off tonight in a homecoming game for the Ohio product.

***

Meanwhile, Ohio State rival and Wisconsin nemesis Michigan is No. 1 for the first time since the 1992-93 season, the halcyon days of the Fab Five. Where were you back then? This AnnArbor.com writer was in the pep band in 1992-93 and offers fun perspective.

Speaking of the Fab Five, ring leader Jalen Rose hopes he and his buddies will sit courtside for a Wolverines game at some time. Talk about a potential spectacle. But, I hope it happens!

***

Big Ten Standings
Conference Overall
W-L W-L
Michigan 6-1 19-1
Indiana 6-1 18-2
Michigan State 6-2 17-4
Ohio State 5-2 15-4
Wisconsin 5-2 14-6
Purdue 4-3 11-9
Minnesota 3-4 15-5
Northwestern 3-5 12-9
Illinois 2-5 15-6
Iowa 2-5 13-7
Nebraska 2-6 11-10
Penn State 0-8 8-12
View Full Standings

Nebraska has won two of its last three. Really. Up next is a visit to slumping Minnesota tonight, which has lost four in a row. Despite the slump, Gophers’ coach Tubby Smith has no plans to bring in a sports psychologists or motivational speaker to help pull his team out of the funk.

Somehow, this team still is ranked No. 23 in the AP poll after a 15-1 start has melted into 15-5 (3-4 Big Ten). Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald says the Gophers aren’t so golden anymore. And, he’ correct.

***

It’s no coincidence that as Adreian Payne has notched up his game, Michigan State has gotten better, too.

In fact, Payne is showing signs of possessing an NBA-style game on the offensive end. He is extending his range to three-point territory while displaying a mid-range game along with his usual deft skills in the lane. The guy is just playing lights out! Dare I say he’s the best big man in the Big Ten?

***

Time may be running out on Iowa’s hopes of earning an NCAA bid. That loss at Purdue on Sunday? It was a killer.

Fran McCaffrey’s offense-first system is fun. And the defense is getting better. But Iowa lacks a true go-to guy—Devyn Marble, where are you?–and the shooting has been woeful in Big Ten action. The Hawkeyes need to win seven of their last 11 games just to get to .500. Hmmm. Not likely.

Want more Iowa? Check out this podcast from Scott Dochterman and Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The dynamic duo discusses the Hawkeyes’ shooting woes, recruiting and that tough loss at Purdue.

***

Brian Rosenthal of the Lincoln Journal-Star offers up his weekly Big Ten power rankings. Michigan is No. 1; Indiana is No. 2. Oh, they meet this Saturday in Bloomington.

***

Illinois has had several issues crop up during its slump after a quick start that surprised the nation. Among the most recent issues has been a leaky defense.

***

The great Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal-Courier sat down with Purdue A.D. Morgan Burke to discuss the future of the Big Ten and how a 14-team league may look.

Burke repeats the notion that geography will play a big role in drawing up new divisions. Carmin says looking at the league’s footprint, putting Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland in the East is one idea. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska would fit in the West. That leaves Purdue, Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern capable of going in either direction.

But how many conference games will be played? Burke said the Big Ten has asked the athletic directors to put a moratorium on scheduling non-conference games after 2020. In fact, the league has told schools to schedule four non-conference games in 2014 and 2015, three in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and only two in 2019 and 2020. Hmmm.

***

It seems Nebraska coach Bo Pelini wasn’t pleased when a commitment recently flipped to Auburn.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: No doubt. The Huskers could use him 2013. But there is good depth at running back and two hot-shot recruits are set to sign in February.

My take: This is good news, though Michigan’s other big men picked up the slack in the win at Illinois on Sunday.

My take: Well, the Wolverines are on their way.

My take: The Gophers need Mbakwe to be healthy to help pull the team out of this four-game slump. Is there a tougher player in the Big Ten? Nope.

My take: If it works, do it.

My take: Yes, that hurts.

My take: Does it really matter? Bottom line: The game is off. And that’s too bad.

My take: I could perhaps see this happening.

My take: Oopsie. This was tweeted on Monday. The game is tonight.

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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1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
Doug on 1/29/2013 @ 1:13pm EDT Said:

Tom, quit saying M hasn’t been # 1 since ’92. Those records got erased, and even the M president banned them from campus, why would you want to see them together?

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