Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 27, 2015

Wisconsin did its job last night, punching a ticket to the Elite Eight with a win over No. 4 North Carolina. A date with No. 2 Arizona looms on Saturday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

The Badgers wouldn?t be one step from a return to college basketball?s Holy Land without the play of reserve guards Zak Showalter and Traevon Jackson last night. You see, it?s not all about Frank the Tank and Sam Dekker.

Jackson played for the first time since a foot injury sidelined him on Jan. 11. Showalter is a former walk-on who has provided some big points off the bench the last two games. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that with starting point guard Bronson Koenig limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble, Showalter and Jackson picked up the slack. Showalter had six points, one rebound, one assist and one steal in eight minutes against the Tar Heels. Jackson, who had missed the previous 19 games, contributed four points, one assist and one rebound in nine minutes. It?s unsung heroes like this who propel teams to great heights.


Now, Michigan State is up tonight vs. No. 3 Oklahoma in its Sweet 16 clash. The Spartans may just roll right into their first Final Four since 2010. Not only does Tom Izzo have this team playing well, but he also is in an East Region that seems paved for success with the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds already dumped. has an interesting take on Izzo, saying MSU?s recent turnaround started when Izzo spurned the NBA after seriously considering a jump to the pros a year ago.


This is interesting: Izzo meets monthly with grid coach Mark Dantonio, A.D. Mark Hollis and the school president.

"Mark and I talk often, we've got a neat situation where our AD (Mark Hollis), our football coach and our president (Lou Anna K. Simon), we meet every month or so, but him and I talk all the time," Izzo said Thursday following Michigan State's practice session. "I think the biggest thing, when we were struggling a little bit, back a few years ago when they were struggling a little bit, he'd always ask me what we did and we'd talk about it.


Indiana fans will like this piece that looks back at former Indiana player/prep legend Damon Bailey.

It is difficult to believe it's been 25 years since Bailey was a cult-like sports hero in southern Indiana, as points out. Oh, I remember. I was living in the state then. Yep, it has been a quarter century since 41,046 people crammed into the Hoosier Dome to watch Bailey play his final high school basketball game.


Told you about Michigan having a satellite camp in Alabama. Turns out, Michigan will have one in Texas, too.

Nick Baumgardner of notes that Michigan is taking advantage of the NCAA loophole discovered by Penn State coach James Franklin last summer. NCAA rules prohibit schools from hosting football camps more than 50 miles away from their campus. But as long as the staffs aren't hosting, and are coaching as invited guests, then everything checks out.


Ohio State has to be glad big, stud OT Taylor Decker didn?t bolt early for the NFL. He explains why he?s back in Columbus.

"I thought about it honestly because you see things in the media and whatnot," Decker said Thursday after practice. "Speaking with my parents, I always planned on coming back for my senior year."

Speaking of Decker, I have to pass along this piece from the Sugar Bowl about how Decker?s life story is told through his tattoos.


Interesting piece here from Greg Pickel of, who wonders how Penn State?s recruiting approach compares to Joe Paterno?s staff, other Big Ten opponents and Alabama. Turns out, it?s pretty favorable-according to Tom Lemming of


Iowa has some holes to fill in spring drills. Don?t just focus on the quarterback battle in Iowa City. Some of the biggest vacancies are at offensive tackle with Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal gone. And defensive tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat also are gone.


So, Nebraska?s Randy Gregory says he tested positive for marijuana at the Combine.

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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