Big Ten Chat: Thursday, 11 a.m. ET

We will host our weekly Big Ten Chat at 11 a.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Central on Thursday.

Steve Helwagen, the Big Ten senior writer for, will answer questions on Big Ten football, basketball, recruiting and more.

Please feel free to post questions for the Chat as replies to this story. Thanks for participating!!

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  • Alright Steve, you know I pull no basketball punches, so here it is: A question in need of answering for every single Big Ten program:

    1) Indiana — Realistically, how much better can the Hoosiers get defensively? Can they really be a team capable of playing national title-level defense?

    2) Michigan — There's a lot of talent here on paper. What's the key to actually getting it to play cohesively and productively, so this isn't just another disappointing Michigan group in March?

    3) Ohio State — We've talked about this some, but can Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas really be THE GUYS this year, or do the Buckeyes end up worrying about Thomas' offensive inefficiency and Craft's offensive inability?

    4) Michigan State — This team is going to have to reinvent itself a little bit without Draymond Green, but seriously, who can honestly fill that kind of role in this group?

    5) Wisconsin — Quite simply, who in the world plays the point now?

    6) Minnesota — How much is there behind Mbakwe? Are the Gophers still an NCAA team if he gets hurt again?

    7) Purdue — Is it proving time for Matt Painter? He deserves all the credit he's gotten for his early success, but that was done largely on the back of that great 2007 recruiting class, one he's never quite followed up on. Is it time for him to really take that next step as a coach? And can he?

    8) Iowa — Is this a false dawn at Iowa, or is McCaffrey really recruiting the talent level needed to actually build that program back at least to what it was under Alford?

    9) Northwestern — The Wildcats lose Jer'Shon Cobb and John Shurna. Without being fatalistic or extreme, does Carmody's crew have any reason right now to think itself an NCAA Tournament team?

    10) Illinois — Simple question here: What makes John Groce better than Bruce Weber? They come from similar backgrounds, with similar levels of previous success. Why will Groce succeed where Weber failed?

    11) Penn State — Is there anything to like in the Nits on the hardwood this year, beyond Tim Frazier and some toughness? Perhaps a better way of saying it is: Can Penn State realistically improve with Frazier taking so many shots? But isn't that a Catch-22, insofar as can Penn State take away some of Frazier's offensive responsibility and not lose precious points that no one else on roster is capable of replacing?

    12) Nebraska — What's the formula here for Tim Miles? Can he turn the Huskers into winners? Or is Nebraska always destined to be a three-and-out job for those with the talent to succeed even humbly in Lincoln?

    Phew. I'm tired. In all seriousness, thanks for always taking the Big Ten basketball questions. The folks down my way appreciate it greatly.

    Zach Osterman // IU Athletics beat reporter // Follow me on Twitter at

  • Steve -- Is Bo Pelini in good standing at Nebraska? What do their fans think of him? Could you ever envision a scenario where he comes home to be OSU's DC under Meyer if thinks don't work out well for him in Lincoln? I know with Nebraska getting a new AD, that can't bode well for Bo.

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  • Steve, give us your updated prediction for the Big Ten championship game. I have what I call the "Worse Case Scenario" for Jim Delany: Northwestern v Purdue. I would be LOL if I wasn't completely serious! Could you imagine Northwestern and Purdue playing for "all the Big Ten marbles"? Talk about plenty of good seats still available!

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  • SpartanTailgate

    Sean Scherer

    Steve -- What do you think are some positives Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and his staff can take away from the loss to Ohio State last weekend?

  • OK, I am here. We do not have a lot of questions posted, but I will start in on what we do have and go from there. Please feel free to post more questions here before noon ET and I will answer them.

  • Last forecast seem to suggest that we have 20 schollies available for 2013 and with 17 verbals we could take 3 more in this class. However, of recent Williams is out of the picture and there is logically talk of others that will most likely leave us prior to next year that could shoot us up to 22-23 schollies. We have some impressive prospects still out there would do you predict out of the following will join the 2013 Class.


  • HuskersIllustrated


    Looks like us here in Nebraska are getting Shawn Eichorst from Miami as AD do you know anything about him? I know he worked under Alvarez at Wisconsin

    twitter @RealChadSchultz Goal in life is to save America from Obamacare

  • Steve - Not many thought Nebraska's Taylor Martinez would be leading the league in pass efficiency to this point. Can he maintain his level of play there throughout the Big Ten season? And are the Huskers the clear-cut Legends favorite if he does?

    This post was edited by Dan Kilbridge 21 months ago

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  • Zach, thanks for the questions. Those will keep me busy for a while and give some others a chance to post a few other questions. I will take them one at a time:

    1. Indiana defense: IU gave up just over 66 points a game last season. At times, they seemed content to trade baskets and did not buckle down. I think they will get that average down around 60 a game this year. I think it starts with Zeller in the middle. He does not want to get in foul trouble, but he can block some shots. They also now have the depth on the perimeter so my guess is Crean will rotate guys and have fresher defenders in the game. When the game is on the line, he can always play his best 5 offensively. But I think they will be improved defensively. Kentucky doesn't seem like they will win it again this year. It is wide open for maybe 10-15 teams to claim the title this year. IU has as good a shot at it as anybody ... if the pieces come together.

