The Big Ten is packed with four quality games this Saturday, and features a matchup of ranked opponents as well as an important rivalry game between in-state foes. With Selection Sunday less than six weeks out, the competition is heating up as teams make their case for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Here's what to watch for on a day packed with basketball action.
Game of the Night: #18 Purdue Boilermakers at #4 Maryland Terrapins - 4 ET (ESPN)
The lone matchup between ranked opponents promises to be a great one when Melo Trimble and Maryland tipoff against A.J. Hammons and Purdue. With a raucous crowd for Maryland, this game has the potential to bring out the best that Big Ten basketball has to offer. But who has the edge?
Maryland (20-3, 9-2 B1G) has won three-straight (including a game over Iowa) since losing to Michigan State on Jan. 23. However, their most recent victories over Ohio State and Nebraska came by five points each. For the Terps to win this game, they are going to need to be effective against the staunch Purdue bigs. Maryland is 2nd in the nation in two-point FG % at 58.0%, and a big reason why has been the play of Diamond Stone. The freshman will need to be able to body up with Hammons and Isaac Haas in the paint if I Maryland wants to dominate this aspect of the game.
For Purdue, the key will be forcing bad shots from Maryland. the Boilers have one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to 62.6 PPG, 14th in the nation. If Matt Painter's guys are able to keep the ball out of Melo Trimble's hands, they will have a good shot at winning this game.
The reality is, the secondary players are going to need to step up for both teams. Look for Maryland's Rasheed Suliamon and Purdue's Raphael Davis to step up in their roles. This should hopefully be a classic.
-#10 Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Wolverines - 2 ET (CBS)
While this game may have looked better on paper a couple weeks ago, this in-state rivalry still promises to be competitive. After dropping three-in-a-row, the Spartans have rebounded and now sit at an overall record of 19-4 (6-4 B1G). Denzel Valentine has returned to his consistent self and looks like one of the best players in the nation. However, he's been getting major help from Bryn Forbes, who is shooting 48.2% from three on the season.
For Michigan, Caris LeVert remains a question mark and therefore contributions will need to be made from other guys. The X-factor is looking like Derrick Walton. The junior guard is averaging 17.0 PPG over his last four and looks to be the Wolverine's go-to guy in tight situations. With a strong Michigan student section behind them, it might not be the most surprising thing to see the men in maize pull off the upset. After all, in rivalry games like this, everything goes out the window.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Nebraska Cornhuskers - 2 ET (ESPNU)
After rattling off a slew of conference wins, Nebraska has slowed down, losing their last three. The Cornhuskers have found great value in Andrew White, who is averaging 17.0 PPG and 6.1 RPG on the season. On the other side of the ball, Rutgers is still in search of their first Big Ten win after taking Illinois to triple overtime this past week. With the fatigue and talent factored in, Nebraska looks like the easy pick in this game.
-#22 Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions - 8 ET (BTN)
At the beginning of the Big Ten season, few thought that Indiana would be among the serious contenders for the conference title. After all, the Hoosiers had suffered numerous bad losses to Wake Forest, Duke and UNLV. However, Tom Crean's team has proven the doubters wrong. Indiana is playing some of the best basketball in the nation right now and sits at 19-4 (9-1 B1G) on the year.
In this game, I expect IU to be dominant from three-point range. The Hoosiers are shooting 42.7% from downtown on the season, which is 4th best in the nation. On the other hand, Penn State has struggled at defending the three, allowing opponents to shoot 36.7% on the year. If Yogi Ferrell can get going early, I fully expect Indiana to pull away with this game in the first half. However, as many Big Ten fans know, the Nittany Lions can be pesky (see Maryland game). Regardless, I like IU to win big.
(Editor's Note: A previous version of this article listed Maryland vs Purdue as a home game for Purdue).