Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 2, 2015

If Wisconsin is worried about playing unbeaten Kentucky this Saturday in the Final Four in Indianapolis, it isn?t showing it. Check out how loose the Badgers are in this video.

I mean, think about it: Why should the Badgers fret? They came within a point of beating UK in last year?s Final Four. And, this is a very talented Wisconsin team that has some mojo about it.

You have to like the Badgers? chances to pull the upset.


A quick note: I compile these Big Ten links each weekday as a way to keep everyone up to speed on stories from around the conference.

Here's a look back at few past posts – stay in touch with me here, and let me know what you think.

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Kyle Austin of makes an interesting comparison between this season?s Michigan State team and last year?s UConn squad that won the national championship. I think he?s on to something.

Both UConn and Michigan State were ranked No. 18 in the preseason, finished third in their conference with a 12-6 record and earned the No. 7 seed in the East regional.

Both defeated the No. 10, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed en route to a Final Four. Both had Wisconsin and Kentucky matched up in the other national semifinal.

Both are prestigious programs that managed to put together deep NCAA tournament runs in what had previously been down seasons.

"We came into the tournament with UConn's mindset," Spartans forward Matt Costello said this week. "Because we knew what they did and how nobody expected them to do anything, so we're looking to make the same thing this year."


Huge news at Maryland ? and I mean HUGE! Stud freshman point man Melo Trimble will return for his sophomore season.

?I found out what was important to Melo and realized the best thing for him was to come back. We all agreed and I think this is where he wanted to be, this is where his heart was,? Turgeon said in a telephone interview Wednesday to the Washington Post. ?We just wanted to explore and make sure.?

With Trimble back, you have to love the Terps? chances to return to the Big Dance next season.


With Tom Herman off to coach Houston, Ed Warinner added offensive coordinator duties to his offensive line role. But, he will remain on the sidelines during games even though he is now the play-caller.

"I went through that thought process," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "His value, to pull him away from that group, I don't know if you've noticed but the whole offense has gone to him before they take the field for the last three years. I can't change that right now."

OSU has added former Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck to help Warinner. This is a nice combo.


With Jake Rudock cleared to transfer to Michigan, Iowa will turn to C.J. Beathard to serve as quarterback. Is he ready?

Chad Leistikow of says that although Beathard has only started once in his college career, he has seen action in two-plus games: the second-half comeback at Pitt, the entire win at Purdue and a majority of the TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Tennessee. Beathard is a bit more of a gunslinger than Rudock. It?s going to be interesting to see how this turns out. Beathard?s cause would be helped if some skill talent can emerge around him.


Looking for a breakout player on Nebraska?s defense? Keep an eye on safety Nate Gerry, who was second on the team in tackles (88) last season as a sophomore and first in interceptions (five). His performance earned him All-Big Ten second-team honors from the media. Gerry is one of 25 breakout defensive players for 2015 listed by Athlon?s.

Penn State S Jordan Lucas, Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers, Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan and Michigan State DT Malik McDowell also made the list. Good calls.


Nebraska?s Tim Miles was pretty bummed to see freshman point guard Tarin Smith transfer.

?I don?t like it. Nobody does,? Miles said this week. ?But it?s certainly not a surprise, especially when you are trying to get things right in a program you?re building.?

Five of the 11 players Miles has signed as two- or four-year recruits have transferred, quit or been dismissed. Seems like a lot, but it?s about average across the nation.


For Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg, it?s about getting refocused after an up-and-down sophomore season.

Bob Flounders of says both Hackenberg and PSU head coach James Franklin have suggested in the last week that Hackenberg's mind was sometimes elsewhere a season ago with the Lions reworking their offensive line and breaking in a new set of wideouts. The numbers were ugly: The run game struggled (2.9 yards per carry), Hackenberg was punished (44 sacks) and the PSU's offense struggled to score points in Big Ten games. The QB's game suffered as well.

"I think my mind was in a lot of places last year and I kinda lost the ability to sort of focus on myself when I need to, in a sense that (I'm) making sure I'm doing my job," Hackenberg said.


Rutgers offensive line coach Mitch Browning did a nice job last season in his debut. But, he has more work to do for an unsettled unit this spring. points out that Keith Lumpkin is a shoe-in at left tackle. Chris Muller is a lock for another spot on the line, but it's undetermined if he'll remain at guard or move to center. And J.J. Denman is in position to fill a starting role after appearing in eight games at right tackle last season. But the other two starting spots? Wide-open. This group needs to develop quickly to help the new quarterback settle in.


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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