Big Ten links: It's time to check out all of Tuesday's top headlines

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Big Ten links: It's time to check out all of Tuesday's top headlines

How about those Wisconsin Badgers? Know this: In close games, this team won’t flinch under Greg Gard.

Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes Wisconsin fell by two points to Western Illinois, by one to UW-Milwaukee and by two to Marquette early in the season. Big Ten losses to Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern — by a combined 15 points — left UW 2-7 in games decided by six points or fewer.

“I think we forget about how many close games we were in from early on in the season,” UW assistant coach Lamont Paris said. “We had one-possession games, a lot of them we lost.”

But UW is in the Sweet 16 after a four-point win vs. Pitt and a three-point triumph vs. Xavier. In fact, the Badgers have are 5-0 in their last five games decided by six points or less.

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So, if Tom Izzo had to do it over again, would he change his approach to the Middle Tennessee game? Nope. It was just one of those games. Happens to the best of them.

“They played, according to everybody I talked to, the game of their life, their best game of the year,” Izzo told Mlive.com.

“They played better than we played worse. That’s just hard for people to stomach.”

The one criticism Izzo did offer was that Michigan State “kind of didn’t stick to our principles” on defense. The Blue Raiders shot 55.9 percent from the field and 57.9 percent from 3-point range. He also reiterated how difficult of a time Michigan State had covering MTSU forward Reggie Upshaw, who scored 21 points on a variety of different defenders Michigan State threw at him.

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Iowa’s season has come to an end after a blowout loss to Villanova in the Big Dance. Now what for next season? The Hawkeyes have some big holes with four top seniors gone in Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell, Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff. A good breakdown of what’s ahead from Chad Leistikow from HawkCentral.com. It looks to me like Iowa may be a fringe NCAA team next year—at best.

A big question: Who will be the point guards? And can Peter Jok become a stud? Jok is an exciting talent who will play in the NBA.

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Finally, it looks like Michigan will have a good offensive line. The unit made strides last year. Now, it could be regaining a dominant form. It all seemed to come together for the unit in the bowl win vs. Florida.

“That game was, I think, big just for our confidence,” Michigan fifth-year senior tackle Erik Magnuson told Mlive.com. “(Florida’s) an SEC school, they had a really good defense, good stats and all that type of thing. And for us to go in there and put together a game like we did, I felt like we really played well.

“That built our confidence a lot. And now we’ve got to build on it.”

Michigan’s main core up front — Magnuson, senior guards Kyle Kalis and Ben Braden and now junior center Mason Cole — are entering 2016 with more confidence than they’ve had basically at any point in their respective careers.

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Nice to see fired Penn State OC John Donovan land with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he will be a quality control coach for the offense.

I felt Donovan got a raw deal in State College trying to run an offense behind a bad line and QB who really wasn’t a fit for what he wanted to do.

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This is a cool look inside how Ohio State assistant Kerry Coombs recruits his old high school program in Cincinnati. No coach matches the intensity and passion of Coombs.

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InsideNU.com has an oral history of Northwestern’s 1995 Rose Bowl season, one of my favorite sports memories of all time.

I never thought I’d see NU in a Rose Bowl in my career. How bad was this program? In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Northwestern football went four straight years without a Big Ten win. Meanwhile, in non-conference play during that time, the Wildcats weren’t much better, winning just once. Between 1972 and 1991, Northwestern won four or more games in a season just once, making that Rose Bowl run all the more incredible.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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