The Christmas break is officially over as the Big Ten resumes play for the first time since Wednesday night. On its face, the slate doesn't look all that intriguing. Nonetheless, these are three of the last non-conference games of the season and three of the last four until conference play starts on Tuesday night, so it's a chance for the conference to finish strong on Sunday.
Let's take a look at the action.
Game of The Day:
- Marshall at Maryland Terrapins (4:00PM ET - BTN)
This may not be the most appealing game of the non-conference season, but this should be a game with a few intriguing aspects. To start, Maryland is trying to push its record to 11-1 with the lone loss on the road to a very talented North Carolina team. It's also a chance for Maryland to continue its great momentum. The team has four straight wins by double-digits, including three by at least 20 points. This could be another win to show that the Terps are trending up nationally.
On the other side, Marshall isn't exactly a great team. The Thundering Herd is 4-8 overall and is rated at just No. 214 nationally by KenPom. However, Marshall has been a bit tougher than its record would indicate. In fact, the Herd lost by 10 points or fewer against Akron and Tennessee and only lost by 18 on a neutral court against a pretty good West Virginia team.
In short, Marshall has been losing, but has been at least keeping it relatively competitive.
The key aspect to watch will be how Maryland responds defensively to the Herd. Again, Marshall isn't great, but the team is stronger on that side of the court. With Ryan Taylor in the backcourt and James Kelly upfront, there should be enough players to keep this one relatively interesting. How Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone attempt to slow down Taylor and Kelly respectively will be particularly interesting.
- Loyola (MD) at Northwestern Wildcats (8:00PM ET - BTN)
Northwestern is on the verge of closing out non-conference play with just a single loss. Weak schedule or not, that's a pretty remarkable feat for a program without a great history of success. Loyola (MD) won't pose the strongest challenge to reaching this goal, but it will be important for the Wildcats to play well and not be distracted following the break. The key players to watch for Loyola (MD) will be Jarred Jones and Eric Laster on the wing. Along with this, the Greyhounds are a relatively decent rebounding team and should pose a real challenge for Alex Olah on the boards.
- South Carolina State at Ohio State Buckeyes (6:00PM ET - BTN)
It's been quite a turnaround for Ohio State over the last few weeks. After starting the season at 2-4, the Buckeyes have went 5-1 since and recorded a major upset against Kentucky last week. Now, Ohio State will look to improve its record to 8-5 overall before entering conference play. South Carolina State is just 5-8 overall and No. 314 nationally in KenPom rating. The key players for South Carolina State in this one will be Eric Eaves and Ed Stephens. The backcourt for the Bulldogs is particularly good at controlling the ball, so a key focus in this game will be turnovers.