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Big Ten Wednesday Preview and Open Thread: Iowa Hawkeyes Hit Home Stretch of Title Bid

The Hawkeyes will have to focus on getting the job done on the road at Penn State, who already defeated fellow contender Indiana at home. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers will be in Bloomington looking to secure a season sweep of Nebraska.

Peter Jok scored 12 points for the Hawkeyes in their 73-49 win over Penn State on February 3rd.
Peter Jok scored 12 points for the Hawkeyes in their 73-49 win over Penn State on February 3rd.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After ESPN's experimental camera angle last night caused thousands of fans to question the allure of courtside seats, most will be welcome to hear that Wednesday's basketball coverage of the Big Ten will be brought to you to by the Big Ten Network.

We've got a pair of should-win games for two of the Big Ten's regular season title contenders on the docket with 11-2 Iowa heading to Happy Valley and 10-3 Indiana hosting Nebraska. We'll preview both of tonight's games and take a look at what these heavy underdogs will have to do to shake up the title race with a surprise upset.

Game of the Night: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. #4 Iowa Hawkeyes (6:30 PM ET | BTN)

Historically speaking, Iowa is one of the top 50 all-time winningest programs in college basketball. Given that, it may be fair to say that the Hawkeyes are extremely overdue to win the regular season conference title. When they did last win it 1979, they shared it with Michigan State and Purdue. They're in good shape to win at least a share of the championship again in 2016, but a win at Penn State tonight would get them closer to the possibility of an outright title.

The Lions suffered a 24-point defeat to the Hawkeyes in Iowa earlier this month, which tends to happen when you shoot five percent from three-point range (1-for-20). Penn State has had mixed results in home games against top-tier Big Ten teams, defeating Indiana but getting blown out by Michigan State. Pat Chambers's team also upset the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament last year so I don't expect Iowa to take the Lions lightly in this one.

Penn State's best shot at pulling off another home upset is play tough and inspired defense. In the upset of the Hoosiers, the Lions forced 15 turnovers. That's not likely to happen against Iowa, who is 4th-best in the country in percentage of possessions ending in a turnover. Instead, they'll have to focus on forcing tough shots from Iowa and hope that Brandon Taylor and company can grind out enough offense to win a game in the 60s.

The Rest:

- #22 Indiana Hoosiers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (8:30 PM ET | BTN)

Indiana's coming off a blowout loss to Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Sunday, which is excusable considering how well the Spartans have been playing lately. The Hoosiers have been a bit inconsistent on the road lately but are a perfect 14-0 in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall this season, with the 85-78 win over Iowa last week the most recent and most impressive of those 14. Indiana has a tricky final four games after this contest versus the Huskers so a loss here would really put a dent in their title chances.

This is the second meeting of the two teams this season. In the first game between the two, Indiana won 79-69 in Lincoln on January 2nd. Shavon Shields did not play particularly well in that one, shooting 3-for-13 from the field. Shields won't be playing at all tonight, as the senior leader remains out for the third straight game as he has yet to complete his recovery from a major concussion.

For Nebraska to score the road upset in Bloomington much like they did in East Lansing, they will have to attempt to keep the game played at a slower pace than Indiana typically prefers. The Hoosiers shouldn't have much trouble on offense against the Huskers, so Nebraska must have a very efficient offensive night and try to keep up on the scoreboard. Easier said then done, but Tim Miles will try his hardest to have his guys ready for this one.