With an action packed Saturday slate for the Big Ten, we’ll relax with a nice four game schedule on Sunday. The first two games will be played at Madison Square Garden for the Holiday Hoops Festival. The home school St. Johns will welcome two Big Ten teams (Penn State and Rutgers) to the Worlds Most Famous Arena.
Sunday will be the second to last game before Big Ten Play for these teams, as they all prepare for the long grind of conference play.
You can preview all of Saturday’s games below. The betting lines are courtesy of Covers.com.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Northeastern (5-5) vs. Michigan State (7-4)
• Time/TV: 7:00 P.M / BTN
• Spread: Michigan State (-14)
Injuries have plagued Michigan State this far through the season and the Spartans have had to overcome some bruises on the court. This is a perfect game for Michigan State to begin to return to form with conference play on the horizon.
The non-conference schedule was not so kind to Tom Izzo’s team as they lost four games to ranked opponents (Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke). During this stretch the team has also suffered from some injury trouble. However, no injury worried Spartan fans more than freshman standout Miles Bridges, who could possibly be back from his ankle injury sometime next week.
With the Spartans missing three key players for parts of the season, this team has rallied, only losing tough games against ranked opponents. This team still has a lot of talent with Eron Harris, Joshua Langford and Lourawls 'Tum Tum' Nairn Jr. The team has stepped up their defensive play as of late and is now averaging just 67 points against.
Even with four losses early in the season, this team will be one of the best in the conference and will still contend for the Big Ten Championship. There’s something about a Tom Izzo team that is just settling and doesn’t call for much panic.
- Pick with spread: Michigan State
-Gardner-Webb (6-5) vs. Nebraska (5-5)
• Time/TV: 2:00 P.M / ESPNU
• Spread: Nebraska (-14)
Nebraska has had a tough non conference schedule, losing three games to ranked teams (UCLA, Creighton, and Kansas) and their other two losses have come against ACC teams, Virginia Tech and Clemson.
The Cornhuskers have had trouble scoring the ball as they are dead last in the conference with just 68.7 points per game. Senior guard Tai Webster is the clear leader of this team and will have to continue to carry this Cornhusker offense as he leads the team in scoring (4th in Big Ten), assists and three-point percentage.
Don’t see them losing to Gardner-Webb at home, this one should give the team so more confidence moving ahead.
- Pick against the spread: Nebraska
-Penn State (6-5) vs. St. Johns (5-6)
• Time/TV: 11:00 A.M / FS1
• Spread: St. Johns (-5)
The first game of the Holiday Hoops Festival is Penn State vs. the home team St. Johns. Penn State comes in to Madison Square Garden after losing two straight, so this team has to be fired up to play in New York City.
The talented trio of freshmen: Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins along with the leaders captain and leading scorer Shep Garner, will look to slow down freshman guard Marcus Lovett. The Nittany Lions do not have a great on ball defender at the guard position and Lovett is extremely quick and loves to get to the rim. Slowing the St. John’s freshman will be the key to winning this game.
However, coming off two loses, I think head coach Pat Chambers will have his team ready to go. All five starters are averaging double figures, and I don’t think St. Johns has enough good players to stop this balanced scoring attack.
- Pick against the spread: Penn State
-Fordham (5-6) vs. Rutgers (10-1)
• Time/TV: 1:00 P.M / Not Televised
• Spread: Rutgers (-5.5)
The final game at the tournament features Fordham vs. Rutgers. Although Rutgers did not have any expectation of being a good basketball team this season, through eleven games, the team has already put together 10 wins, so all is well in New Brunswick for now. They haven’t beaten any great competition thus far and could be faced with some false confidence going into Big Ten play. Still, it’s progress.
Deshawn Freeman and Corey Sanders lead the way for a Rutgers team that only has one senior in its eight-man rotation. The team has been great this year defensively giving up just over 61 points per game, after finishing last in the conference just a season ago, giving up over 80 points per game.
Obviously their number will likely go up as they get into the Big Ten schedule and they face tougher opponents, but this team is riding a wave right now and are playing about as good as anyone in the conference barring strength of schedule.
- Pick against the spread: Rutgers