We wrap up the second full week of basketball across the Big Ten, and we are starting to get some answers. Who is for real versus who is a fraud. Who can we expect to contend for a NCAA Tournament bid or should pack away their dancing shoes now. And of course, who is the true top dog in this league.
All of those questions haven’t been completely answered by any means, but we at least have a small sample size to go off now. Sunday’s games will offer another opportunity to rate and gauge some teams across the Big Ten with four teams in action today, including a big-time matchup between Michigan State and North Carolina in the PK80 championship game. Let’s check out previews for today’s games.
Big Ten Game of the Day
No. 4 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 9 North Carolina Tar Heels
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET - ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-0.5)
The game everyone wanted to see in the PK80’s Victory bracket will take place on Sunday when the Spartans and Tar Heels tangle up with each other in the championship game. Both teams made easy work of their first two opponents in this tournament to reach this point, setting up a blockbuster matchup.
North Carolina is off to a perfect 5-0 start this year in large part because of the play from Luke Maye, Joel Berry and Kenny Williams. That trio is currently averaging a combined 53.4 points per game, with Maye leading the bunch at 21.2. Maye is also snagging 10.8 rebounds per game.
For Michigan State it’s been a mixture of guys stepping up. On Friday against DePaul, Matt McQuaid led the team with a career-high 20 points and on Saturday against UConn it was Cassius Winston who stole the show with a career-high 28 points. The Spartans are getting strong backcourt play right now, and if they can have another performance like Saturday where they didn’t commit a ton of turnovers then they’ll be hard to beat.
The matchup to watch in this game is Maye against Spartans’ All-American Miles Bridges. Both feature similar size and ability to stretch the floor. However, Bridges is battling a sprained ankle that could limit his minutes and production — he had only six points across 17 minutes in his first game back since the injury. Nick Ward will also play a role in manning up Maye, so whoever gets a better performance in this matchup will have the advantage. This one is a true toss up and should be a lot of fun to watch.
Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State
- Time/TV: 2:30PM ET - ESPNU
- KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-8)
Nebraska will wrap up its three-game stint in the Advocare Invitational on Sunday against Long Beach State in what should be a Cornhuskers victory. It’s been an up-and-down year so far for Nebraska, who enters this matchup sitting at 3-2. Long Beach State doesn’t appear to be one of those mid-major teams you should truly worry about, but they did upset Oregon State on Saturday so this one could be closer than expected. Cornhuskers leading scorer James Palmer Jr. has been very solid in the first two games of this tournament — 37 points and a combined 54.2 shooting percentage on 24 field goal attempts — so if he has another strong performance Nebraska should be in good shape.
Pick Against The Spread: Nebraska
- Time/TV: 3:00PM ET - ESPN2
- KenPom Spread: Butler (-2)
Like Michigan State, the Buckeyes have an intriguing matchup in their PK80 finale but for a different reason. First year Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann will take on his old team in the fifth place game of the PK80’s Motion bracket on Sunday. The game features a pair of teams that we still aren’t really sure about and that could possibly be bubble squads at the end of the year. For Ohio State, this is a good measuring stick game. Maryland knocked off Butler a last week, and for the most part we think the Terps will be towards the upper half of the Big Ten. If the Buckeyes win this matchup then maybe we can consider them more than just a lock for the NIT.
Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State
- Time/TV: 4:0PM ET - FS1
- KenPom Spread: Michigan (-19.5)
Michigan is the lone Big Ten team to be playing a non-neutral court game today, and because of that it should have the easiest matchup. The Wolverines are playing in their first game since a decently successful trip to Maui earlier in the week. Michigan bounced back from a disappointing loss to LSU in the Maui Invitational opener by beating Chaminade and VCU in the final two games. UC Riverside upset Cal in the season opener, which at the time looked impressive, but the Golden Bears have been miserable as of late. The Wolverines have let some other mid-major teams hang around in games this year, but I don’t suspect that’ll happen in this one.
Pick Against The Spread: Michigan
Record against the spread this season: 8-9