The Sunday Big Ten slate features two teams fighting to earn respect and emerge from the middle of the pack. Northwestern gets what should be an easy game against an in-state foe, while Nebraska gets a match-up that could have bubble implications down the road.
Game of the Night:
Rhode Island Rams at Nebraska Cornhuskers (2:00pm ET - ESPN3)
Rhode Island is 6-3, but their losses are all to NCAA Tournament quality teams, including a last second loss to Providence. The Rams are coming off of a 67-57 win over a previously unbeaten Houston Cougars team where they held former Boilermaker Ronnie Johnson to just 2 points. A stout defense has allowed Rhode Island to hold every opponent except Providence and Maryland to 60 points or fewer. On offense they are led by a balanced attack that has five players averaging between 10 and 12 points. Hassan Martin, a junior, leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks, and curiously, he is actually shooting better from the field (56.2%) than from the free throw line (50%). In fact, the whole team struggles from the charity stripe. At 60.2% they are shooting worse than 337 other Division I schools.
Nebraska has played pretty well at home this season, only losing in double overtime to Miami. Although Wednesday's trip to Creighton ended in a disappointing 16-point loss, one bright side was junior transfer Andrew White III. White had 28 and 10 in the loss and has been a big boost to the Huskers' offense this season. Nebraska needs a win in this one as it is their last chance to earn a quality win before the Big Ten season starts. Expect a close and low-scoring game.
The Other Game:
Chicago State Cougars at Northwestern Wildcats (7:00pm ET - BTN)
The Cougars have yet to win a game against a Division I opponent, although they've come close, including a 82-79 loss to Illinois in Springfield. Northwestern should win easily, but as we saw in the Illini game, Chicago State can knock down outside shots if your defense is lacking. Northwestern should be well-rested after 8 days off, while Chicago State suffered a 71-53 loss to Valparaiso on Friday. Bryant McIntosh and Alex Olah will look to continue their good start to the season while leading the Wildcats to an 8-1 start. It looks like their chances for success are pretty good.