Read Wednesday's 10 Big Ten headlines

Nebraska begins a final push for its first NCAA bid since 1998 tonight with a visit to Indiana. Not bad for a team picked to finish last in the Big Ten. Can the Cornhuskers close the deal? It will be difficult, as a visit from Wisconsin follows this game. “We’re good enough to be a tournament team,” Tim Miles told reporters. “We just need to win enough games to prove it.”

The Huskers are 8-2 in their last 10 games, bringing some mojo to Bloomington.

Indiana also has NCAA hopes—and brings some momentum into the game, having won three of four games. Oh, the NCAA hopes are faint. But they are there. No doubt, the Hoosiers emotions will be fueled because it’s senior night. Check out this video.

[ MORE: Watch Indiana's Senior Night events live tonight only via BTN2Go. ]

Indiana also may be inspired by the return of Noah Vonleh, who missed the Ohio State game with a foot injury. And, that’s a good thing, as the Big Ten’s leading rebounder brings great energy to the court.

***

Congrats to Michigan, which wrapped up the program’s first outright Big Ten title since 1985-86 with a dominating victory at Illinois.

The win conjured memories for me of the that 1986 team, which had Antoine Joubert, Roy Tarpley, Gary Grant, Glen Rice, Butch Wade, Richard Reliford and Robert Henderson. It was Michigan’s second league title in a row. I miss Bill Frieder and his towel and rumpled sports coat.

In the dominating victory, Nik Stauskas was on fire. In fact, he may have wrapped up Big Ten Player of the Year honors last night. He tallied 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including a career-high seven made 3-pointers.

Prior to playing Michigan, Illinois had held its previous four foes to under 50 points. Well, the Wolverines stomped out that streak with 84 points. And they also stomped out any sliver of hope Illinois had for an NCAA bid.

***

While Michigan State is wrestling with trying to turn around its listing team, Gary Harris has a big decision to make soon: Will the sophomore turn pro? He isn’t even thinking about that right now.

My guess: He’s gone.

More Sparty: This is the kind of record Michigan State didn’t want to tie: The Spartans are in danger of matching the school record for most losses in a season in the Breslin Center.

A loss in Thursday’s home finale vs. Iowa would match the Breslin record of five defeats in one season. The Spartans lost five at home in 1992-93 and 1995-96 — Tom Izzo’s first season at the helm— and the last time it lost four was 1996-97, Izzo’s second season and last trip to the NIT. Those facts are difficult to read.

***

The theories behind Iowa’s struggles are numerous. HawkCentral.com has this theory: Did Iowa buy into NCAA Tourney hype too early?

The national chatter has been persistent about Iowa’s Final Four hopes, a place where the Hawkeyes haven’t been since 1980. So, what say you, Fran McCaffery?

“I think it’s a legitimate question,” McCaffery said. “I don’t think so.”

***

Spring drills are underway at Minnesota. And it’s time for quarterback Mitch Leidner to take charge. At least that’s what former Gopher signal-caller Adam Weber—the school’s all-time leading passer–says.

No doubt, Leidner’s cause will be easier if some big-play wideouts emerge. That’s a BIG spring question. Still, there is a lot to like about this offense.

***

Tough break for Purdue big man Jay Simpson, whose career has come to an end because of a heart condition.

Simpson was a developing redshirt freshman who could have played a nice role on the interior. Now, the Boilermakers are a man short inside. Not ideal. Godspeed to you, Jay.

***

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Foreshadowing?

My take: It’s always a spectacle.

My take: This makes Michigan’s feat even more impressive.

My take: And this was vs. an Illinois team that hadn’t allowed 50 points in any of its previous four games.

My take: This is just scary.

My take: The kid may have to play a big role.

My take: Possible.

My take: I think it’s a long shot. NIT is more difficult to get into these days. Purdue just has a bad resume.

***

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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1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
B1Gfan MI on 3/5/2014 @ 8:30pm EDT Said:

Stress of 18 B1G challenges, plus the B1G Tourney will have a bearing on NCAA tourney . Will qualifiers be ” battle tested “. Or ” battle worn ” ? Hopefully the best will prove their “mettle” !

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