    OK ... will rip through the rest ...

  • Hi Steve,

    Watching the OSU-MSU game last Saturday, I have to think many fans were very happy to see Gholston be able to get up on his own power after laying there what seemed lifeless for a few seconds. It's now been said that he got the wind knocked out of him, but that seems like a cover up story at best.

    Does the NCAA have stringent guidelines on concussion testing like the NFL recently has placed? Do you see the league, the NCAA, or even the media bringing this issue up to MSU or any penalties being levied to the program?

  • 2. Michigan -- Beilein recruited well with Glenn Robinson Jr. and big man Mitch McGary, a top-5 prospect. He also has Vogrich and Morgan back to play with Burke and Hardaway. I think this team will be much better by the end of the year. I am a bit floored that Lindy's had Michigan ranked 3rd nationally. That just seems high especially an early NCAA flame-out last year.

    3. Ohio State -- Great questions on Thomas and Craft. Will Thomas miss too many shots in a key game? Will Craft not cash in enough offensive chances? Thomas was, arguably, the MVP of the NCAA tournament (OK, up until the Final Four). If that is the Thomas Thad Matta gets 9 times out of 10,he's an Alll-American. But consistency has been an issue for Thomas. He was one of the nation's most improved players last year, doubling his output. If he can get it up to 20 ppg, that would be huge for an otherwise young team. The key for Craft is getting from 7-8 ppg up to say 12. That would be so huge. Teams have sloughed off of him to collapse on the bigs. When they do that he MUST make them pay. If not, they can be beat.

    Will keep ripping ...

  • 4. MSU -- Agreed, will have to win in other ways. They leaned on Green for a double-double every night and he is gone. I do like Appling and freshman Gary Harris in the backcourt. Adreian Payne will patrol the paint and do a nice job there. I thought wing Branden Dawson was becoming a threat before he got hurt. This team will be a real puzzle. They will take their lumps early before coming together in Feb. and March.

    5. Wisconsin -- They are in a quandary at PG. They need RS freshman George Marshall -- all 5-11 of him -- to be the guy. If not, maybe Jason Gasser has to slide over there and help out.

    6. Minnesota -- Some other guys got minutes last year. The Gophers won big early (14-1) but fell apart down stretch (2-7) and then went to the NIT final. I like Rodney Williams a lot as well as Austin Hollins. I'm not sure Mbakwe needs to avg a double-double, but they should be pretty good especially in that big barn they play in at home. Without Mbakwe, well, that's something Tubby doesn't want to think about. He makes the whole thing go because teams have to assign 1-1/2 men to guard him.

  • HuskersIllustrated


    Just curious what is the rest of the BIG 10 media thoughts on Bo Pelini i know what Nebraska media thinks of him especially after his little jab at them when he said " And some of you thought i forgot how to coach defense"

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  • HuskersIllustrated



    Us here in Nebraska are really excited for what Tim Miles has done so far in Lincoln. He's breathed new life into Nebrasketball with his personality and recruiting so far and most of us fans know next year will be bad but as a suffering season ticket holder I'm excited for the future

    twitter @RealChadSchultz Goal in life is to save America from Obamacare

  • 7. Purdue -- I agree on Painter. He needs to get some talent. He brought in 7-0, 280-pound AJ Hammons from Oak Hill, but I think he iss more of a project. He better contribute defensively and on boards early because I don't see him scoring 10 a game. Painter has had enough bad luck for 10 coaches with injuries, etc. They need role players like the Johnsons, Byrd and Carroll to step up or it could be an NIT team. There just isn't much firepower there.

    8. Iowa -- False dawn? I dunno. He has some nice pieces with Marble, White, Basabe and freshman 7-1 C Adam Woodbury. Mike Gesell is also a good signee. It's a young team but I think they can be pretty good.

    Will keep ripping ...

  • 9. Northwestern -- Yeah, the whole Cobb thing is weird. You usually don't see off-the-court problems at NW because it is such a rigorous place to be academically. No, I can't see this team being an NCAA team. Their gym is a hard place to play, though. Crawford and Sobolewski give them a nice start in the backcourt. Whole key is whether 7-footer Alex Olah can score and defend in the paint.

    10. Illinois -- Well, we don't know if Groce is any different or better than Weber. Groce did some amazing things at Ohio (first Sweet 16 for the MAC in over a decade, etc.). The whole key is going into Chicago. He may not get the Jabari Parkers and Jahlil Okafors there this year. But he needs to get the next 2-3 guys he wants to fill out his roster and build from there. I think Weber is a good coach. But he won big with Self's players and then just kind of treaded water.

