After a busy first week of conference play, the Big Ten settles into the swing of things with two interesting matchups on Tuesday. Minnesota looks for a resume boosting win at home against the Buckeyes while Michigan tries to rebound from Saturday's loss to Purdue in Happy Valley. Here's a more in depth look at what's to come:
Game of the Day
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. #22 Ohio State Buckeyes - 9:00 ET (ESPN)
Ohio State (12-3) presents an interesting complex. The Buckeyes' potent offense has allowed for big numbers against weaker opponents, as they average 83.4 PPG on the year, tenth in the nation. However they have been unable to get the job done against stronger teams, dropping games to #5 Louisville, #24 North Carolina and an experienced Iowa Hawkeyes team. What they lack in current performance, they pick up in raw talent. Freshman and leading scorer D'Angelo Russell (17.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.1 APG) is exciting to watch and might be the front runner for B1G Freshman of the Year. Losing Aaron Craft has proven to be a struggle for Ohio State, but as this team gains more exposure, Thad Matta will try to mold them into a serious tournament contender. A 77-61 win over Illinois on Saturday provided momentum that could propel them to a road victory. Additionally, three-point shooting (40.7%) has allowed for OSU to win games and can be deadly on any given night. Get sharpshooter Marc Loving hot, and there's no stopping this Buckeye train.
Minnesota (11-4) is also a team that can score. At 80.4 PPG, they have the ability to go toe-to-toe offensively with the Buckeyes down the stretch. The question is going to be defense. While the Gophers are averaging the second most steals in the NCAA, they've yet to put up a solid defensive performance against a quality team. In each of their losses, they have given up at least 70 points, perhaps speaking to the importance of shutting the opponent down. If Richard Pitino can make his team guard the perimeter and force turnovers like they do, pulling off this upset is not out of the picture. Ohio State is young and untested, and a rattling environment like Williams Arena could provide for some uncharacteristic play. However in the end, players win games and the edge goes to the Buckeyes.
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan Wolverines - 7:00 ET (BTN)
Michigan heads into this game without a clear direction. After a bomb of a non-conference season, the Wolverines (8-6) were able to rebound with an overtime win over Illinois on "Harbaugh Day". But they once again slipped back to their bad habits, dropping their last contest by 13 on the road against Purdue Saturday. So which team will be see on the court tonight? Barring D.J. Newbill (21.4 PPG), Penn State (12-3) offers nothing spectacular. The Nittany Lions' most recent game was a six-point loss to Rutgers, the bottom feeder of the Big Ten. If Caris Levert and company can shut down Newbill, they can effectively neutralize the Penn State offense. Expect John Beilein to focus his defense so we don't witness a scoring explosion. Even with how poorly Michigan has played, they should win this game.