Monday links: Surf these Big Ten headlines

Gotta start daily links with Michigan and its impressive victory over Illinois on Sunday. The Wolverines flexed their muscles by thumping the Illini, 71-58. And in the process, Trey Burke surpassed the 1,000-point club. He is just the seventh Wolverine to turn the trick in less than two seasons.

Burke notched 26 points against the Illini, showing that he still should be considered for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Oh, and Michigan still has Big Ten title hopes.

The loss at Michigan ended Illinois’ five-game winning streak. And the unceremonious loss caused D.J. Richardson to utter: “They punked us. We turned the ball over and made bone-headed mistakes.” Sounds about right. Michigan outscored Illinois 43-27 in the second half after trailing by three at the intermission.

***

Ohio State finally got the signature victory that had been missing from its resume by dumping No. 4 Michigan State, 68-60, yesterday.

Earlier in the week, the Buckeyes crushed Minnesota, 71-45. So, Ohio State enters the penultimate week of the season on a roll, having won three of its last four games. The Big Ten title is a long shot. Nonetheless, the Buckeyes need this run of success after losing three of four.

***

In case you haven’t noticed, but Michigan State point man Keith Appling hasn’t played very well the past two games—both losses, to Indiana and at Ohio State. Tom Izzo is baffled.

How much has Appling struggled the past two games? He has hit just 2-of-14 shots for nine points with three assists and seven turnovers. Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press says that MSU has no chance to be a great team without Appling leading the way. He has done that for most of the season, which is why the Spartans were 22-4 and ranked No. 4 in the country entering the week.

***

Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star has more love for Victor Oladipo.

Why not? The junior has been on a roll, playing perhaps his best game of the season last week in a huge win at Michigan State. How is this for hype? “He’s a special, special player,’’ ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said. “He reminds me a lot of Michael Jordan. He can just do so many things. There’s not a college basketball coach in America that wouldn’t want Victor Oladipo on his team.’’

Yes, Dickie V said “Michael Jordan.” Settle down, Dickie. Settle down. This is called “getting caught up in the moment.”

***

The Iowa football staff underwent big alterations after 2011, with changes made at both coordinator posts. And the changes continue after last season.

Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Mike Hlas noted that last Friday, Iowa named its sixth new assistant coach—running backs coach Chris White–in the last 14 months. That’s two-thirds of the staff replaced. That’s after a 2011 season that would qualify as disappointing, followed a 2012 season that was downright discouraging.

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman can relate. Entering just his second season, Beckman will have five new assistant coaches in 2013. Four of Beckman’s 2012 guys left for other jobs.

***

Michigan received a blow when defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery left for the same post at Oklahoma.

He is a young, rising star coach who was especially good on the recruiting trail. I am still vexed that he left a rising Michigan program for an Oklahoma program that has leveled off and may be in slight decline under Bob Stoops.

***

After 37 seasons, the curtain is coming down on Nebraska’s Devaney Center. Kleenex, please.

Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald gives the grand ol’ lady of Nebraska hoops one final farewell kiss before the program moves into sparkling new digs next season. Barfknecht retells a story of how a small-town Nebraska businessman cursed Indiana coach Bob Knight back in 1976 in the Devaney Center—and lived to tell about it. Good stuff here.

Nebraska added a memorable moment for this season with a stunning win over Iowa on Saturday, rallying from 19 points down to claim the victory and put a serious dent in the NCAA hopes of the Hawkeyes. It was part of a sour weekend for Iowa.

***

With NFL Combine in full gear, there is a lot to talk about. Among other things: The Denard Robinson watch continues, as the former Michigan wunderkind continues to make the transition to receiver. Kyle Meinke of MLive.com says he’s making baby steps.

Robinson’s improvements in the receiver drills were the biggest takeaway from his highly anticipated appearance at the Combine, Meinke says. And, he’s correct after having watched him on the NFL Network over the weekend, Robinson caught the ball well. Time will tell if he can do so in full pads while being covered and with the specter of getting drilled.

“You play quarterback your whole life, then jump into receiver and you’re going against the best,” Robinson said at a news conference Saturday. “I feel like I’ll continue to get better.”

***

Check out Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti discussing his knee injury at the NFL Combine in this videoThis is the one guy I am rooting the hardest for.

***

Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell ran a 4.6 40—faster than the more heralded Montee Ball. And that could improve his draft stock.

Personally, I’ll take Bell. Not only did Ball run slowly, but he also had just 15 reps of 225 pounds. Slow AND weak? Maybe Ball will surprise me in the NFL. He did in college.

***

Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray is an intriguing prospect at the NFL Combine. He worked out on Sunday. The verdict: He had an up-and-down effort.

Is he a quarterback? Tight end? Receiver? Gray ran a 4.73 40, which was fourth-best among quarterbacks—but slow for receivers. His throwing is iffy. Gray will get another shot to impress at his pro day on March 4. Stay tuned.

***

TWEETS THAT MATTER

https://twitter.com/HuskerExtraBC/status/305820121136508928

My take: Speed isn’t everything, but it likely will cost Burkhead draft positioning. I’d still take him. You know he’s gonna contribute in some way.

https://twitter.com/Mark__Snyder/status/305778450415890434

My take: Michigan is much better defensively with Jordan Morgan in the lineup.

https://twitter.com/LucasAtLarge/status/305891953973796865

My take: This is called trying to make a negative into a positive.

https://twitter.com/TomOatesWSJ/status/305819968564498432

My take: This is amazing. Think about it.

https://twitter.com/dave_heller/status/305750498030530560

My take: Faulk is correct. Did Ball really improve his stock last season?

https://twitter.com/WernerESPNCU/status/305811211134595073

My take: So true. It seems like he’s already been at Ohio State for about, oh, 10 years.

https://twitter.com/JeffRabjohns/status/305824872989347840

My take: Correct.

https://twitter.com/JeffRabjohns/status/305853869555068928

My take: Uh, not gonna happen.

https://twitter.com/CEmmaFOX/status/305834153826467842

My take: And Purdue thanks the Wildcats. A lot.

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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