With more than a week of conference play in the books, things are starting to take shape in the Big Ten. Everything indicates a wild year ahead for fans and Thursday night should do more than enough to add to that excitement. Every game will have NCAA Tournament implications and every team will have pressure to come out on top.
You can preview all the games below. All spreads are based on KenPom.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Iowa Hawkeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - BTN
- KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-3)
Just a week ago, the idea that a matchup between Iowa and Nebraska would earn Game of the Day honors would have probably been laughable for most. Both teams had mixed non-conference performances (at best) and Nebraska looked like it was faded for another rough season.
Oh, how quickly things can change.
Since that time, Iowa knocked off an overtime win against Michigan to improve to 9-6 on the season and Nebraska went on the road and beat Indiana and Maryland in back-to-back games. The two teams now enter this game with an immense amount of momentum looking to keep things going.
For Nebraska, this is sort of a stop-gap game. The wins over Indiana and Maryland were more than impressive, but this is when the rubber starts to meet the road. The Huskers are favored in this one and if the team truly wants to pull off a midseason turnaround, this is a game Nebraska needs to find a way to win.
Iowa won’t have quite the same pressure with the game in Lincoln, but this is a great opportunity for the Hawkeyes to add a road win to the resume. Additionally, considering that Iowa gets three of the next four at home, this could be a great opportunity to start building a winning streak.
The key matchup in this one will be Peter Jok facing off against Nebraska’s Tai Webster. The two won’t face each other on every play, but don’t be surprised to see both trying to make the key plays in the closing seconds.
- Pick Against The Spread: Iowa
-Purdue Boilermakers at Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Purdue (-2)
Not many picked Minnesota to go on the road and beat Purdue last weekend, but favorite or not, Purdue ended up going down to the Gophers. As such, Purdue will enter Thursday’s matchup against a respectable Ohio State team looking to rebound after its third loss of the season. This is also the first in an important three-game stretch for the Boilermakers as the team gets two road games and a home game against Wisconsin.
For Ohio State, this is a chance to score the team’s best win (by a good margin) and first Big Ten win of the season. However, the pressure will be on Keita Bates-Diop, Marc Loving, and Trevor Thompson to slow down the best frontcourt in the Big Ten. This is also one of Ohio State’s final opportunities for a legitimate marquee win this season.
- Pick Against The Spread: Purdue
-Minnesota Golden Gophers at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - ESPNU
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-3)
As of Thursday morning, there are just three teams in the Big Ten that have two or fewer losses. One is a Wisconsin program that hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since the late 90s, one is a Maryland program coming off two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and the other is Minnesota program that has just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.
Raise your hands if you saw that coming.
Put your hands down, you liars.
Minnesota’s turnaround has been exceptional so far this season and the Gophers will put the team’s 13-2 record on the line on Thursday night. However, Minnesota will face another team that’s trending up. Northwestern sits at 12-3 with the team’s only losses coming away from home against quality teams. The pressure will be on both sides to see who can keep things going.
The most exciting matchup in this game will be between Minnesota’s Nate Mason and Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh. These are arguably two of the top three point guards in the league and both have done some big things this season. Whoever plays better likely determines Thursday’s winner.
- Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota
Thomas’ Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 30-31-2