Despite two losses to the Iowa Hawkeyes thus far in conference play, Purdue has still looked like one of the top teams in the Big Ten. At 18-4 (6-3 B1G), they're essentially an NCAA tournament lock, barring a complete collapse. Nebraska, on the other hand, enters as the heavy underdog with upset potential. Analysis of this game, and Saturday's two other matchups is below.
Game of the Night
#21 Purdue Boilermakers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers - 4:30 ET (BTN)
Despite a questionable loss to Illinois, the Boilers have looked fairly solid this Big Ten season. While Iowa has been able to best them twice, Purdue still appears to be one of the top four or five teams in the conference. This is a game that they need to win on order to retain that status.
Nebraska, however, has been pesky this entire conference season. Despite lacking a super talented roster, the Huskers have already beaten Illinois, Minnesota and in their biggest win yet: Michigan State. Andrew White has developed into one of the premier young players in this league and will need to play well against the strong Boiler front court this afternoon.
KenPom favors Purdue by 89%, however there's one thing that Nebraska can do to improve their chances at winning this one. They're going to have to be putting a lot of ball pressure on the Boilers. Nebraska is averaging 10.5 steals per game, which is good for 44th in the nation, while Purdue is giving up 9.5 steals per game, 227th in the nation. If the Huskers can continue to put the Purdue guards under duress, there's a chance that Nebraska could pull off the upset.
Still, Purdue gets the significant edge as they are the better team and have homecourt advantage. It should be a fun game to watch in West Lafayette.
#19 Indiana Hoosiers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers - 2:15 ET (BTN)
Finally, Indiana has lost. After a twelve-game winning streak that took the Hoosiers into conference play, they were upset by Wisconsin this week, 82-79. Perhaps this is a good thing for IU. With the winning streak no longer a constant pressure, they get the chance to regroup and formulate a plan of attack against the Golden Gophers. One of the things that Indiana will need to continue to do well is shoot the three. The Hoosiers are 44.4% from beyond the arc as a team this season, which is third in the nation. This not to mention, star sophomore guard James Blackmon Jr. has been out most of the season. KenPom predicts a 95% chance of victory for IU in this game, and I would go Indiana easy in this one.
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan Wolverines - Noon ET (BTN)
Michigan and Penn State play for the second time this season, and the stage couldn't be bigger. The two programs meet today at Madison Square Garden as a part of BTN's Super Saturday lineup. The Wolverines have clearly been the better team this season and sit at 16-5 (6-2 B1G) this season, even with the injury to superstar Caris LeVert. The senior guard is out with a lower leg injury that has kept him sidelined for a good hunk of the season thus far. In his absence, it has been great to see Duncan Robinson and Derrick Walton Jr. step up. Michigan looks like a legitimate tournament team, and would be apart of the Big Dance if the season ended today. To retain that status, they need a win against Penn State and they appear more than primed to do it.