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Big Ten Friday Preview & Open Thread: Michigan Wolverines Have Shot To Win Gavitt Games

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Check out the Big Ten's action on Friday night including three major matchups.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Big Ten will continue rolling through its non-conference schedule. Notably, it will be the final day of action in the first annual Gavitt Games against the Big East and will give the Big Ten a shot to win the event. It will also feature several Big Ten teams in action in early season tournaments.

Let's take a look at the action.

Game of the Night: Xavier at Michigan Wolverines (9:00PM ET - BTN)

The Wolverines will officially close out the 2015 Gavitt Games with a matchup against Xavier on Friday night in primetime. It should be a thrilling game between two undefeated teams. The good news for the Big Ten is that due to the conference's success earlier in the week, the conference will either win the Gavitt Games with a Michigan victory, or have a 4-4 tie with the Big East if the Wolverines lose.

For Michigan, this is a chance to take a step forward from last season and prove that this season is different. The Wolverines have looked good in the team's first two games, but the difficulty level will rise significantly on Friday evening. Specifically, Michigan is going to need some of the role players to step up and have big games in this matchup including Aubrey Dawkins and Ricky Doyle.

Of course, Xavier will be a tough matchup. The Musketeers have been one of the more consistent and successful college basketball programs of the last decade and are hoping to continue that success into this season. The team is 2-0 and rated No. 37 nationally by KenPom. Some of the key players for Xavier will be Trevon Bluiett, Myles Davis, and Edmond Sumner. All three are efficient offensively and will look to make an impact on Friday.

Neither team is projected to be on the bubble this season, but both teams need a win in this game. Each has some pretty challenging non-conference games awaiting and being able to score a resume boosting win this early would be a major asset. Plus, it could really give both an edge in the seeding come March. Look for a competitive and well played game that could be decided by how Michigan plays inside.

The Rest:

- Rider at Maryland Terrapins (7:00PM ET - BTN)

The Terps will get back into action after scoring a thrilling win over Georgetown earlier in the week. Maryland is projected to be a pretty substantial favorite in this game and is widely expected to move on pretty easily. One of the key things to watch will be how Diamond Stone performs. He had a rough performance against Georgetown on Tuesday night and will be looking to get back on track.

- Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Michigan State Spartans (7:00PM ET - ESPN3)

Like Maryland, the Spartans are coming off a massive win from earlier this week and will be facing a team as a pretty substantial favorite. In fact, KenPom gives Michigan State a 98 percent chance to win on Friday night against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Two players that will be interesting to watch in this game will be Eron Harris and Matt McQuaid, but for different reasons. Harris had a pretty rough night on Tuesday against Kansas, but McQuaid had a really solid performance. Seeing how each plays could take a lot about the team's backcourt depth going forward.

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Missouri State (10:30AM ET - ESPNU)

The Gophers nearly had a key non-conference win on Thursday, but let it slip away against Temple. Now, Minnesota will face an underwhelming Missouri State team on a neutral court. For all intents and purposes, this is a game that the Gophers absolutely have to find a way to win. An upset would be a brutal hit to Minnesota's resume. Look to see if Minnesota can improve on its underwhelming defensive performance against Temple and perform better on the offensive boards. Minnesota also needs more production from bench players like Kevin Dorsey and Jordan Murphy than it got on Thursday in a combined four points in 30 minutes of gameplay.

- Columbia at Northwestern Wildcats (8:00PM ET - ESPN3)

The Wildcats will have the team's toughest game of the season so far on Friday night at home against Columbia. There's no doubt that Columbia is not a great team, but it is a fringe Top 100 team according to KenPom. As such, this win might actually be good enough at the end of the season to help Northwestern's resume. Alex Olah will also likely have his biggest challenge so far against 6'10" Luke Petrasek. On Monday, Petrasek scored 19 points in Columbia's road loss to Kansas State. All told, Northwestern is going to need to see more from players like Scottie Lindsey and Sanjay Lumpkin to get a win in this game.

- UT-Arlington at Ohio State Buckeyes (7:00PM ET - ESPN 3)

The Buckeyes are set up to get another very winnable game at home. UT-Arlington comes in at just No. 217 nationally in KenPom rating and only has a seven percent chance to beat Ohio State. For the most part, this will just be a test to avoid the upset and move on to the next game for Ohio State. One thing to watch will be to see if Kam Williams can continue his great play. He scored 22 points in Ohio State's last game against Grambling State.

- Penn State Nittany Lions vs Duquesne (7:00PM ET - BTN Plus)

The Nittany Lions could have the best not good game of any team in the Big Ten on Friday. That may sound odd, but Penn State will be going to face Duquesne in Pittsburgh in what should be a very intriguing game for both teams. By season's end, this will probably be a valuable win for both teams, making it an important matchup. For Penn State, this is a chance to really help the team's NIT goals. One thing to watch will be to see how freshman Josh Reaves performs. He has been playing very well so far this season and Penn State will need him again on Friday.exhibition, so there will be some intrigue from the position.

- Wisconsin Badgers vs Georgetown (5:00PM ET - ESPN2)

The Badgers have had a whirlwind of a season so far. Wisconsin is 2-1, but with a painful loss to Western Illinois coming at home, nobody is quite sure where to slot the team. Is this the Wisconsin team of that first game or the next two where the Badgers won convincingly? Fans and the media will get a pretty good idea on Friday when Wisconsin faces Georgetown in New York City. The Hoyas are not a great team, but are certainly good enough to make some noise and stay competitive. Perhaps the key players to watch in this game will be Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ. Both have had mixed performances so far this season, but appeared to take the step in the right direction in Wisconsin's last game. How each plays will be telling.