With no NFL playoff games to compete with, Big Ten basketball has the day to itself. With four games on the docket, fans of the best conference in the country can sit down after lunch and not have to leave their spot in front the TV until the late in the evening.
Game of the Day:
For the sake of Buckeye fans, I won't go into detail about the first match-up between these two teams. It wasn't a pretty result for OSU. This time however, Ohio State gets to play at home, and Maryland comes in after a tough win against Iowa. The Terps are still the superior team with guys like Melo Trimble, Robert Carter, and Rasheed Sulaimon, but as flawed as the Buckeyes are they still have enough talent to challenge anyone.
To pull off an upset, I think freshman JaQuan Lyle and Daniel Giddens will have to have great games, especially on defense. Even with that, they still might need a few lucky breaks, but OSU has shocked the college basketball world already this season, so maybe they have it in them again.
Iowa finally lost their first Big Ten game, but the Hawkeyes still look like the team to beat for the conference championship. If they want to stay on top of the standings they can't have a letdown at home. Northwestern has had a rough conference season so far. Six losses have caused their hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid to fade quickly, but a road win against this Iowa team could boost them right back to the bubble.
The Wildcats will have to figure out a way to stop a roster that is full of weapons. Jarrod Uthoff is in the hunt for Player of the Year, but you can't sleep on Iowa's other players. In this one, look for Dom Uhl to have a good game playing the stretch 5 when Adam Woodbury checks out. Bryant McIntosh and Northwestern are a decent team, but they aren't the polished product that the Hawkeyes are. It will take a herculean effort for NU to pull off the upset.
Rutgers has never won an away game in the Big Ten, and the closest they've gotten this season was an 11-point loss to Michigan in their last game. The Spartans have had some stumbles lately and they let Nebraska steal one in the Breslin Center, but they clobbered Northwestern earlier this week. I think it is safe to say that it will take an absolute miracle for Rutgers to take the win in this one (like a real, verifiable, get-you-halfway-to-sainthood miracle). Look for MSU to dominate inside, especially if Matt Costello is back to 100%.
This may be the closest game of the night. Wisconsin has picked up steam lately with three-straight wins, including triumphs over MSU and IU at home. Nigel Hayes and freshman Ethan Happ have been in excellent form during this Badger run, expect them to give the Illini's shaky defense fits. The Illini aren't without their own firepower however. Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn are averaging just over 36 combined points this season, and playing in the friendly confines of the State Farm Center should give their team a boost.