Get ready Big Ten basketball fans, because there's a treat in store for all of you tonight. Not only are there three Big Ten matchups to watch, but one is a top-ten showdown between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Maryland Terrapins. If that doesn't do it for you, you can flip on Ohio State against Illinois or Michigan State against Northwestern afterwards. Lets take a look at each game.
Game of the Night: Iowa Hawkeyes at Maryland Terrapins (7 p.m. ET | ESPN)
A matchup between the team expected to be the best in the conference at the start of the season against the one that currently has the title. This one should be great. Iowa enters Thursday's contest ranked No. 3 in the country after winning nine straight, including two wins against Michigan State and two against Purdue. Maryland on the other hand, is coming off a disappointing loss to Michigan State on Saturday and is 6-2 in conference play so far.
So which team has the edge tonight? It's really hard to say. While it might seem like the Hawkeyes are due for a conference loss, they've looked awfully good so far. And while Maryland maybe hasn't been quite as dominant as some expected, the Terrapins are still 17-3 and ranked eighth in the nation.
One key matchup to watch is the point guard battle between Maryland's Melo Trimble and Iowa's Mike Gesell. Trimble (14.5 points, 5.6 assists) is one of the most dynamic players in the country and is coming off a 24-point performance against the Spartans, but Gesell (8.8 points, 6.9 assists) is a solid player who can hold his own. While the Hawkeyes won't ask the senior to completely shut Trimble down, it'll be huge if he can play the sophomore star somewhat evenly.
Maryland will have to find a way to neutralize Jarrod Uthoff, who is averaging 18.9 points and shooting a ridiculous 48 percent from three. Maryland senior Jake Layman likely will guard him at times, but it'll be interesting to see how else coach Mark Turgeon tries to slow Uthoff down.
The Spartans got back on track Saturday, beating Maryland after losing three straight before that. Now they have a slightly less imposing, but still solid challenge in Northwestern, The Wildcats entered this season with decent expectations, but they've lost three in a row and weren't competitive at all in a 89-57 loss to Indiana on Saturday. Like all teams, they'll have to deal with Denzel Valentine, who looks perfectly healthy after scoring 19 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out eight assists against Maryland. The Wildcats will also need Alex Olah to have a good game against Michigan State's Matt Costello.
- Ohio State Buckeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini (9 p.m. ET | BTN)
Both teams in this game are trying to establish winning streaks after struggling at times in the Big Ten this season. The Buckeyes are 5-3 in conference play this season and the Fighting Illini are a much worse 2-5, but both teams enter coming off of victories. It'll be interesting to see how Illinois, which plays a small-ball lineup, tries to deal with Ohio State forwards Marc Loving (13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds) and Keita Bates-Diop (11.9 points, 5.9 rebounds).