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12/20 Big Ten Preview: Holiday home turf show-down

Iowa, Ohio State, Maryland, Northwestern, and Nebraska all look to spice up a cold Midwestern night.

Iowa v Temple Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On paper, it’s a rather dismal slate of games tonight in the Big Ten, as the following teams look to position themselves to get ready for the conference season (which opens a week from today). As Michigan State’s ugly home loss to Northeastern proves, however, there should be rest for some of the more middling Big Ten teams. And let’s be real: After Wisconsin, Purdue, and Indiana, it’s a pretty significant drop-off in talent and quality.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-North Dakota @ Iowa

  • Time/TV: 9:00pm/Big Ten Network
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa (-11)

Which Iowa Hawkeye team will show up? The group that lost at home to Nebraska Omaha, or the one that have since followed it up with wins against Iowa State and a half-decent Northern Iowa crew. Really, any of these games could have taken this slot but I chose this one for the opportunity to watch Peter Jok, who’s averaging 23 points on 43% 3-point shooting. He’s one of the most fun players in the conference.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Iowa

The Rest:

Charlotte @ Maryland

  • Time/TV: 7:00pm/ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-12)

The Terrapins number look gaudy, with that 11-1 record and 10.5 scoring margin. But I suspect they remain ranked so low (#64 on KenPom) is that they’ve done all that damage against lower teams (8 wins against programs outside of the top 126) and only beat better-than-expected Kansas State and Oklahoma State by 1 point each.

Melo Trimble looks to have regained his freshman year form in his junior season, shooting almost 60% from the field and getting to the charity stripe the way he did two years ago.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Maryland

Youngstown State at Ohio State

  • Time/TV: 7:00pm/ESPN3
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-21)

Heck, the Penguins lost to Sparty by 20 (thought they did beat the spread), so clearly the Ohio State Buckeyes—with their 25th ranked defense and balanced offensive attack—will take care of business.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Ohio State

Southern at Nebraska

  • Time/TV: 8:00pm
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-12)

I’m not entirely convinced that the Cornhuskers are winning this game. I know that Southern stinks (they don’t have a single win over a team ranked in the top 280) but Nebraska also lost at home to Gardner Webb on Sunday, after an eight-day lay-off. Tai Webster has had the breakout season we all expected, averaging 17.6 points in his senior season.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Southern

IUPUI at Northwestern

  • Time/TV: 8:00pm
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-13)

I’m calling it right now (I’m not the first): Northwestern makes the NCAA Tournament this year. They have impressive wins against Dayton, Wake Forest, and Texas and two narrow losses to very good teams, Butler and Notre Dame. And literally anybody outside of the Big Big Ten Three is looking beatable in any arena.

If the Wildcats stay the course, don’t suffer those awful and characteristic NU losses, they’re gonna do it. They have upperclass leadership with Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey and one of the more talented players in program history, sophomore Vic Law. This will be a fun team to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Northwestern

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Nicholas’ Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 13-10-1