Big Ten basketball has proven to be very competitive for the most part so far road games have been deadly over the last few weeks. All across the landscape, college basketball has provided a lot of parity with unpredictable upsets happening every week. Can the Michigan State Spartans live up to their number 11 ranking in the AP poll against the Nebraska Cornhuskers? Can the Michigan Wolverines continue to play well without their leading scorer in Caris LeVert as they host the Minnesota Golden Gophers? We found out all of those questions tonight.
But first, let's start off with the game of the night.
Game of the Night: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Michigan State Spartans (6:30 PM ET| BTN)
The Spartans have been in a world of trouble as of late as they have lost three out of their last six games after starting the season off 12-0 as the number one ranked team in the country as of December 29th. What happened? The Iowa Hawkeyes happened as Iowa has been the best team in the Big Ten as of late and swept the regular season series against the Spartans in less than a month.
A lot of people thought that once Denzel Valentine returned from his injury, the Spartans would be the top dog in the Big Ten. Nonetheless, Valentine's return didn't help much in the second meeting against Iowa and it didn't help much as the Spartans lost a struggling Wisconsin Badgers team on the road this past Sunday.
Regardless of the struggles the Spartans have, it would not be wise to count them out just yet. Any team coached by Tom Izzo should never be ignored. The Spartans at times tend to save best performance until conference tournament play arrives or the NCAA tournament arrives. But if they intend on staying in the race for the Big Ten regular season title and in turn push for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, the Spartans need to turn things around now as they get ready to take a young, but tricky Cornhuskers team.
Nebraska, on the other side, is a team with a lot of young talent that doesn't have enough experience to do any real damage in the Big Ten this year. Next year, everyone should be paying attention to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, currently with an 11-8 overall record, do not have a signature win so far this season. A win on the road tonight would be a defining moment in Nebraska's basketball program while the Spartans are left searching for answers once again as they get ready to play Maryland on Saturday.
-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Michigan Wolverines (8:30 PM ET| BTN)
The Wolverines this season are probably the dark horse in the Big Ten right now. The Wolverines are not ranked, but they defeated a number three ranked Maryland Terrapins team last week at home without their leading scorer in Caris LeVert while going on the road and nearly knocking off a red hot Iowa Hawkeyes team without LeVert in that game as well.
The peak value the Wolverines have is unknown, but what we do know is the fact that they love to play small with multiple guards on the court and they are arguably the most dangerous three point shooting team in the conference. At 13-5 overall, Michigan looks good right now to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, but they are far from secure from achieving that goal. A loss to Minnesota at home would damage all of the hard work Michigan has put forward as of late. But it isn't expected that they will lose tonight.
For Minnesota, the team is 6-12 overall as they are tied with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for the worst conference record at 0-6. Despite their record, Minnesota has played hard as they nearly defeated the Indiana Hoosiers at home as well as the Spartans.
Offensively, Minnesota currently has four players averaging at least 10 points a game but only one of those players have a field goal percentage over 40 percent and that is Joey King. In order for Minnesota to have any shot tonight especially going up against Michigan's lethal three point shooting, King has to show up and keep up offensively with his 46 percent field goal percentage from beyond the three point line.