Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 19, 2014

Pat Harty of wonders if an Iowa win over Tennessee on Wednesday will put a feel-good note on that 1-6 run-up to the NCAA tourney. It certainly couldn?t hurt. This Iowa team has been through a lot. A victory vs. the Vols would be the Hawkeyes? first NCAA win since 2001.

No doubt, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery may have issues concentrating as his 13-year-old son Patrick undergoes surgery to have a tumor removed this morning before the Hawkeyes tip-off tonight vs. Tennessee.

Keep the McCafferys in your thoughts and prayers.


Nice column on Nebraska and its NCAA history from Lee Barfknecht of Honestly, there isn?t too much to write about. The Cornhuskers are 0-6 all-time in the Big Dance. But Barfknecht has covered every single one of Nebraska?s NCAA games. So, he has that going for him ? which is nice.


Sometimes, teams aren?t motivated by playing in the NIT after falling short of reaching the Big Dance. But that won?t be the case for Illinois. Sure, the Illini wanted to play in the NCAA tourney. But there was a point this season-during an eight-game losing skid-when it looked like the year was slipping away. So, finishing strong, getting to the NIT and getting a chance to improve are ample reasons for Illinois to embrace this opportunity.


Transfers have been a big issue during Matt Painter?s nine-year tenure at Purdue. How bad has it been? Fifteen players have bolted West Lafayette with eligibility remaining. And five players have left within the last year. Here is a good look at each player who exited early.

When it comes to player evaluation/program-fit, Painter seems to be lacking. This is far too big of a number for it just to be a coincidence.


Be more aggressive ? be more assertive. That?s what Wisconsin wants to do from the opening tip in the NCAA tourney.

Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that didn?t happen in the Badgers? loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten tourney.  In the loss to Michigan State, UW found itself in a 19-8 hole 7 minutes 10 seconds into the game. The Spartans scored five of their first eight field goals in the paint. UW's first basket in the paint came with 11:49 left in the half, on a dunk by Dekker. Consider it a reminder and a lesson learned.


Free-throw shooting could be the un-doing of Ohio State in the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes are 209th in the nation in free-throw marksmanship. It?s details like this which get teams beat.

After the Buckeyes went 17-of-28 from the line, making just 60.7 percent, in a comeback Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal win over Nebraska last week, point guard Aaron Craft said, ?It?s gonna kill us. We can joke around about it as much as we want. It?s going to cost us a game, and for it to cost us a game now is awful.?

Clip and save that quote.


Michigan State has that famous streak under Tom Izzo of every player who stays four years under his watch playing in the Final Four. Well, that string is in jeopardy of ending if this year?s club doesn?t make it. That puts some pressure on seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.

Speaking of the Spartans ? For what it?s worth, Vegas gives MSU the second-best odds to win the Big Dance.

Yes, Michigan State is a trendy pick, but don?t sleep on Michigan.

But not having Mitch McGary for the tourney could be costly. As this story points out, interior baskets become more vital in the Big Dance. McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in last year?s Tournament, and while he has hinted he could be ready if the Wolverines reach the Final Four, it?s unreasonable to expect it.


Will he stay or will he go? Indiana star freshman big man Noah Vonleh has a big decision to make.

ESPN's Chad Ford has Vonleh No. 7 on his current Big Board, and a review of mock drafts from Draft Express,, CBS Sports and The Sporting News finds Vonleh in the lottery. Most projections see him as a top-10 pick. If he goes, Vonleh appears a likely lottery selection, and a first-round pick at worst.

So, if he bolts Bloomington, don?t be shocked.



My take: Good. He will be needed after Aaron Craft rolled him.

My take: Amazing.

My take: It can?t hurt.

My take: Just enjoy the experience.

My take: He could be a good one.

My take: Nice to see his perseverance rewarded.

My take: Fear the Badgers.

My take: Incredible.


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.