Today's links: Buzz around Burke, title race & expansion

Purdue almost had Michigan beat last night, building a 12-point second-half lead. Then, the Boilermakers started talking some trash at Wolverines sophomore point man Trey Burke. Silly Boilermakers. Let’s start daily links here.

Burke came alive in the second half—when Michigan scored 50 points!–proceeding to slice and dice Purdue to the tune of 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds en route to an 80-75 victory that sets up a Michigan showdown with Indiana on Sunday in Ann Arbor. A share of the Big Ten title will be on the line for the Wolverines. By the way: IU has lost two of its last three games. Let’s all say it together: “slumping.”

The Indiana-Michigan tilt also will go a long way in determining who will win Big Ten Player of the Year: Michigan’s Trey Burke or Indiana’s Victor Oladipo? Indeed, it may come down to Sunday’s result, says Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com.

I disagree. I think Burke already has wrapped up the award. But tell me I’m wrong.

***

Big game tonight in East Lansing, with Michigan State playing host to Wisconsin. Will a packed Breslin Center stoke the Spartans, who are playing a ranked team for the sixth time in eight games?

If Michigan beats Indiana on Sunday, the winner of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game will be poised to claim a share of the Big Ten title (read my breakdown of “what ifs” over here). The Spartans finish the season at home against Northwestern and the Badgers finish at Penn State.

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Nebraska was able to bring down the curtain on the Devaney Center with an upset victory over Minnesota last night.

Still whimsical about the Devaney Center? Take this walk down memory lane with the Lincoln Journal Star, which chronicles the 10 greatest games in the venueAnd who was the best Cornhuskers ever to run the court at the 37-year-old Devaney Center? Steven Sipple of the Journal Star says it was big man Dave Hoppen. You remember him, right? Right?

Boy, I’m not sure about that. What about Tyronn Lue? Eric Piatkowski? I loved the Polish Rifleman. What a sweet shooter.

***

Minnesota’s 53-51 loss at Nebraska leaves the Golden Gophers with much to figure out, says Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Really, it was more of the same for Minnesota: it shot poorly, Andre Hollins struggled and Rodney Williams? Well, the high-flyer didn’t even score. How does that happen? Ah, forget it. Add it up, and you have a recipe for another confounding Gophers’ loss for a team that entered the game winning its last two games. Tubby Smith seems fed up. Me, too. Oh, well.

***

In this video blog, Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says Ohio State is peaking at the right time.

I’d say Lesmerises is right, wouldn’t you? The Buckeyes have won four in a row and five of six, including that huge victory at Indiana that opened up Big Ten title possibilities for Ohio State and others. This team is on a roll, America. And one of the reasons why is Shannon Scott.

Appreciate him for what he is and not what he isn’t, says Bill Livingston of the Plain Dealer. Amen.

***

Big Ten athletics directors are starting to discuss division realignment. Will this ever end?

The A.D.s will convene in Chicago in May. At that point, athletic directors should emerge with recommendations to school presidents. And, as we have heard before, some directors say the new alignment will be geography based. Oh, and Michigan State A.D. Mark Hollis says there is nothing imminent on the expansion front, but the topic of expanding the Big Ten football schedule remains hot. There appears to be more support for a nine-game slate than a 10-game schedule.

***

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball didn’t run so well at the NFL Combine. But, the touchdown machine did better at his recent pro day in Madison.

Ball ran a 4.66 40-yard dash at the Combine but turned in a 4.46 and 4.53 at his pro day. That’s all well and good. But, honestly, shove your stopwatch into your pocket and just flip on the tape of Ball and watch him play. That’s all you really need to see to know the guy can play.

***

Looking for storylines for Penn State’s spring football practice, which starts March 18? You won’t need to look hard, because they are aplenty.

Chief among them is a quarterback situation that likely won’t be resolved until stud freshman Christian Hackenberg arrives in the summer. Until then, Steven Bench and JC transfer Tyler Ferguson will battle to keep Matt McGloin’s old seat warm.

***

The stunning loss of offensive line coach Jim Bridge to Purdue raises some recruiting questions for Illinois. Bridge has built a nice rep as a recruiter. And, if there’s one thing Illinois needs, it’s talent. Now, Bridge is gone, the sixth assistant to bolt Champaign since the end of 2012.

“It makes you wonder why,” ESPN.com Midwest Regional Recruiting Coordinator Jared Shanker told the Champaign News-Gazette. “It seems like guys are jumping ship. You don’t definitively look at Purdue as a significantly better job (than Illinois). That’s not a knock on either program. You have to look and wonder if you’re a parent, why all the coaches are leaving.”

Hmmmm.

***

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: See hammer hit nail on the head.

My take: Ok, I’ll say it: Burke is the best player in the Big Ten. Case closed. Really, it is.

My take: If anyone can figure out the Gophers, give me a call. Until then, I’ll keep my head in the oven.

My take: Let’s file this under “too little, too late.”

My take: No doubt. And it’s those defensive shortcomings that could be the team’s undoing in the NCAA tourney.

My take: This sums it up perfectly.

My take: I looked it up. It’s a first! I think.

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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