Get hyped, Saturday is a fantastic day to be a Big Ten basketball fan. Thirteen of the fourteen teams in the conference will be in action, barring only the Maryland Terrapins. With just about a month remaining in the non-conference season, teams look to add on to their win count, or just avoid an ugly loss. Here's what to watch for in each game throughout today.
Game of the Day
#11 Purdue Boilermakers vs. New Mexico Lobos - 2:15 ET (BTN)
In the most intriguing matchup of the afternoon features undefeated Purdue hosting New Mexico (5-1), this year's favorite to win the Mountain West. The Boilers (7-0) are coming off another dominant win over Pittsburgh, defeating the Panthers 72-59. Amazingly enough, this is the closest final score Purdue has has this season.
The upset-minded Lobos are lead by a trio of starters who average at least 17.0 points per game at the least: Tim Williams, Elijah Brown and Cullen Neal. Together, these three account for over 63% of New Mexico's points this season, a disproportionately high number. However when they take on Purdue Saturday, the Lobos will certainly be facing the toughest task yet as the Boilers boast the 6th best defense in the country (57.6 PPG).
Purdue also has four players of their own averaging double figures per game and as a team, they have showed no signs of slowing down. Currently ranked #11 in the nation, the Boilers have looked dominant in every single game and in every phase. Coming off the bench, 7-2 C Isaac Haas leads the team in scoring with 13.7 PPG. The frontcourt combo of him and 7-0 A.J. Hammons has been nearly unstoppable and for obvious reasons. With their strength and size, these two are essentially unguardable. However, New Mexico has a 7-1 Sudanese center named Obij Aget to contest the duo under the basket. That being said, Aget is only 220 lbs and should get bodied up by the 297 lb and 261 lb Haas and Hammons. I like the Boilers in this one by eight.
-Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Western Carolina Catamounts - 3:00 ET (ESPN3)
Illinois (3-5) is coming a 84-79 loss to Notre Dame in the Big Ten-ACC challenge, the inaugural game for the newly renovated State Farm Center in Champaign. The Fighting Illini have struggled mightily thus far with poor non-conference losses to North Florida and Chattanooga. They will look to get back on track when they host Western Carolina, a team that Illinois head coach John Groce says "rebounds like they haven't eaten in days".
The Catamounts (3-4) are led by senior G Mike Brown who is averaging 17.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG. Look for Illini PF Leron Black to have a bounce-back game after a disastrous performance against ND on Wednesday, as he has a size advantage against this Catamount team. The line currently had Illinois by 11, but given the Illini's previous struggles, this game has the potential to be much closer than that.
-Indiana Hoosiers vs. Morehead State Eagles - 7:00 ET (BTN)
Boy, is Tom Crean on the hot seat. After a top-15 preseason ranking, the Hoosiers have taken a major tumble, losing in Maui to Wake Forest and UNLV, then getting blown out on the road by #7 Duke. It looks like this will be Crean's final season in Bloomington, that is if he doesn't get fired before the end of the season. A possible trigger for such a firing? A loss to Morehead State. The Eagles (5-1) are currently first in the Ohio Valley conference and already have a win over the Saint Louis Billikens.
Believe it or not, MSU has the 2nd ranked defense in the nation as they are giving up just 55.2 PPG. The Hoosiers have the 23rd ranked offense in the nation, scoring 86.5 PPG. This will be a more interesting matchup than some think, if the Eagles can get out to a solid start defensively it'll be hard to get the scoring started. Yogi Ferrell has been looking better as of late, and should be enough to win this one. But in this upset-ridden season of college basketball, anything can happen.
-Iowa Hawkeyes vs. UMKC Kangaroos - 3:00 ET (ESPN3)
Just how good is Iowa? With solid wins over Marquette and Wichita State under their belts, it looks as if the Hawkeyes could be legitimate top-25 contenders. However, they lost back-to-back games to Dayton and then #17 Notre Dame, which prove they're still a beatable squad. Jarrod Uthoff has been looking great so far, averaging a team-high 17.7 PPG.
UMKC is 5-2 on the season with losses to Minnesota and Nebraska-Omaha. The Kangaroos' top player is Martez Harrison, who averages 17.0 PPG and also leads the team in assists with 5.7 per game. However, if the Hawkeyes are able to stop them, as they should be, they'll get a fairly easy win. The Hawkeyes are simply too talented to lose this one at home.
