Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 22, 2014

It?s a big day for the Big Ten, as No. 2 Michigan, No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 4 Michigan State (I still can?t believe Sparty is a No. 4!) look to punch their ticket for the Sweet 16. Here are four thoughts on today?s games: Wisconsin vs. Oregon (7:45); Michigan State vs. Harvard (8:40). Michigan took down Texas in the first game.

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1. Michigan State obviously can?t expect Adreian Payne to go off for over 40 points today when it meets No. 12 Harvard. But, he probably can, given the size and talent edge he?ll have over the opposition. So, go ahead and pencil in Payne for at least 30 today-and while you?re at it: pencil in a big Michigan State victory. Yes, it?s gonna be easy. Trust me.

2. Michigan has the toughest matchup of any Big Ten team today as it squares off vs. No. 7 Texas.
This is a big and physical Longhorns team. It isn?t as talented as last year?s club, but the Texas players say this group plays better as a team. Rick Barnes agrees. And the Longhorns are feeling confident coming off a last-second win vs. Arizona State in their opening game. Unsung Wolverine big men Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan will need to man up vs. the big Texas front line, but Horford and Morgan won?t win this battle. It?s too much to ask. So, for the Wolverines to advance to next weekend, they will need their shooters to win this one. Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert, this is your time to shine for a Michigan team that needs to play this game at a quick tempo and make the Longhorns try to match them point for point. Texas can?t do that.

3. Wisconsin clashes with No. 7 Oregon. No Big Ten team-or any in the tourney, for that matter-was more impressive in the second round than the Badgers, who won by a mere 40 points over American. Bo Ryan?s club is clicking ? offense, defense, you name it. This is a guard?s game. And Wisconsin has some good ones in Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson. Drive to the hoop fellas. If you can?t finish, kick it out to a shooter like Sam Dekker or Frank Kaminsky.

4. All three of these Big Ten should win today and advance to the Sweet 16. Let?s all admit it: If they don?t, it will be a disappointment. It?s called expectations. And they are big for these teams. The conference is 3-3 thus far, as Iowa, Ohio State and Nebraska have been eliminated. No shock there. Now, it?s up to the Wolverines, Spartans and Badgers to do the lifting from here. And all three are capable of reaching the Final Four. Time to take the proverbial next step today for a league searching for its first national title since Mateen Cleaves led the Spartans to the championship in 1999-2000.

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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