Wednesday night is first night of the season in the Big Ten where we get to see five games in conference play. There's a lot of ground to be made at the bottom of the conference, and the top dogs at the top of the conference look to maintain their status.
Game of the night: Maryland Terrapins vs Penn State Nittany Lions (5:00 PM ET| ESPN 2)
Maryland looks to continue their winning ways at home as they haven't lost on their home floor in over a year. The Terps not only have won 20 straight games at home dating back to last season, but they are 34-2 at home since December 29th of 2013. As the fourth ranked team in the country, Maryland is looking to make an early statement to improve to 12-1 on the season. The Terps right now are the only team in the Big Ten that has five players averaging at least 10.8 points a game.
However, Maryland isn't without flaws as Maryland averages 14 turnovers a game. They need to clean that up if they intend on being a number one seed when the NCAA tournament rolls around.
For Penn State, they are currently 9-4 on the season with a mixed bag of results so far. The Nittany Lions don't have any impressive wins on their resume but they shouldn't be doubted. Penn State is led by senior forward Brandon Taylor who averages 16.2 points a game and they also have a pair of sophomores in Shep Garner and Payton Banks who average 14.7 and 11.7 points respectively.
The Nittany Lions downfall so far has been their execution offensively along the perimeter as they have a 30 percent three-point field goal percentage and if they can't stretch Maryland's defense, it's going to be a long night for them.
All I have to say is, there are no excuses for the Hoosiers to lose this game. None. Hoosier head coach Tom Crean better get this team ready to play on the road because if he doesn't, the pressure is going to be through the roof. Nonetheless, I fully expect this team to handle their business. They average close to 90 points a game and I don't see anything from Rutgers that says they can slow the Hoosiers down.
On the other side for Rutgers, they are going to be an underdog most likely from here on out in Big Ten conference play. At 6-7 on the season, things really don't look too promising for the Scarlet Knights. For this game defensively, the Scarlet Knights allow 71.8 points a game. However, Indiana allows 70 points a game. Could this be a weird game surrounded with momentum swinging from both sides of the court? It's possible especially with the lack of awareness Indiana plays with on defense sometimes.
After a 2-2 start to begin the season, Michigan is 8-1 in their last nine games and have six wins since November 26th that are by 15 points or more. The Wolverines are not ranked, but they certainly have something going on there. In the landscape of the Big Ten, right now people have Maryland, Michigan State Spartans, and the Purdue Boilermakers as the big three.
Michigan in my opinion would rank in the second tier right below them. Contenders win key games on the road against rivals. We will probably get a good glimpse at just how good the Wolverines are in this matchup.
For Illinois, they haven't done anything spectacular this year, but they are riding a five game winning streak including a win against the Missouri Tigers. I don't consider Illinois to be a top seven team in the Big Ten, but they are certainly capable of being a dark horse. Anytime you have a team like Illinois that has four players averaging at least 10 points a game, they should never be taken lightly.
Illinois guards in Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill both average over 18 points a game. This should be a good game to watch.
The loss of Alex Olah for Northwestern who is out indefinitely with a foot injury is a big deal and nobody can sugarcoat that in any way shape or form. At 12-1, Northwestern is trying really hard to make a push to earn a bid for the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Without Olah, that goal is just got harder.
A few nights ago, Northwestern struggled against the Loyola Greyhounds and it took a late surge in the second half to pull away from them. We get to see how the Wildcats handle adversity again on the road versus the Cornhuskers.
For Nebraska, this is a young team that is doing what most young teams do and that's make mistakes. This team has shown glimpses of potential. They went to overtime against a ranked Miami Hurricanes team and lost 77-72. They lost a close game to a ranked Cincinnati Bearcats team and lost 65-61. But then they go ahead and lose by 16 points to the Creighton Bluejays and lose by 11 points to the Samford Bulldogs.
Nebraska is finding themselves and they are unpredictable which could spell disaster for Northwestern.
The Buckeyes, after starting the season 2-4, have won six out of their last seven games including a 74-67 win against a fourth ranked Kentucky Wildcats team at the time. There's a sense of confidence about this team and it will be interesting to see how long they can ride this momentum. The Buckeyes defense has played a large role in their turnaround as they have only allowed one opponent in the last eight games to score 70 points on them.
On the the other side for Minnesota, they have really struggled this year losing to the South Dakota Coyotes, South Dakota State Jackrabbits and the Milwaukee Panthers all at home. The Golden Gophers at this rate can kiss an NCAA tournament bid goodbye if they don't get some quality wins on their resume from here on out. There's no room on their resume for any more bad losses. They only have three games on their schedule against ranked opponents. So they need to make something happen in a hurry.