As the new year approaches, the Big Ten is gearing up for its always gruelling conference schedule. On Thursday night, five Big Ten teams will play the last of their non-conference bills against relatively light competition across the board. Each team will be looking to make their final adjustments, avoid upsets, and head into their conference openers on a good note.
All games are previewed below. Spreads are based on Vegas.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-UNC Asheville at Ohio State
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - ESPN 2
- Vegas Spread: Ohio State (-14)
Look, Ohio State should win this game. They’re a sizeable home favorite, and they're coming off a 77-40 clobbering of Youngstown State in Columbus. Of Thursday night’s slate, however, this might just end being the one to watch.
Thursday night’s game won’t mark the first time the Bulldogs hit the road to play a much superior opponent. They opened their season with back to back games at VCU and Georgia, before travelling to Manhattan, Kansas to face The Jayhawks on November, 25th. Of course, they went 0-3, but those games gave them plenty of experience in tough environments. They’ll be looking to reap the benefits of that experience when they make their way to Columbus on Thursday night.
As for the Buckeyes, UNC-Asheville is a great analog of their first Big Ten opponent; Illinois. Ohio State will see a similarly guard-heavy team tomorrow as they’ll see on New Year’s Day in Champaign. Facing The Bulldog’s trio of Ahmad Thomas, MaCio Teague and Kevin Vannatta will help the Buckeyes get ready for Malcolm Hill, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Tracy Abrams.
- Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State
-Austin Peay at #16 Indiana
- Time/TV: 7:00PM - ET/BTN+
- Vegas Spread: Indiana (-30)
Austin Peay is the 319th ranked team in the country, per KenPom. Indiana is ranked 15th. These teams don’t have anything in common.
Oh wait, I lied.
They both lost to IPFW.
Alright, got that out of my system.
That’s where the comparisons stop, though. KenPom has Indiana 12th in adjusted offence. They also have Austin Peay 347th in adjusted defence. If any of you Purdue fans are planning on watching this game in hopes of seeing another Hoosier upset... maybe don’t waste your time.
The Hoosiers will be looking for OG Anunoby to have a similar bounce back performance to the one he had against Delaware State on Monday. Getting him up to speed after his injury will be huge as they enter conference play.
- Pick Against The Spread: Austin Peay
-Delaware State at Iowa
- TV/Time: 9:00 PM ET - BTN
- Vegas Spread: Iowa (-26 1/2)
The Hawkeyes have been in the headlines lately, haven’t they?
Tuesday night’s handshake fiasco at the end of their win over North Dakota garnered national attention, and probably not the type of attention they were looking for.
With that in mind, there is a good chance that this is a game many people will, at the very least, monitor, as it plays out. The Hawkeyes will be going against a team that KenPom ranks in the 330 range, which probably tells you where this game is headed, if the spread hadn’t already.
Jordan Bohannon hit double digits for the first time in almost a month against North Dakota, while Peter Jok scored a modest 18 points of his own. Jok has scored in double digits every single game this season.
If I were a betting man, I would not bet against him extending that streak Thursday night against DSU.
The Hawkeyes will open their Big Ten seasons next Wednesday in West Lafayette, against the 15th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers.
Pick Against The Spread: Iowa
-Furman at Michigan
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - BTN
- Vegas Spread: Michigan (-16)
Michigan closes out their non-conference schedule with a meeting against Furman at Crisler. The Wolverines are coming off back-to-back near 95+ point performances, and will be looking to make it three in a row against the Paladins.
Derrick Walton Jr. had a big night in Michigan’s last outing against Maryland-Eastern Shore. His 21 point, 6 rebound and 5 assist night was his most complete game of the year, and snapped a 3-game stretch where he failed to reach double digits in scoring. Everybody knows how good Walton Jr. can be when he’s healthy and confident. Stringing consecutive big performances will be good for his confidence, and will come just in time for their opener in Iowa City on New Year’s day.
He’ll have a good chance to have a big day against a completely overmatched Furman squad.
Look for the Wolverines to get Jon Teske, Ibi Watson and Xavier Simpson valuable minutes, as well.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan
-Houston Baptist at Northwestern
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET - BTN+
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-20)
The Wildcats have not lost a game since their narrow 4-point loss to Notre Dame in Brooklyn on November 22nd. That game came on the heels of a nice 77-58 win over Texas the night before. They have won all 7 of their games since then, including wins over Wake Forest, DePaul, Bryant and Dayton. They even beat IUPUI, who apparently had the entire Big Ten conference on their non-conference schedule.
Northwestern now sits at 10-2, and has turned some heads in the process. They have a legitimate shot at entering the conference schedule with an 11-2 record, and tons of confidence behind them. Will this year be different than last year, where the Wildcats entered conference play at 12-1, but went just 8-10 in the Big ten? Time will tell.
With a strong record and no bad losses up to now, though, there’s plenty to like about this Northwestern team.
The Wildcats would love to see Vic Law break out of the mini funk he’s been in, where he’s scored a mere 9 total points over the past 2 games. While the Wildcats’ improved depth picked him up, they clearly relied on him earlier on in the season and need for him to get going again before their trip to Happy Valley to open Big Ten play.
- Pick Against The Spread: IUPUI
Harrison’s Season Record vs The Spread: 0-0