With the college basketball season continuing to wind down, the pressure is building across the conference and across the country. Teams are looking for marquee wins, to get back on track, and to avoid potential upsets. On Saturday, the conference has several marquee matchups that should have huge implications at season's end.
Let's take a look at the action.
Game of The Night:
Maybe this game doesn't bring the excitement that it would have a few weeks ago, but this is still a matchup with huge implications on the line in both the Big Ten and beyond. Both teams are tied at fourth in the conference standings and a win could very well determine which team gets a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament.
For Purdue, this is a big game for potential seeding not just in Indianapolis, but also in the NCAA Tournament. Although the Boilermakers have locked up an NCAA Tournament bid at this point, the team is certainly still looking to move into the top portion of the bracket in what could be a crazy year. Additionally, Purdue has won six of its last eight games and is looking for what could be its best road win over the season.
On the other side, this is a massive game for Michigan. After starting conference play really well, the Wolverines have fall off considerably and find themselves on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. The team desperately needs another win to secure its NCAA Tournament positioning and this is a huge opportunity.
The matchup to watch will be upfront. How will Michigan's Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle be able to slow down Purdue's Isaac Haas, AJ Hammons, and Caleb Swanigan? The Wolverines rank just No. 294 nationally in block rate and have been relatively mediocre defensively inside this season. This will be a huge challenge.
Michigan's Caris LeVert is still unlikely to play on Saturday.
Admittedly, this game doesn't quite have the luster some fans would like. Neither team is in serious NCAA Tournament consideration and both are even question marks for the NIT at this point. Nonetheless, with a potential rivalry win on the line, this should be a battle for both teams to get on the right side of the NIT bubble. The matchup to watch will likely be on the wing between Illinois' Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn and Northwestern's Aaron Falzon and Scottie Lindsey. Can the Wildcats slow these two down enough to come out on top?
Neither team enters this game with a ton of momentum, but for a Buckeyes team that is still clinging to its last hopes of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, this is a potential death blow to those chances. Rutgers is in the middle of a 6-18 season and has lost 26 games in a row to Big Ten opponents. At this point, nobody wants to be the team that the Scarlet Knights end that streak against. Look for an exciting battle between true freshman in JaQuan Lyle and Corey Sanders in the backcourt.
Although neither team is sitting in a great spot for the postseason at this point, both teams are battling for seeding in the Big Ten Tournament for a potential NIT bid. Undoubtedly, this is a game that could dramatically impact those races and determine whether Nebraska or Penn State has a favorable matchup in Indianapolis. The Cornhuskers are expected to be without star player Shavon Shields, which could give Shep Garner an advantage in the backcourt.
This is a game that's slipping a bit under the radar, but it should be an absolute battle between two teams that have been playing really well recently. Wisconsin is trying to get back into real NCAA Tournament consideration and has won six games in a row and Maryland is tied atop the Big Ten standings and has won five games in a row. Throw in that Maryland hasn't lost at home since December of 2014 and that the student section will be doing its annual Flash Mob and the atmosphere should be outstanding.
There are a few interesting matchups in this game, but the one that really jumps out is the one between Ethan Happ and Diamond Stone upfront. Both underclassmen have been playing well and who comes out on top in that battle could very well decide who wins the game.