Big Ten links: Win brightens Illini tourney hopes

The denizens of Champaign-Urbana (Chambana to the hip natives) woke up this morning dreaming of the NCAA tourney. Why not? Illinois’ stunning 74-72 defeat of No. 1 Indiana last night has breathed life into what was listing team and set off a party on Green Street.

I have to start daily links right there. Loren Tate of Champaign News-Gazette says the victory was quite a moment for seniors Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey.

Speaking of Griffey, how on god’s green earth did he get that wide open? (I’m looking at you, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller.) Regardless, it was a much-needed win for a Fighting Illini squad that entered the game with a 2-7 Big Ten mark and had lost six of its previous seven games.

Feb 07, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini forward Tyler Griffey (42) hits the game winning shot to defeat the Indiana Hoosiers 74-72 during the second half at Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports.Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini forward Tyler Griffey (42) hits the game winning shot to defeat the Indiana Hoosiers 74-72 during the second half at Assembly Hall. Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports.

If you are scoring at home, that’s three wins over Top 10 teams for Illinois: Indiana, Ohio State and Gonzaga. Illinois also topped Butler earlier this year. Next up for the Illini: A trip to Minnesota on Sunday. You thinking what I’m thinking? Ah, forget it.

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Hold that order on those 2013 NCAA championship T-shirts! This could be the start of a rough second half of the season for Indiana. Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star says the Hoosiers’ margin for error has just gotten frightfully slim. And, well, he’s correct, as usual.

Big Ten Standings
Conference Overall
W-L W-L
Michigan 8-2 21-2
Indiana 8-2 20-3
Michigan State 8-2 19-4
Ohio State 7-3 17-5
Wisconsin 7-3 16-7
Minnesota 5-5 17-6
Purdue 5-5 12-11
Northwestern 4-6 13-10
Illinois 3-7 16-8
Iowa 3-7 14-9
Nebraska 2-8 11-12
Penn State 0-10 8-14
View Full Standings

Indiana is now 8-2 in the Big Ten. Not bad. But the Hoosiers still have games at Ohio State, at Minnesota, at Michigan State and at Michigan. What’s it mean? Dreams of a Big Ten regular-season title and No. 1 seed in the Big Ten could evaporate, as Indiana conceivably could finish 12-6 in the Big Ten. Wow.

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Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press says ugly trends are developing for a struggling Minnesota program.

After a 3-0 start in the Big Ten, the Golden Gophers have lost five of their last seven games. The Gophers have shot poorly on the road and have been prone to turnovers no matter where they have played. Fuller points out that during Tubby Smith’s five previous seasons, the Gophers averaged 13 turnovers twice, 14 turnovers twice and 15 turnovers once (last season). The Gophers are averaging 14 turnovers this season through 23 games.

We all need to be honest with ourselves: This is just a solid—not great—team.

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Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III is good. Really good. How good? Well, he is up to No. 12 on CBSSports.com’s draft board. Here is a look at Jeff Goodman’s list of the top 101 draft prospects.

The tough losses continue to mount for Iowa. But Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette thinks the Hawkeyes will be better—and tougher–for it.

Iowa is now 3-7 in the Big Ten. And, Hlas says, the margin-of-error for making the NCAA tournament has been whittled to a nub. Three losses by three points, two by four points. A single-overtime failure. And now a double-overtime defeat at Wisconsin. But look at the rest of the Hawkeyes’ schedule. It’s very kind. Expect a strong finish and push for the Big Dance.

Hlas also has a fun podcast with Tom Arnold—yes, THAT Tom Arnold.

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The Ottumwa native and former Iowa student talks about why he likes to root for Iowa, among other things. The guy is a riot, even though the 1990s are long and gone.

Michigan inked a killer class of recruits. What’s interesting is the fact it was built by dominating battles for in-state talent and by raiding players from … Ohio!!! You hear that, Urban?

Southern talent? Brady Hoke says you don’t need it to win national crowns. In fact, Michigan didn’t sign a single player from recruiting hotbeds Florida, Texas or California for the first time in 25 years.

“I think (the importance of Southern talent) is a little bit overblown — and the media does that,” Hoke said. “I remember being on teams here that could compete with anybody, so I don’t know why you couldn’t.”

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The NFL released its list of invitees to the Combine, and Ohio State led all Big Ten schools with seven players. Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks the Buckeyes could have as many as eight NFL draft picks in April.

But where may these Buckeyes get drafted? NFL DraftScout.com has an exhaustive ranking right here. Big John Hankins is the lone projected first-round pick.

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Dustin Hockensmith of the Harrisburg Patriot-News assembled a Penn State all-decade team comprised of players who were only two- or three-star recruits. And, it’s quite an impressive collection of talent. So, take that, recruiting rankings.

I’ll take any team that includes the likes of Jordan Hill, Allen Robinson, Evan Royster and Sean Lee, among others.

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You have to check this out. On his radio show, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the Big Ten wasn’t recruiting up to its capabilities. Urb may be correct, but is it his place to say that? Well, sure. The guy has proven time and again to be a boffo recruiter. So, lead the way, Urban. The Big Ten needs your help after having just OSU, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State finishing among various recruiting rankings Top 25s.

Here’s the Meyer audio.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: That’s a dirty little secret in Bloomington. Shhhhh.

My take: I think an 8-10 league mark and one Big Tourney win is enough to get Illinois into the Big Dance.

My take: Well said. There could be—What?—as many as eight to 10 teams that could win it all?

My take: Is that a place anyone wants to be? The last five No. 1 teams all have gone on to lose the following week.

My take: Amazing. I can’t wait for this game.

My take: Uh, yep.

My take: We still have about four weeks left!

My take: Yes, that, and Nebraska usually whips the Buffs.

My take: Foreshadowing?

My take: True. All that matters is March. Now is the time to work out kinks.

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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3 Comments

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Doug on 2/8/2013 @ 11:08am EST Said:

Here’s another secret: MSU is tied for first with IU and Michigan. This weekend, IU goes to OSU, Michigan goes to Wisky, MSU goes to Purdue. MSU wins, the other 2 lose, MSU is in first place by themselves while everyone continues to talk about IU and Michigan….

    BTN.com staff on 2/8/2013 @ 11:13am EST Said:

    Good stuff, Doug. But now it’s not a secret. Enjoy the games!

Doug on 2/8/2013 @ 11:40am EST Said:

Sure will, it’s gonna be a super fun weekend !