Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 3, 2013

It?s that time of the week when I reach into my mailbag and answer the best of your questions. This time of year, the bag is jammed with both football and hoops questions, and I have few of each this week. That includes one on Ohio State's shooting struggles.

Thanks for all of the great questions. Keep them coming, America. Don't forget to come see me on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart), too.

What did you think of the bowls? – Matt

Facts are facts-and this is a hard one: The Big Ten finished 2-5 in the postseason, going 1-4 on New Year?s Day. Go ahead ? make fun ? take a jab ? kick the Big Ten in the gut. I can?t defend it. Nor, will I try. There comes a time when you just gotta do it. And the Big Ten isn?t doing it when America is watching.

It seems like this all began with Ohio State getting thrashed by Florida in the BCS title game after the 2006 season-and it hasn?t stopped.

No doubt, the conference competed well vs. elite teams like Georgia, South Carolina and Stanford Still, it came up short. You wonder how the league would have done if Ohio State and Penn State would have been eligible. The bowl lineup may have looked something like this:

  • Rose: Ohio State
  • Capital One: Nebraska
  • Outback: Penn State
  • Gator: Wisconsin
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Michigan
  • Meineke Car Care Bowl: Northwestern
  • Heart of Dallas: Michigan State
  • Little Caesars: Minnesota

Purdue would have had to have found a spot in another bowl. Oh, well. We?ll never know, but it?s fun to think about it. Hey, when you go 2-5, you have a lot to think about it.

What do you think was the best bowl among Big Ten schools? – Joe

What the Big Ten lacked in success, it compensated for with excitement. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (MSU-TCU), Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Minnesota-Texas), Outback Bowl (Michigan-South Carolina) and Rose Bowl (Wisconsin-Stanford) all were great games to watch. Even the Capital One (Nebraska-Georgia) and Gator Bowl (Northwestern-Mississippi State) were good. The only real dog game was the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Purdue-Oklahoma State).

[BOWL ROUNDUP: Find the full results with video and recaps here. ]

But in the end, my vote has to go with the Outback Bowl. The game between the Wolverines and Gamecocks was an instant classic. Great back and forth with star power in each lineup and a heart-stopping ending. Plus, it may have had the play of the bowl season, when South Carolina?s Jadeveon Clowney trucked poor Michigan running back Vincent Smith. Poor guy had to be scraped from the field with a shovel. From here to forth, we all shall refer to the South Carolina defensive bruiser as ?Mr. Clowney,?

Do you believe that Thad Matta and Ohio State may have to win games with hustle and defense, with an apparent lack of shooters and shooting? Will the team improve throughout the season? – Jonathan

Aside from DeShaun Thomas, the Buckeyes are struggling to shoot. And the team needs some other scorers to emerge as complements around Thomas. Aaron Craft misses the presence of Jared Sullinger inside, as the Buckeyes no longer run their attack through a big man in the paint. And that has meant less room for Craft to operate and get his shot. Ohio State needs players like Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross to be more productive. But the real onus is on Lenzelle Smith, Jr., to score on a regular basis.

No mention of Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson on your list of top assistants for 2012? – Kenneth Sohmer

Yes, believe me, I considered Johnson. He?s one of the best in the biz. And he did a great job developing redshirt freshman Deion Barnes. And Jordan Hill was an absolute beast inside. But I still like my choices.

And I think I represented the Nittany Lions staff pretty well. I had Ron Vanderlinden as my linebackers coach and John Strollo as my tight ends coach. I also gave honorable mention to offensive line coach Mac McWhorter; defensive coordinator Ted Roof; secondary coach John Butler; Bill O?Brien as offensive coordinator; Charlie Fisher as quarterbacks coach; Stan Hixon as receivers coach. So, there you have it.

Early thoughts on the hoop season? – Virginia

The league looks to be as good as advertised if a 6-6 Purdue team can knock off a ranked Illinois team. So, Tom Izzo is right: This is the best Big Ten in his tenure. In the end. I think it may come down to three teams: Michigan, Indiana and Minnesota. And, here is when they meet.

  • Jan. 12: Minnesota at Indiana
  • Jan. 17: Michigan at Minnesota
  • Feb. 2: Michigan at Indiana
  • Feb. 26: Indiana at Minnesota
  • March 10: Indiana at Michigan

As you can see, Michigan and Minnesota meet just once; Indiana plays Michigan and Minnesota twice.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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