There are several great games on Saturday that could have a large impact on the Big Ten as a whole. Let's take a look.
Game of the Day
Michigan vs. #14 Maryland; 12 PM ET
Maryland finds itself in a lock for second place in the Big Ten standings with an unexpected competitor: Purdue. As Purdue has surely had a great showing in the Big Ten, Maryland has also recorded some huge wins, none bigger than its most recent one against the league's best Wisconsin Badgers. Now, the Terps have a chance to take a half-game lead over the Boilermakers and further secure an NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Michigan. Maryland has looked hot lately, winning their last 4 games including Wisconsin and Indiana. In its most recent win over the Badgers, Maryland held them to just 39% shooting from the field, 27% from three point range, and 53 total points. This is the second lowest amount of points that Wisconsin has put up in a game all year. Fundamental efficiency has also been key for the Terrapins as of late, as they did the impossible against Wisconsin: record fewer turnovers than the Badgers (no, I'm mot kidding). With a 26 point performance in his most recent outing, Dez Wells is showing some late season senior leadership that should make opponents weak at the knees.
Michigan will undoubtedly have its work cut out for itself as it will try to pull the upset and spark a late-season run. With the injury of star-player Caris Lavert, the Wolverines have been in a tough spot all season, but Zak Irvin has stepped us as of late. He recorded 15 points and 7 rebounds in Michigan's most recent home win over long-time rival Ohio State. Spike Albrecht also played well with 16 points. Michigan's win over the Buckeyes snapped a 5 game losing streak, and it will certainly need some more help if it wants to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament. At this point, the Wolverines need to get hot and win the Big Ten Tournament, so it will be interesting to see if they play Maryland like they're fighting for their lives.
Iowa vs. Penn State; 6 PM ET; ESPNU; PSU +4
Iowa is as close as they come to securing an NCAA Tournament spot for good, and a win over Penn State might be just enough to get there. The Hawkeyes have danced above the bubble a little bit this year after losing consecutive games to Minnesota and Northwestern. But the Hawkeyes responded nicely by winning their last three, and subsequently, they're beginning to see the light of the tourney at the end of the tunnel. Aaron White has been spectacular as he scored a career-high 29 points against Illinois last Wednseday. Penn State is hoping to be the spoiler in this one, as its season is basically over. That being said, don't expect the Nittany Lions to go down without a fight.
Northwestern vs. Illinois; 7 PM ET; BTN; ILL -6.5
The Fighting Illini are fighting for their lives as they find themselves right on the bubble. If the tournament were decided today, whether or not the Illini would be in the field of 68 would come down to a coin flip. As a result, they need to snap a three-game losing streak in order to keep tourney hopes alive. This game has suddenly become very interesting with the recent success of the Wildcats. Having won four straight with success against Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Penn State, the Wildcats are looking to be a formidable opponent that stands in the way of the tourney-hopeful Illini. Mark this one for today, as it could become very interesting down in Champagne.