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12/17 Big Ten Preview: Purdue Meets Notre Dame In Crossroads Classic

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Seven Big Ten teams will take the floor Saturday, highlighted by the Crossroads Classic in Indiana.

NCAA Basketball: Morehead State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

After two nights of Big Ten-less college basketball, the conference is back in the spotlight on Saturday. Six of the seven games scheduled will be played at neutral sites, with only Michigan playing in their home arena.

The six neutral site games are all a part of showcase events, with each Big Ten team facing formidable opponents. The day will be highlighted by the Crossroads Classic, a four-team event that features the best schools that Indiana has to offer.

You can preview all of Saturday’s games below. The betting lines are courtesy of Covers.com.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

- No.16 Purdue (8-2) vs. No.21 Notre Dame (9-1)

  • Time/TV: 2:00 P.M / ESPN2
  • Spread: Purdue (-2.5)

Indiana’s top college basketball teams are all having a remarkable year. Between the four teams playing in the Crossroads Classic (Butler, Indiana, Purdue, and Notre Dame), the group has only five combined losses.

The Purdue and Notre Dame showdown is going to be one for the ages. The two schools are evenly matched when it comes down to numbers, as both rank in the Top-30 in scoring and allow the same number of points per game (64.7).

The key match-up is going to be the Boilermaker’s Caleb Swanigan against the Irish’s Bonzie Colson. Both big-men have been driving forces to their teams success and the pair each average double figures in points and rebounds.

Purdue has never won a game in the event, posting an overall record of 0-5. They should be able to snatch their first-ever Crossroads Classic win and improve to 9-2.

The Crossroads Classic will be played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Purdue

The Rest:

-BYU (7-3) vs. Illinois (8-3)

  • Time/TV: 9:30 P.M/ BTN
  • Spread: Ilinois (-2.5)

This game will be a part of the State Farm Chicago Legends event. The showcase will feature two teams from the Big Ten, as Northwestern will also play Dayton. The Big Ten Network has exclusive rights to both games.

The BYU/Illinois match-up is going to be a track meet, as both teams like to get up and down as much as possible. The two schools average over 80 points a game, while both allow 70+ on defense.

In 11 games, Illinois has had a three-game losing streak sandwiched in-between two four-game winning streaks. The Illini beat some good teams, but also lost at home to Winthrop and got blown out by West Virginia. To date, Illinois is the most inconsistent team in the Big Ten. On the other hand, BYU is the model of stability, winning seven games and barely falling in their three losses.

BYU should outlast Illinois in a shoot-out, watch out for this game getting up into the high-80’s.

The State Farm Chicago Legends event will be played at the United Center in Chicago.

Pick Against The Spread: BYU

-Iowa (5-5) vs. Northern Iowa (5-4)

  • Time/TV: 4:30 P.M/ ESPN3
  • Spread: Northern Iowa (-1.5)

This game will be a part of the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic, an event that’s similar to the Crossroads Classic, just with teams from Iowa instead of Indiana.

Surprisingly, Northern Iowa opens up as favorites over the Hawkeyes. Iowa is on the down-slope this year, losing most of their firepower to graduation. They do return the conference’s leading scorer in Peter Jok and recently beat a ranked Iowa State team.

I’m surprised to see UNI favored on a neutral court. They have beaten “Power Seven” schools Oklahoma and Arizona State but lost games to Wyoming and George Mason. This line is more about Iowa having a tough year than it is UNI being good.

Iowa knows they are the underdogs here, and they see it as the slap in the face that it is. The Hawkeyes should have a little extra to play for here, as they try and get their season back on track.

The Hy-Vee Big Four Classic will be played at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa

-Dayton (7-2) vs. Northwestern (8-2)

  • Time/TV: 7:00 P.M/ BTN
  • Spread: Dayton (-1.5)

This game will also be a part of the State Farm Chicago Legends event.

In a day filled with so many awesome games, this one is definitely in the top-three. Both of these teams are legit and play solid team-basketball. When March comes around, you will see Dayton and Northwestern in the NCAA Tournament. You heard it here first.

Northwestern has been slowly rising in the Big Ten ranks, increasing their win-totals ever since Chris Collins took over in 2013-14. The Wildcats won 20 games last season, but were snubbed when it came to the “Big Dance”. The time is now for Northwestern and they know it. They’re going to need this quality-win when “March Madness” rolls around, it could make or break their chances. Expect Dayton to get Northwestern’s best game, they do not want to get snubbed again.

The State Farm Chicago Legends event will be played at the United Center in Chicago.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Northwestern

Michigan vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore

Time/TV: 3:00PM ET - BTN

Spread: Michigan (-26.5)

Quite simply put, Michigan’s game against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday afternoon at Crisler is their easiest game of the year. According to KenPom’s rankings, the Hawks (1-9) currently sit 332nd in the country. That is four spots below the Wolverine’s opponents from Tuesday night–the Central Arkansas Bears–whom they defeated soundly, setting the school record for 3’s made in a game in the process. So, yeah. This one should not be close.

Of interest to Michigan, as it has been all year, will be their front court rotation. The Hawks’ tallest player comes in at 6’8, which probably explains why they’re currently 1-9. I would expect Beilein to give freshman center Jon Teske plenty of run in this game. That will give him a better idea of where he fits in their center mix as Big Ten season looms ever closer.

Pick Against The Spread: Michigan

Ohio State vs. #2 UCLA

Time/TV: 3:00PM ET - CBS

Spread: UCLA (-7.5)

The Buckeyes will have had a full week off when they take the floor for their game against the second-ranked UCLA Bruins on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, and it was needed. Led by freshman phenoms Lonzo Ball and T.J Leaf, the Bruins currently lead the nation in both field goal, as well as three-point percentages. Their dominance from inside and out has helped them cruise to an 11-0 mark that has seen them beat Kentucky at Rupp, and break the century mark for points 5 times. Michigan learned about UCLA the hard way when an 84-point (53.8% from deep, including 12-16 in the first half) performance still resulted in an 18-point loss for the Wolverines. Ohio State is hoping that they won’t meet a similar fate as did their friends from up north.

A loss in this game would fall under the “good loss” category for the Buckeyes. A win, on the other hand, would be a huge resume builder for them. Another 17 point, 17 rebound outburst from Trevor Thompson, and a strong performance from a defence that ranks in the top-25, according to KenPom, would be huge for their chances.

Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State

#9 Indiana vs #18 Butler

TV/Time: 5:00PM ET - BTN

Spread: Indiana (-4)

The Hoosiers and Bulldogs will round out the 2016 Crossroads Classic on Saturday evening in Indy, immediately following Purdue’s matchup with Notre Dame. KenPom has Indiana and Butler ranked fairly close to each other; coming in at 14 and 19, respectively.

The big news for Indiana is that they get to welcome back OG Anunoby, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since their win over North Carolina on November 30th. Juwan Morgan filled in just fine during OG’s three game absence, even recording a double-double against SIU Edwardsville. Those three games, however, were against teams ranked in the lower half of the 200’s, according to KenPom. Against Butler, Anunoby will likely be tasked with guarding the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Kelan Martin. Martin managed to score 20 points against KenPom’s 10th-ranked defense in Cincinnati, last Sunday. That matchup will be one to watch in this game.

For Butler, a win against a top-10 team would give them a good win for their resume, and plenty of momentum as they head into their conference slate. As for the Hoosiers, they’ll be looking to make it 3-3 against ranked opponents in their non-conference schedule.

Pick Against The Spread: Indiana