  • Steve, it's Josh Gasser.

    If God dwells inside us, like some people say, I sure hope He likes enchiladas, because that's what He's getting

  • OK, last two ...

    11. Penn State -- Tim Frazier was awesome last year. I thought Jermaine Marshall also came on. They added a Southern Miss transfer in D.J. Newbill. Patrick Chambers has some bodies to work with. Talent and bodies are 2 different things, though. They won 4 Big Ten games. Maybe they can win 6-7 this year.

    12. Nebraska -- Tim Miles will only benefit from having the new downtown arena (about a mile from campus). That should help. That team did not have anywhere near enough talent to compete in this league last year, though. Gonna take time.

    There you go.

  • Regarding Pelini, yes, I think Nebraska fans appreciate him. When you consider what they had before him, he's been a godsend. They want to win big and they expect to win big ... but, uh, so did and does Penn State. They came to grips eventually with the fact this league 1 through 11 or 12 is pretty hard.

    He and they need to get to a BCS bowl. Losing to UCLA wasn't a good thing, just as losing at home to NW last year wasn't either.

    You know there is no game he privately wants any more than Ohio State.

    Regarding Pelini to OSU someday, that would depend on 1 of 2 things -- Fickell failing miserably as the DC and being demoted or fired OR Fickell doing a great job and getting snapped up for an HC job -- while Pelini's fortunes at Nebraska also go south and he loses that job.

    That's a lot of scenarios to happen. I guess you never rule anything out. But I think Pelini will be the coach at Nebraska for the foreseeable future, particularly if he can win that division and get to the Rose Bowl this year.

    Yes, they are getting a new AD. But finding guys who can win 9-10 games every year in this business isn't easy. I think he has to step up his recruiting, but I don't sense he is in any real danger.

  • I'm sticking with Michigan State vs. Purdue. The schedules stack up well for the rest of the year. MSU needs to beat Michigan (on road) and Nebraska (at home) to make that happen.

    I think Nebraska's schedule is simply too hard (road games at OSU, NW, MSU and Iowa -- all reasonably respectable).

    This week's game with Michigan will tell us a lot about Purdue. The Boilers play Wisconsin at home next week in a must-win for the division.

    Those are the games it is all kind of boiling down to.

    Yes, it would be Jim Delany's worst nightmare to have NW against Purdue playing in front of 35,000 in Indy. But I don't think it will come to that. NW is playing with house money. They have some tough tests in front of them, beginning at Penn State this weekend.

  • Yes, thanks!!

  • That's a tough one ...

    I think they got a realistic look at where they are at. I hope that they amend that offense. It made no sense to me why they threw downfield so much. Those receivers can't catch a cold right now (believe me, I know all about it ... that's what OSU's receivers looked like a year ago).

    Maxwell did the best he could with what he had. The screen worked great ,... so they never went back to it.

    Bell couldn't fall forward for yardage between the tackles and could not beat guys to the edge for yards either. They need to set him up better and put him in better positions to succeed against rugged defenses.

    They got beat up on both lines. It's that simple. They lost their center to injury. Gholston wasn't the same after he was knocked out. It's unclear whether he was knocked out cold, but have to say it's rare to see a guy lay on the field on top of another guy (Miller) for 30 seconds before they could rouse him. ... And then he came back into the game??? That seemed kinda weird to me and a lot of people.

    So I guess reality is the positive. They had some weaknesses exposed that they can shore up. I still love their defense, even if they did give up some ground yardage.

    I have them finishing 6-1 rest of way with loss at Wisconsin and win at Michigan. I think they still win the division, provided they get realistic about that offense.

  • I think your idea on 22-23 signees makes sense. This will be a big weekend for both 2013 and 2014 as they showcase game night against Nebraska.

    They may still have a shot at Vonn Bell still.

    I like their chances best with Mitchell, Johnson (due in this weekend), Quick and Gibson (if grades work out).

    They also have a shot at McMillian, Hatcher, Elder, Timmons and maybe a couple others like Worthy and Munger.

    I honestly am not all that wrapped around the axle by this. They have a very good/great class assembled now. Get 2 more difference makers and fill 2 more needs and call it.

  • I do not know much about Eichorst. He worked for Alvarez for 6 years, so I assume Barry put a word in for him with Osborne/Perlman, etc.

    Eichorst, 45, graduated from Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1990 and earned a law degree from Marquette in 1995.

    He got to Miami in April 2011 and all hell broke loose in Aug. 2011 with the Yahoo reports/NCAA inquiry, etc.

    He is jumping off a sinking ship. We do know that.

  • Martinez is hitting about 67 percent of his throws, he is third in the conference in yards and has 11 TDs to 1 INT.

    We will see how he does as the season wears on against Big Ten defenses. I'm not sure any of them are all that scary. MSU's is pretty good, though.

    I still have MSU as my favorite, but if teams can't contain the Neb offense they will be hard to beat. They are starting to put it together.

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