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Week 9: BTP Game of the Week: Minnesota at Michigan State

BTPowerhouse looks at the best games of the upcoming week in the Big Ten.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Minnesota Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s Game of the Week post is a bit late, but it still arives right ahead of the meat of this week’s Big Ten schedule. With so many teams fighting for NCAA Tournament positioning and within the conference standings, every game will have a huge impact on where teams land at season’s end.

And with that, here’s a look at the top games in the coming week.

Game Of The Week:

-Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan State Spartans

For many of you reading this article, you probably rolled your eyes when you saw a matchup between Minnesota and Michigan State as the Game of the Week. After all, fans already saw this game once this season and it doesn’t have the same national sizzle that some of this week’s other matchups will offer.

But hear me out.

This game is worthy of this selection.

To start, these two teams have been some of the strongest in Big Ten play so far this season, combining for an impressive 6-2 record so far. And excluding Minnesota’s loss to Michigan State earlier this season, these two are a combined 15-2 since the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Simply put, both have been trending up for the last month or so.

Both teams also enter this matchup with a lot of pressure to come out with a win. Minnesota is trying to keep pace with Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title hunt and Michigan State needs to rebound after falling to Penn State last weekend. In a lot of ways, this feels like an elimination game for the loser’s Big Ten title chances.

And finally, the first edition of this game was an epic battle between the two teams in Minneapolis. Although Minnesota got up early, Michigan State was able to claw back, push it to overtime, and steal a huge road win. Topping that won’t be easy, but it certainly gives some reason to believe this one should be a great battle.

The matchup to watch should be upfront between Michigan State’s Mile Bridges and Nick Ward and Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch. Whoever can win there, particularly on the boards, should be in great position to come out with the win.

Honorable Mention:

-Indiana Hoosiers at Maryland Terrapins*

Yes, I admit that I missed the boat on this one since I didn’t get this post up before yesterday evening, but this game still deserves a spot on this list. I would have picked it anyway and as such, it’s unfair to Hoosier and Terrapin fans not to include it here.

While I can’t offer any predictions on the outcome (Maryland did already win, after all), I will provide a few thoughts on the result.

For Indiana, it was a brutal loss that continues what has been a more than underwhelming start to the new year. The Hoosiers fell to just 1-3 in Big Ten play, which is the program’s worst start to conference play since the 2010-’11 season when the team finished 12-20 overall. Indiana needs to rebound and soon.

On the other side, this was another close win for a Maryland team that continues to get the job done. I’m still not sure the Terps are that great of a team, but it’s really impressive to have a roster filled with youth sitting at 15-2. Even another win or two would give Maryland astronomical NCAA Tournament odds.

-Michigan State Spartans at Ohio State Buckeyes

Perhaps no series has been tighter and more hotly contested in recent years than the battles between Michigan State and Ohio State. Last year’s three matchups (all oddly played within 17 days) all ended in blowout wins for the Spartans, but there’s been a consistent rivalry feel to this series under Tom Izzo and Thad Matta.

This game won’t look huge when this article posts, but assuming that Ohio State loses on the road to Wisconsin on Thursday night, the pressure on the Buckeyes is going to skyrocket in this one. That’s because if Ohio State loses both of its games this week, the team will be 10-8 overall and 0-5 (!!!) in the Big Ten. Fair or not, that would probably be a death blow to Ohio State’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

Additionally, Michigan State will be looking to build the team’s resume after a lackluster non-conference performance and extend its winning streak in this series to six games. Expect a lot of fans to be sweating this one out on both sides.

Worst Game of the Week:

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Indiana Hoosiers

Another week and another Rutgers game earns the honor of being the Big Ten’s Worst Game of the Week. Considering that the Scarlet Knights have still yet to beat a competent opponent this season, expect this to be a reoccurring theme.

However, I should admit that there is at least a little intrigue in this game. Indiana has been underwhelming the last few weeks and a loss to Rutgers could really derail the season. Nonetheless, expect Indiana to coast to an easy win at home.

Season Stats:

-Game of the Week Appearances By Team:

  • Indiana - 2
  • Iowa - 1
  • Michigan State - 2
  • Minnesota - 1
  • Northwestern - 1
  • Purdue - 1
  • Rutgers - 1
  • Wisconsin - 1

-Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances By Team:

  • Wisconsin - 4
  • Maryland - 3
  • Michigan - 3
  • Michigan State - 3
  • Indiana - 2
  • Ohio State - 2
  • Illinois - 1
  • Iowa - 1
  • Minnesota - 1
  • Northwestern - 1
  • Purdue - 1

-Total Appearances By Team:

  • Michigan State - 5
  • Wisconsin - 5
  • Indiana - 4
  • Maryland - 3
  • Michigan - 3
  • Iowa - 2
  • Minnesota - 2
  • Northwestern - 2
  • Ohio State - 2
  • Purdue - 2
  • Illinois - 1
  • Rutgers - 1

-Worst Game Appearances By Team:

  • Rutgers - 5
  • Penn State - 2
  • Illinois - 1
  • Indiana - 1
  • Michigan State - 1
  • Nebraska - 1