Big Ten Mailbag: Let's dive into your letters

Firing through my e-mail inbox on this rainy day, reading your Big Ten love letters and answering the best ones. Keep ‘em coming! You can always email me directly at the bottom of any of my posts – including this one.

This week you’ve sent in the following: Wisconsin hoops has talent, right? Why did you diss Penn State’s linebackers? Agree or disagree: Nebraska’s Terran Petteway could jump to the NBA? Want to hear my crazy Big Ten expansion idea? Read my answers to those notes as well as to many others.

Just a thought on how Wisconsin really has good talent that’s not been completely overlooked. Frank Kaminsky was four-star recruit by ESPN, as was Nigel Hayes. Bronson Koenig was a four-star by Rivals, and Ben Brust was a top-150 player by Rivals. And Sam Dekker was a consensus five-star player. Add it all up, and that’s a great roster. No, it’s not Kentucky talented, but it will win a lot, and it has. – Dave

You are correct. It’s not like Wisconsin is winning with a bunch of two-star recruits that no one wanted. Bo Ryan has some touted prospects. The “little train that could” storyline is a tired one in Madison. You mentioned Dekker, who was one of Ryan’s top catches ever. And Koenig could have gone to Duke. Wisconsin is pretty loaded.

No talk about why Penn State’s linebackers struggled in 2013? Seriously? Ben Kline played hurt all year. Nyeem Wartman was hurt for most of it. Same goes for Mike Hull, who was still better than most. Bottom line: Linebacker is not a problem. Penn State will have the best linebacking corps in the conference for the 10th time in 12 seasons. Bank it. – Big Ten Fan

Good point. I like the trio of Brandon Bell, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman, the projected starting trio. It will be one of the best in the Big Ten. And, as you say, it may be the best with guys like Ben Kline, Gary Wooten and Charles Idemudia in the depth chart.

Time will tell. Keep an eye on the linebackers at Nebraska. I think they’ll be good.

Not that I think he should go pro, but it’s interesting that you left out Nebraska’s Terran Petteway from this analysis on Big Ten players who could leave early. He’s a more prolific scorer with incredible athleticism and work ethic than many others you discussed. – Colby

There has been no talk about Petteway leaving. No doubt, he’s a special talent who ranks among the best in the Big Ten. And he could one day be a pro. But all signs point toward him coming back for his junior season. Petteway could stand to add muscle to his 6-6, 209-pound frame. Another guy I didn’t mention is junior Frank Kaminsky, whose profile and skill set are even better than Petteway’s. But, there is no talk of Kaminsky bolting. He could stand to get stronger and more physical.

I enjoyed your article looking at Big Ten players possibly turning pro, but something seemed missing from your reasons why a player should stay: to get a college degree! By turning pro, they will become instant millionaires, but money comes and goes. Once you have a college degree, no one can take that away. Let Adreian Payne be our example! – Kevin Hayes

Good point. Still, it’s difficult to turn down millions, which is what a lottery pick would get. And know this: You only are young once. Earn money at a sport while you can. You always can go back to get a degree. No need for a 35-inch vertical leap to take a Calculus class.

Thank you, Jordan Morgan, for stepping in and stepping it up! This was an incredibly fun year to follow Michigan basketball! All the best for your future endeavors! Make that Michigan degree work for you! GO BLUE!! – Craig

That was a pretty neat thing Morgan did, taking to Twitter to thank fans. No doubt, this was a fun season to follow the Wolverines, as they far exceeded my expectations. And they did so because of guys like Morgan, who stepped up when Mitch McGary was unable to play because of a back issue. I have a feeling a man of Morgan’s ilk will be successful at whatever he does in life.

I want to thank you very much for sharing Jordan Morgan’s Tweets and therefore verifying the fact that he is a wonderful young man and his actions under the brightest lights definitely show he is blessed.- Jan Selge

Amen to that!

With spring football games about to start, how much is too much to charge for tickets? This is, after all, an intra-squad scrimmage with a rolling clock at some places. – Jonathan

I think schools shouldn’t charge a thing. Spring games should be a good-will gesture toward fans to come see their team and to build anticipation for the fall. If money is charged, a school should give it to charity. I like what Nebraska often does, having fans bring some non-perishable food item to donate to charity as a way to gain admission. It just doesn’t look good for a school to have its hand out for money at every turn—especially for a glorified scrimmage. Yes, I know costs are involved in opening a stadium, etc., but the school should just eat those costs. It’ll make up for them in the fall.

With conference realignment apparently over for now, might the Big Ten try to expand in another direction? For example, if Johns Hopkins or the University of Chicago–both members of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation–expressed interest in a upgrading to a Division I basketball team, would the Big Ten be interested? – Matt

Uh, no. But nice try.

Nebraska has tended to underperform overall the last decade or so. But this team, at this point, looks absolutely loaded. A young defense improved greatly as last season progressed and may be lethal this season. How far do you think this team can go this year? And does it seem like Bo Pelini is more comfortable and confident in this team than any of his previous ones? – Bob Jones

Pelini does seem that have gotten a mega-dose of “Lighten up, Francis.” And, that’s a good thing. He seems a bit more jovial, having a bit of fun. And some of that could have to do with the potential of this 2014 team. Like you, I am enthused about the Cornhusker defense.

What’s not to like about defenders like Randy Gregory, Greg McMullen, Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins up front? There are terrific linebackers in Josh Banderas, Michael Rose and David Santos. And how about converted linebacker Nathan Gerry at safety? Interesting. As of this moment, Nebraska is my pick to win the Big Ten West. And it’s largely because of this defense, which so often has been maligned in recent seasons.

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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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2 Comments

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Bob Jones on 4/3/2014 @ 3:16pm EDT Said:

Afalava has left the team, but Huskers still loaded at the linebacking positions.

HuskerFan LivinginIowa on 4/4/2014 @ 9:38am EDT Said:

sorry as a big Red Fan, until they can do away with 4+ turnovers a game and drive ending false start or holding penalties, I am not choosing them the favorites…and its not close. that is just my opinion.