It's a somewhat light slate of basketball tonight for Big Ten fans. The Ohio State Buckeyes play the Wisconsin Badgers at 7 p.m. and the Northwestern Wildcats play the Minnesota Golden Gophers right after that. While neither game is the sexiest matchup in the world, there is a good chance both games will be competitive.
Here's a look at each matchup.
Game of the Night: Ohio State Buckeyes at Wisconsin Badgers (7:00 p.m. ET | ESPN)
A matchup of two great programs having somewhat down seasons. Although neither the Buckeyes or the Badgers have been great this season, both still have talented players capable of taking over games. For Wisconsin, that's Nigel Hayes (17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists) and Bronson Koenig (13.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists) while Ohio State has gotten most of its production from Marc Loving (13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds), Keita Bates-Diop (11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds), and Jae'Sean Tate (11.3 points, 6.1 rebounds).
Wisconsin comes into the contest with more momentum, having won four straight games. Two of those wins came against ranked opponents (Michigan State, Indiana), giving credence to the thought that the Badgers can still have a strong season and make the NCAA tournament. One of the most important aspects of the Badgers win streak is that they're getting some production from role players, which was an area of concern entering the season. Forward Ethan Happ has clearly been the player to step up the most, as the 6'9" freshman is averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds and has scored 20 or more points twice in the last three games. True freshman Khalil Iverson also had a nice performance in the Badges win over Illinois on Sunday, scoring 10 points in 30 minutes. More production from him would be a huge positive.
The Buckeyes on the other hand, are coming off a 66-61 loss to Maryland and have lost three of their last five. While an NCAA Tournament berth is still possible, its going to take a lot of hard work down the stretch to become possible. The Buckeyes haven't gotten much from what was expected to be a pretty impressive freshman class, with prized guard JaQuan Lyle coming off the bench recently and scoring just nine points in the last three games combined.
Two things to watch on Thursday will be how Ohio State tries to slow down Koenig with its somewhat shaky guard rotation, and how Wisconsin handles the combo of Loving and Bates-Diop.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers at Northwestern Wildcats (9:00 p.m. ET | BTN)
The good news about this game is that one struggling team has to win it. Northwestern entered this season with fairly high expectations, but have struggled against the best teams in the conference, losing five games in a row with four of them coming against ranked opponents. The Gophers, on the other hand, are still searching for their first Big Ten win of the season. The key matchup here is at guard, where Northwestern's Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps go up against Minnesota's Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer and Kevin Dorsey.