Today's links: Another big tourney day

We had to wait until close to midnight for our first big upset of the NCAA tourney, with No. 14 Harvard shocking No. 3 New Mexico. What will Day Two bring? Hopefully not an upset for No. 1 Indiana, which takes its first step toward a national championship today vs. James Madison. And, it’s Final Four or bust for a Hoosiers team that has some pressure on it. But, it’s embracing it.

“We’ve been through a lot and we expect nothing but the best,” Victor Oladipo told reporters in Dayton yesterday. “We’re going to go into this tournament and try to win it. So any loss before then would be a disappointment. We’ll take it one game at a time and play together and have fun. Play Indiana basketball.”

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Is Minnesota in a make-or-break situation as it opens the NCAA tourney today vs. No. 6 UCLA?

Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press says former players can sense it. Current players choose to ignore it. But the speculation won’t go away. Is Smith’s job on the line? Should it be? Smith received an extension last season through the 2016-17 season. There were a lot of incentives added (he can earn up to $2.8 million by winning the national championship). But the university protected itself with a $2.5 million buyout. And athletics director Norwood Teague and Smith are going to evaluate his situation after the season, according to the new deal. Stay tuned.

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Offense could be difficult to come by for Illinois star Brandon Paul today vs. Colorado in the Illini’s tourney opener.

The Buffs’ 6-7 Andre Roberson has a lengthy wingspan that allows him to envelop foes. That’s a big reason why he was named Pac-12 defensive player of the year. If Paul is effectively blanketed, Illinois complementary players like D.J. Richardson, Joseph Bertrand and Tracy Abrams, among others, will have to pick up the slack. Or else. A real X-factor for Illinois could be Tyler Griffey, who could get open looks with CU focusing on Paul.

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After getting dumped in the first round of the NCAA tourney last season, Michigan survived and advanced this season with a win over South Dakota State. A key was inserting big man Mitch McGary into the starting lineup. The freshman energized the team.

Hard to argue with what he brings to the court. McGary is a hustler and active force, notching 13 points and nine rebounds yesterday. So, Jordan Morgan was moved to the bench after starting 95 of 100 career games. He played only a minute and largely has been ineffective down the stretch. But Michigan may need him at some point.

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Michigan State is off and running in the NCAA tourney, wiping out Valparaiso. To keep rolling, Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal thinks Branden Dawson needs to stay focused.

Dawson’s defensive dominance of the Crusaders’ best player was one of the biggest reasons for MSU’s easy win yesterday. I also think it was key that Keith Appling had a nice game. And I still contend he is the most vital guy to the Spartans’ hopes for a deep tourney run.

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It looks like Duke assistant Chris Collins is the front-runner to be the next Northwestern coach.

How close is this to happening? A source tells the Chicago Tribune that he would be “shocked if it’s anyone but Chris.” The son of Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins is set to interview early next week. Others who could be targets, according to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune, are Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, LaSalle’s John Giannini and Creighton’s Greg McDermott. It’s difficult not to like Collins’ pedigree or Chicago-area upbringing, but he’s never been a head coach. Is the Big Ten really the place to cut your teeth as a head coach vs. guys like Bo Ryan, Tom Crean, Thad Matta and Tom Izzo?

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Coming off a 4-8 season, Iowa has many issues to resolve this spring. One of the biggest is at quarterback, where three players will battle to replace James Vandenberg.

Redshirt freshman Jake Rudock, true freshman C.J. Beathard and junior Cody Sokol are in the running for an attack that finished in the national 100s in passing offense (187.4 yards a game), TD passes (seven), yards per attempt (5.8), pass efficiency (107.72) and in completion percent on third downs between 4 and 6 yards (45.7 percent). No Big Ten quarterback battle this spring is as vital.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez has work to do.

Among his goals this spring: reading defenses better before the snap. The better he sees it, notes Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald, the quicker Nebraska’s no-huddle offense can move. And coordinator Tim Beck has stated openly that however quickly it moved last year, he wants another gear. In case you forgot, the Husker attack moved pretty briskly last season.

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Yes, the Ohio State defensive line has to replace all four starters from last season. Still, the unit overflows with talented potential.

I will be fascinated to see how players like Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt develop as sophomores. And Michael Bennett and Joel Hale also could be special. I have a feeling this unit will be just fine.

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With NCAA sanctions set to cut scholarships at Penn State from 85 to 65 by 2014, the days of fifth-year seniors for the Nittany Lions figures to over with Bill O’Brien being forced to play true freshman. Redshirt seasons? Forget it.

“…Look, you bring these guys in, they are on full scholarship,” O’Brien told reporters. “Unless they are injured, you’re going to put them in the mix and let them compete – and you’re going to play the best players. You are looking to go out there and put your best football team on the field Aug. 31 (vs. Syracuse). We are a long, long away from that. But we don’t really look at anybody and say we are definitely going to redshirt you.”

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

https://twitter.com/TomOatesWSJ/status/314955148940173312

Don’t bother. It’s too funny.

Ohio State’s path just got easier.

Yes, he did. Which is why he got the Nebraska job. This has to excite Huskers fans.

Yes, it seems like the former Indiana hero often comes up short in March as a coach.

Watching Alford lose has to please Iowa fans.

That would be epic, but it’ll have to be in the Final Four.

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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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