-Michigan Wolverines vs. Houston Baptist Huskies - 2:00 ET (ESPN2/ESPN3)
Houston Baptist comes into a very lopsided contest at just 2-5 on the young season. Michigan on the other hand is coming off a big road win over North Carolina State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The Wolverines should have no trouble getting past the inferior opponent on Saturday, but it should serve as a good tune-up game as the Wolverines prepare to take on SMU in Dallas on Tuesday.
-#3 Michigan State Spartans vs. Binghamton Bearcats - Noon ET (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Michigan State had something to cheer about Thursday night when Kentucky fell on the road to UCLA: the Spartans are likely to be the new #1 team overall when the polls are released next week, that is, once they get past Binghamton. The Bearcats have been struggling immensely from three point range shooting just 29.9%, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Denzel Valentine and company absolutely scorch the nets on their home court. Expect Michigan State to take this one and climb up to the top spot in the polls this next week.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. South Dakota Coyotes - 3:00 ET (BTN Plus)
The Golden Gophers edged the visiting Tigers from Clemson last week to keep the second longest non-conference home win streak in the country alive. It’s not likely that we’ll see that streak end on Saturday when South Dakota comes to town, but stranger things have happened. The Coyotes come into the contest on a three game win streak and boast a season average of 40% from behind the three point line. If Minnesota isn’t careful, the Coyotes could hang around and pull an upset in the barn.
-Northwestern Wildcats vs. SIU Edwardsville Cougars - 3:00 ET (BTN Plus)
The Wildcats (6-1) have largely flown under the radar thus far this season and are off to one of their best starts in recent memory. Bryant McIntosh has been a stud and Tre Demps is consistent night-to-night. With their only loss coming to North Carolina, the rest of the non-conference is looking bright for Northwestern. SIUE is 1-6 on the season and should pose little threat to NU. Expect a big win for the Wildcats.
-Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Abilene Christian Wildcats - 2:00 ET (BTN Plus)
For a 5-3 team, the Huskers are better than they appear. Each of the three losses have come against a ranked opponent, including an overtime loss to #21 Miami (FL) in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Shavon Shields has been what Tim Miles expected him to be, averaging 15.5 PPG and 5.3 RPG. Abilene Christian is nothing special and features no player that scores more than 14.0 points per contest. Expect the Big Red to roll in Lincoln big.
-Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Virginia Military Keydets - 4:30 ET (BTN)
Ohio State has to be one of the most frustrating teams in the Big Ten this season. After two efficient games in which the Buckeyes allowed an average of 54.5 points, Ohio State has dropped its last four and has allowed teams to run up the scoreboard. Close losses to Memphis and Virginia are excusable, but losses to Louisiana Tech and Texas-Arlington are worrisome. This team needs a win more than ever before. Virginia Military poses as one of the easier opponents that the Buckeyes will face this season. They were unable to get past Penn State earlier this year, and it would be very surprising to see them pull the upset in Columbus.
This matchup between two up-and-down teams should be intriguing this Saturday in University Park. Both Penn State and Eastern Michigan have 2 losses, but the Eagles have played tougher opponents. Penn State comes off a win in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge against Boston College, and Eastern Michigan comes off three straight wins after losing to Michigan State. Pencil this one in on your calendar, because it could be a game that comes down to the final buzzer.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Seton Hall Pirates - Noon ET (ESPN News/ESPN3)
Of all the matchups Saturday, this one may be the closest. Rutgers (3-4) is looking at yet another subpar season in the works. Deshawn Freeman and Corey Saunders have been bright spots, but the Scarlet Knights remain the bottom dwellers of the Big Ten. Seton Hall (5-2) is led by Isaiah Whitehead, who averages 15.7 PPG. The line is Seton Hall by 5.5, and I would expect this game to stay in that range.
-Wisconsin Badgers vs. Temple Owls - 12:30 ET (CBS)
The Badgers are fresh off a huge overtime road win in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge where they edged 15th ranked Syracuse. Wisconsin will look to carry that momentum back into Madison on Saturday morning when the Temple Owls come to town. Temple’s record doesn’t do this team justice. Despite getting off to a 3-3 start on the season, the Owls have faced three top 25 opponents, including former number one North Carolina. While the Badgers will certainly have the advantage, Temple has what it takes to give them a run for their money.