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Big Ten morning links

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Big Ten fans. Call up your closest Michigan State friend and borrow something green for the day.

1. The NCAA tournament begins tonight with a play-in game between Manhattan and Hampton to determine who gets to look like the Washington Generals against Kentucky later in the week. While the College Football Playoff folks are a long way from having to pick any 16 seeds, it’s fun to imagine what it would be like if they did.

The Sporting News laid out its version of what a 68-team field in football might have looked like at the end of the 2014 season. Nine Big Ten teams qualified in the mock brackets with Ohio State holding the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. Michigan State (a No. 2 seed), Wisconsin (4), Minnesota (7) and Nebraska (7) all were favored to win the hypothetical first-round matchups in their respective quadrants.

The brackets as they’re set up would give Michigan State a shot at avenging its loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight round. The East is packed with five Big Ten teams and could feature a second-round matchup of Rutgers and Wisconsin if the Scarlet Knights were to upset UCLA. Playing around with some of the possible scenarios in this alternate universe isn’t a bad way to kill the time before the actual tournament kicks into full gear Thursday.

2. Penn State is shaking up its athletic department in what it hopes will be a new model for how universities can better serve students and their business interests. Restructuring the department is the biggest change athletic director Sandy Barbour has made since taking her post in August.

Barbour’s plan essentially divides the department into four categories that deal with either the students or the business side of things. She said she hopes the structure will provide for better communication among the different facets of the department. Barbour has spent her career in college athletics, serving as a player, coach and administrator during the last 30-plus years. Her announcement sounded much more like it was coming from the head of a Fortune 500 company than someone who has spent her career in academics.

"We are moving in a direction that will effectively serve our most important stakeholders, our student-athletes, while employing a contemporary business model to engage and provide value to our fans,” she said. "This strategic move will allow us to modernize our business while taking a national leadership role in intercollegiate athletics."

And now, onto the links...