Big Ten links: Catch up with Thursday's Big Ten news digest

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten links: Catch up with Thursday's Big Ten news digest

How about this: Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys sees eight to ten wins in 2016. Got to like the confidence. “I believe this is our best football team since we’ve been here,” Claeys said earlier this week. “We’ve played well and competed.”

“It’s hard to put a number on it,” Claeys said about 2016. “Eight to 10 wins. Well, you win nine, and for around here they (haven’t) won 9 games in a (heck of a) long time.”

Minnesota hasn’t won at least nine games since Glen Mason coached the Gophers to 10 wins in 2003. Claeys wants to be in the division title race in late fall. Minnesota needs to amp up its offense if it wants any shot to win the West.

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At the Big Ten Athletic directors’ meetings this week, the topic of league expansion came up. It always does. But, none is on the horizon. So, cool your jets on those crazy proposals.

“Anything is possible, but I doubt we talk about it,’’ Nebraska A.D. Shawn Eichorst said. “We have other things we’re focused on. Stability is terrific.’’

Wisconsin A.D. Barry Alvarez said, “When you’re not involved in expansion, it’s kind of boring.’’

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The Cedar Rapids Gazette has a good podcast on the topic of Big Ten expansion. The guest: The great Lee Barfknecht of Omaha.com. This is a great look back at the last 25 or so years of expansion and expansion speculation.

Another podcast: InsideNU.com talks with Bryant McIntosh. McIntosh is one of my favs. He sat down with Henry Bushnell to discuss his sophomore season, the team’s accomplishments and shortcomings, his personal development, Steph Curry, and various off-the-court topics such as how recognizable he is around campus. Will 2016-17 be the year NU finally goes to the Big Dance?

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The mushrooming of transfers in college basketball has some in a tizzy. How much so? Coaches hope it doesn’t turn into “ultimate free agency.” But, no one … not the NCAA, schools or coaches, can make kids not want to transfer. It’s up to the kid to decide. They are 18-year old adults. Making big decisions is part of growing up. Coaches just have to deal with it.

“We all feel very strongly about it. There’s issues with the transfers and we’re all trying to find a solution. The solutions are varied, but let’s keep putting ideas out there to make it better,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It’s everywhere in men’s basketball. When you couple that with NBA attrition, it’s hard. It’s hard for coaches to build programs because they’re patching tires.

“How can we get a better solution? … I’m not going to (publicly share all my ideas) because I’m also gaining more and more information.”

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Oh, man, the bombardment of college football awards watch lists already has begun. And it’s not even summer. First out: the Rimington watch list. God bless. And Michigan’s Mason Cole is on it … even though he never has played the spot.

Cole is one of six Big Ten centers on the list — joining Maryland’s Brendan Moore, Nebraska’s Dylan Utter, Illinois’ Joe Spencer, Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter and Iowa’s Sean Welsh.

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Hey, Chris Spielman is moving to FOX and could be calling Big Ten games in 2017. Outstanding!

Sports Business Daily reported in April that Fox was close to a deal to acquire half the Big Ten TV rights for football and basketball starting with the 2017 season. That would mean about 25 regular-season Big Ten football games per season would land on Fox, as opposed to the current TV deal sending the top Big Ten games to the ABC/ESPN family and the rest to the Big Ten Network.

Here is a good look at TV developments from Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

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There has been much talk about Chris Ash wanting to keep New Jersey kids in state. Dan Duggan of NJ.com looks at how Ash plans to do that. As I have typed many times in this space, I think RU has great potential and can be a factor in the Big Ten … with the right coach and investment from the school.

“It’s all about relationships,” Ash said. “The players that are coming into our program are coming into this program for the right reasons. They’re coming in here because of the relationships that we’ve been able to build with them. We talk about trust. They trust us. They believe in our plan, believe in our vision. They love what we’ve done with our players in the program in a short amount of time. That’s why they’re coming here. Hopefully at the end that’s why they’ll end up staying with us regardless of what happens as we move forward.”

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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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