Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 11, 2014

Big game tonight, as Michigan plays at Ohio State. The Wolverines are tied for first place with Michigan State with a 9-2 record. But Michigan is slumping, losing two of its last three. And both defeats were on the road: at Indiana; at Iowa. Conversely, the Buckeyes are playing well, winning three in a row after losing five of six games. Here?s what to watch for tonight.

The recent play of LaQuinton Ross has been huge for OSU. But the biggest key for Ohio State: 6-11 Amir Williams. As he goes, so go the Buckeyes. Don?t believe me? Read this.


Go ahead. Ask Michigan coach John Beilein about Big Ten scheduling. He?ll tell you that he doesn?t like it. And he?s taking it up with the Big Ten office. So there.

To wit: Beilein?s team will play its third road game in 10 days. How much sense does that make? Little. My guess: If the Wolverines hadn?t lost two of their last three on the eve of tonight?s game at Ohio State, maybe Beilein wouldn?t be discussing Michigan?s schedule. On the court, Beilein doesn?t plan any changes to his rotation.

Big Ten Standings (through 2/10)
  Conference Overall
  W-L W-L
Michigan State 9-2 20-4
Michigan 9-2 17-6
Iowa 7-4 18-6
Wisconsin 6-5 19-5
Ohio State 6-5 19-5
Minnesota 5-6 16-8
Northwestern 5-6 12-12
Indiana 4-6 14-9
Nebraska 4-6 12-10
Purdue 4-7 14-10
Illinois 3-8 14-10
Penn State 3-8 12-12
View Full Standings


No doubt. It?s not time to panic. This is still a good team. Give it a chance to fight through this rough patch that has seen it score 67 points at Iowa and 52 at Indiana.  The key to amping up the offense: get stops and defense and score in transition.

And here?s a nice breakdown of the league race. Even with a win tonight, does Ohio State really have a shot to win the conference?

Not likely. This is a two-team tug-of-war between Michigan State and Michigan. And the Big Ten may be just a five-bid league: MSU; Michigan; Iowa; Ohio State; Wisconsin.


Hecklers? Bring them on. Ohio State?s Aaron Craft doesn?t care. He?s often a target. The guy is made of steel. You can?t rattle him.

?I just try to avoid them as much as possible,? Craft said of the hecklers. ?They get more angry when you don?t say anything to them or acknowledge them. I usually like to rattle them up a little more by doing that.

?It?s always tough in the heat of a battle. Emotions run high, especially if things aren?t going well, and sometimes all it takes is one thing to kind of make you snap. But it has been going on for a while, and I don?t think it goes on unless, as a team, we?re doing something right. The best thing we can do is find a way to have more points than they do at the end of the game and have the gym be quiet.?


In case you hadn?t noticed-and you probably hadn?t-Minnesota big man Mo Walker has been providing a nice spark off the bench. In fact, he may be coming off the best five-game stretch of any backup pivot man in the Big Ten. I guess that?s a compliment.

The Canada native is averaging 7.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 15.9 minutes this season. But Walker upped that to 14.2 points on 60 percent shooting with 6.4 rebounds in 24.4 minutes in the past five games. Losing weight in the offseason no doubt has helped Walker became a key contributor this season.


The saga of Michigan State recruit Malik McDowell continues. If you recall, the five-star defensive end committed to the Spartans on Signing Day. But he never sent in a letter-of-intent, as his mother wasn?t on board with him tabbing MSU. Now, McDowell apparently is on the market, as it sounds like he?ll take unofficial visits to Florida State and Ohio State. Oh, and Michigan is still in play, too, along with-of course-MSU.

They guy has had close to a year to make a decision ? and still can?t. He sure is getting a lot of attention out of this. The spotlight won?t go away once he suits up, wherever that is.


Penn State can have 75 players on scholarship when camp opens in August. This is a nice breakdown of how many guys are on scholarship now, and what positions have the most and least about of scholarships dedicated to it.

I think James Franklin is going to be just fine with these numbers.


In case you missed this, former Illinois coach Ron Zook is now on the staff of the Green Bay Packers. Congrats! A fun guy to talk to.



My take: Oh, it can happen.

My take: This is nuts.

My take: This is never good. My guess: If Michigan was on a winning streak, the players would be available.

My take: Is he calling out someone?

My take: Amazing.

My take: I wonder if they are?

My take: Go figure, right?


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.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.