Start your week off with these 10 Big Ten links

Wisconsin’s season ended one game short of the national title game. The loss to Kentucky on Saturday was close, painful and soon won’t be forgotten in Madison. Still, as Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, there are many good memories from one of the best seasons in school annals.

UW won 30 of 38 games in Bo Ryan’s 13th season as head coach. The Badgers did not win a Big Ten title. But they won their first 16 games, the best start in program history, and climbed to No. 3 in the national polls. They reached the Final Four — the only Big Ten team to do so this season — for the first time since 2000.

Oh, and next season could be just as good. The lone key senior gone: Ben Brust.

***

Could Minnesota’s NIT title lead to an NCAA tourney berth next season? Maybe.

Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press points out that after winning the NIT in 1993, the Gophers advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1994. They won the NIT again in 1998, then lost in the first round of the 1999 NCAA tournament. Only four of the past seven NIT champions have been able to qualify for the NCAA tournament the following season, so there are no guarantees.

But three of the past four NIT winners reached the NCAA’s Sweet 16 this season: Baylor, Dayton and Stanford. The only NIT winner since 2010 not to reach the Sweet 16 was 2011 champion Wichita State, which was 35-0 until a third-round NCAA tournament loss to Kentucky.

In 2014-15, the Gophers will have four seniors (DeAndre Mathieu, Andre Hollins, Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason) and a junior (Joey King) among their top six players. Not bad, huh?

 ***

Struggling for perspective of Michigan State’s hoop season that ended a game short of the Final Four? It’s understandable. Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal tries to offer some insight.

The Spartans began the season as the prohibitive Big Ten favorite and a top-four team nationally. A Final Four run WAS expected. This season can only be viewed as a disappointment.

NCAA prez Mark Emmert sounded off on a variety of subjects on Sunday at the Final Four in a state of union address. Among them: unionization, which he called a “grossly inappropriate solution.”

***

Ohio State will conduct its spring game next Saturday. And there will be a lot to watch. I’ll be there. And I’ll be keeping an eye on the back seven on defense, as new coordinator Chris Ash takes over. Here is what the gang at Cleveland.com will be watching for.

I also can’t wait to see Ezekiel Elliott, who may be the Buckeyes’ next great running back.

 ***

Michigan held its spring game on Saturday. And several players stood out. Chief among them: cornerback Jourdan Lewis.

The sophomore seems to have picked up and embraced a new, more aggressive, scheme. And this defense needs some playmakers. Maybe Lewis can be one.

“Jourdan is a very gifted kid,” coach Brady Hoke said. “He was a freshman a year ago, still a freshman right now. He’s a talented guy, very athletic. He’s getting stronger, which helps.”

 ***

Nebraska I-back Ameer Abdullah has been impressed with his running mates. No doubt, it’s a nice contingent behind Abdullah, including Imani Cross, Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor. Bo Pelini says offensive coordinator Tim Beck may come up with some plans to use multiple backs.

“We’re going to have to use some ingenuity,” he said. “Tim has some plans. Maybe use some multiple-back sets and things like that. A lot of guys that can do a lot of different things to help us.”

This could be the best set of backs in the Big Ten.

 ***

Penn State boss James Franklin may have the offensive line in a different color in the upcoming Blue and White game. Watch the video and see.

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The tight end spot wasn’t uber productive for Michigan State last season after Dion Sims turned pro early. But Jamal Lyles could be ready to emerge.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Good ideas.

My take: Just unreal.

My take: Yes, well, that was an AWFULLY tough shot Harrison hit.

My take: Guh!

My take: Sadly, “underdogs” like this never will have a shot to win a college football national title in a way-too-small four-team playoff.

My take: Yes, no doubt.

My take: Jackson has been clutch in the past.

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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