Today's links: Hunker down with hoops headlines

Please forgive me for any errors in daily links as I fret about the impending doom and havoc an on-coming snow/ice storm surely will bring to the Midlands. Time to race to my local Piggly Wiggly for eggs, bread and milk because, well, that’s what people do in times like this—make French toast, and worry.

Deep breath. OK.

After a horrid 22-point loss at Wisconsin on Sunday that was termed by some as “embarrassing,” Ohio State rebounded to embarrass a sinking Minnesota squad by 26, 71-45. Buckeye legend Jerry Lucas was on hand to be honored as one of the 75 greatest players in NCAA tourney history. His assessment of this year’s Ohio State team: “They’re talented, but they don’t shoot the ball well.”

Spot on. What did you expect from the former sharpshooter?

***

Where does Minnesota go from here after following a 21-point loss at Iowa with a 26-point beat down at Ohio State?

The Golden Gophers have lost two in a row and are 2-4 this month. The February swoon continues a disturbing trend of late-season meltdowns by Minnesota under Tubby Smith. Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that in the past three seasons, Smith’s program has lost 17 of 21 games in February, when teams are trying to solidify an NCAA bid. Part of it is choking under pressure. Part of it is facing opponents that want it more. Part of it is reliving past failures.

What’s interesting is that Smith’s struggles were predicted by Gregg Doyel of CB with these hoops SSports.com after Tubby was hired. Check it out.

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To foul, or not foul? That is the conundrum coaches face when holding a three-point lead in the final seconds of a game.

Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star says it seems like more coaches go with the idea of not fouling in that situation because they think too many bad things can happen. You always hear about the situation where a team will make the first of two free throws, then get the offensive rebound and get fouled going up for the shot and end up with a four-point possession and the win. Or they make the first one, get the offensive rebound and kick it out for a 3-pointer for the win.

Indiana boss Tom Crean didn’t want to foul at the end of regulation vs. Michigan State on Tuesday in that situation. But a foul was called on the Hoosiers. (And, it was a horrid call, too.) Nonetheless, MSU’s Gary Harris failed to cash in. Indiana won and, well, you know the rest …

***

The hoop world still is buzzing about the Derrick Nix-Cody Zeller exchange from Tuesday. Did Nix hit Zeller in the privates? Or, did Zeller grab Nix’s hand and initiate it?

ESPN’s Dick Vitale called the game and blasted Nix after the incident. Upon further review, however, Vitale has softened his stance and criticism in comments to the Detroit News: “Michigan State people are going to see it one way and Indiana people are going to see it the other way. The bottom line is I think it’s totally inconclusive and I find it very difficult to comprehend that Zeller would intentionally do that to himself. Now, their arms are locked, there’s no question their arms are locked. Now who thrust into who? Only the culprits know.”

This is all too much to believe.

***

For what it’s worth, and it’s worth a lot in some circles, Illinois won’t have a player in the McDonald’s All-American game for a third year in a row.

Illini signees Austin Colbert, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn were nominated for the game. The last Illinois player who took part in the McDonald’s game: Jereme Richmond. Enough said.

Speaking of Illinois, it’s defense that has keyed the team’s recent run of four consecutive wins. Will that new-found defensive pressure maintain vs. Penn State tonight?

***

Purdue is off this week. And, that may be a good thing, as the time off may allow the slumping Boilermakers to clear their heads.

Purdue has lost three in a row and five of six. And the Boilers aren’t just getting beat—they are getting hammered—allowing 97, 75, 78, 79 and 83 points in the losses. Jeff Washburn of the Lafayette Journal Courier says it best: Purdue is stunned and humbled.

Perfect.

***

Get out your stop watch and sneakers, there’s plenty of NFL Combine news.

No player may have more on the line at the NFL Combine than Denard Robinson. Rarely has so much been written about a fringe pro player’s NFL prospects. What is D-Rob at the next level? Brad Smith? Yes, that’s probably it. But, the guy was one of the all-time greats at one of the all-time great football program. So, here’s more Robinson analysis. This time, Kyle Meinke looks at three things he must accomplish in Indy.

My advice to the kid: Don’t leave Indy without hitting St. Elmo’s. Get the shrimp cocktail. You’ll thank me later.

No Big Ten school has more players in Indy than Ohio State. And one is DE Nathan Williams, who has had to overcome knee issues to get here as he makes the move to OLB.

Williams will be joined at the Combine by potential first-round pick and defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins, offensive tackle Reid Fragel, defensive lineman John Simon who is also making the shift to outside linebacker, fullback Zach Boren, linebacker Etienne Sabino and tight end Jake Stoneburner.

***

Audrey Snyder of the Harrisburg Patriot-News analyzes five things to look in Indy from the four Penn State players—Matt Stankiewitch, Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti–at the Combine.

Interestingly, the players expect to be asked about what it was like to play for Penn State after the sanctions were announced last summer.

“I’ve been asked that in every single interview I had at the Senior Bowl in some way, shape or form,” Hill told Snyder. “Some of them will just come out and directly ask it. I just tell them the truth. I tell them what we had to do to get through everything because it’s not a secret.”

***

Recruiting Florida early in the Kirk Ferentz era played a big role in the rise of Iowa. But since then, the program has gradually pulled out of the state.

Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette notes that when the Iowa staff went through the first-round of shakeups with two new coordinators in early 2012, Ferentz announced that Iowa wouldn’t have a coach in the Sunshine State this recruiting season. Up until Feb. 6, every Ferentz recruiting staff had at least one Florida recruit. Ed Miles and Marcus Paschal were the last multi-year starters from Florida. They finished in ’06. Since the 2002 class, Iowa has had 17 Florida recruits.

I don’t think any Big Ten school should ignore Florida.

***

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Maybe Dickie V. will call the kid up and say something. Maybe not.

My take: And it all is deserved.

My take: Me? I think Dekker deserves more playing time. He has scored in double-figures in four games in a row.

My take: I think this is impressive.

My take: (Again, I am nodding my head.)

My take: This calls into question the validity of the RPI, no?

My take: I’ll buy a ticket!

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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