Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 5, 2012
In my first daily batch of links for this week, Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News tells us that Delvon Roe feels Branden Dawson?s pain. No doubt, and Dawson?s loss for the rest of the season to a knee injury suffered in the loss to Ohio State will have a big impact on Michigan State in the postseason. This is a slumping Spartan squad that enters the Big Ten tourney as the No. 1 seed but riding consecutive losses at Indiana and at home yesterday to the Buckeyes on Senior Day. Now, this: News that the freshman sensation is done.
Dawson was an explosive scorer off the wing who excelled at finishing at the rim and crashing the boards, averaging 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds. Without the 6-6 Dawson, Michigan State will need big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix to pick up their production. Austin Thornton also will have to step up on the wing for a Spartan squad looking to win its first Big Ten tourney title since 2000 and secure a high bid to the NCAA tourney.
Hoosier seniors Verdell Jones III, Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Kory Barnett and Daniel Moore finally have a year to enjoy, writes Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. No doubt. The first three seasons of their careers, the seniors went a combined 28-66 overall and 8-46 in Big Ten action. Now, Indiana boasts a 24-7 record with an 11-7 mark in Big Ten action to finish fifth in the league. Best of all: Indiana is a lock to play in its first NCAA tourney since 2007. And the Hoosiers could make some noise in the Big Ten tourney, as they arguably are the hottest team in the Big Ten with four wins in a row and seven in their last eight contests. Could Indiana win its first Big Ten tourney title? Why not? And a deep run in the Big Dance also is possible.
Nebraska grid coach Bo Pelini is expecting a big jump on defense, writes Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald. No doubt, the Cornhusker defense wasn?t up to par last season. The Nebraska defense finished seventh in the Big Ten (350.7 ypg). The rushing defense was eighth (158.5 ypg) and the pass defense was seventh (192.2 ypg). A big reason for the struggles? A lack of big plays. The Huskers finished 12th in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (4.3 pg) and ninth in sacks (1.6 pg). And Nebraska also was only 10th in the conference in turnovers gained with 18. Making matters even tougher: The defense lost its three best players in linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and tackle Jared Crick. Plus, coordinator Carl Pelini left to coach Florida Atlantic.
The Illini are OK with an NIT bid, says Paul Klee of the Champaign News-Gazette. Well, that?s good, because that?s likely all that Illinois will receive. The Fighting Illini finished the season by losing 11 of their last 13 games. This, after a 4-1 start in Big Ten action. Illinois enters the Big Ten tourney with a 17-14 mark overall and a 6-12 league record, needing to win the event to secure a bid to the Big Dance. The No. 9 seeded Illini take on No. 8 Iowa in the first round of the conference tourney on Thursday with the winner slated to play No. 1 Michigan State. Could we be watching the final days of the Bruce Weber era? Since taking Illinois to the national title game in 2005, Weber has a 61-61 Big Ten record the past seven seasons with a 2-4 mark in four NCAA appearances.
The Wolverines rushed home from their win at Penn State to reflect on winning the Big Ten title, writes Kyle Meinke of AnnArbor.com. Good for Michigan! This is the program?s first regular-season Big Ten crown since 1985-86. Yes, it?s true: The Fab Five never won a title. The ?85-86 squad coached by Bill Frieder featured players like Roy Tarpley, Butch Wade, Gary Grant, Antoine Joubert and Glen Rice Is John Beilein the Big Ten Coach of the Year? Hmmm.
OTHER LINKS OF NOTE
Tim Beckman already Has the Illini competing, reports David Mercer of the Associated Press. When does athletic director Mike Thomas act? Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald-Review explains. Let the A.D. do his stuff, writes Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette.And finally, Paul Klee of the Champaign News-Gazette explains the Southern Illinois-Illinois connection.
The win over Purdue was special win for the Indiana seniors, says LaMond Pope of the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette. Meanwhile, Terry Hutches of the Indianapolis Star shares his Big Ten honors ballot.
Iowa took a series of steps to keep football coaches? hirings in compliance with its own policies, says Tom Witosky of the Des Moines Register. Meanwhile, Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register examines the costs of building a winning schedule.
Don?t expect new defensive coordinator Phil Parker to do anything crazy-it?s still Kirk Ferentz?s team, says Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. And Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette shares his All-Big Ten honors ballot.
Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State share the wealth in Big Ten, says Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.
Michigan State?s party is spoiled-and it only gets worse, opines Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press.Still, Tom Izzo and Draymond Green could collect Big Ten honors, says Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. To review: Senior Day goes awry, but the celebration goes on, says Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal.
Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune shares her All-Big Ten awards ballot. In other news, seat ransom is poor reward for loyalty to Gopher basketball, says Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Expectations are high for Kain Colter, says Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. On the hard court, Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders: Does Northwestern deserve its first NCAA bid?
That?s what you call a bombshell, says Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch. ?Willis B.? was oh so good in crunch time, writes Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Bill O?Brien is making positive first impressions, says Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle. That's why Penn State is off to a fast start in recruiting, writes Donnie Collins of the TheTimes-Tribune.com of Scranton.
Indiana was a bad matchup for the Boilermakers, explains Jeff Washburn of the Lafayette Journal-Courier.
Rob Wilson?s late-season surge extends the Badgers? Senior Day tradition, opines Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal. Next shot for Rob Wilson will be for at-risk kids, says Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com and will post his Daily Links on weekdays. You can subscribe to the Daily Links RSS here, find Dienhart?s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.