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12/11 Big Ten Preview: Minnesota and Northwestern Return To Action

Preview the Big Ten’s slate of games on Monday night.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Arkansas Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

From a national perspective, many regard December as the worst month of the college basketball season. Since so many teams have exams and/or go on extended Christmas breaks, putting together an enticing schedule can be a challenge. It’s not that teams aren’t trying to have quality games, it’s just a logistical nightmare to do so.

Unfortunately, Monday’s slate of games falls into this category. It features two ‘buy’ games for Minnesota and Northwestern that don’t look incredibly entertaining on paper. However, all the games count and both teams will look to avoid an upset.

Let’s preview both below.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Drake Bulldogs at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota (-18)

As mentioned above, there’s little debating the national relevance of this game. Minnesota enters as an 18-point favorite and will be expected to cruise to victory. As long as the Golden Gophers don’t get upset, this game won’t be remembered for long.

However, considering that Minnesota is coming off two rough road losses, getting back on track at home will be vital. The team lost a winnable road game against Nebraska and then got smacked around by Arkansas. For a team with serious Big Ten title and second weekend NCAA Tournament hopes, those aren’t acceptable results. As such, putting them in the rear-view mirror is important.

Moreover, this is one of the few remaining opportunities for the Gophers to work on developing the team’s depth before the heart of Big Ten play begins. Outside of Isaiah Washington, Minnesota has struggled to find productive bench options. This is especially true in the frontcourt. If the Gophers can race out to a lead on Monday, perhaps Richard Pitino can give his bench some useful playing time.

For Drake, the two primary players to watch will be Nick McGlynn and Reed Timmer. Although McGlynn plays more limited minutes, he’s a monster on the boards and efficient offensively. Timmer is an excellent guard who can spread the ball out and takes his shots carefully. Checking these two will be Minnesota’s top priority.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Drake

The Rest

-Chicago State Cougars at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-27)

Let’s be honest about this matchup. There is absolutely nothing that looks intriguing about this game on paper. Chicago State is one of the worst teams in the nation and enters the matchup with a 2-10 record. In fact, Chicago State has lost each of its last five games by double-digits.

For Northwestern, the goal here is simple. Don’t get upset. And that shouldn’t even be all that difficult, considering Chicago State’s roster. Look for significant bench playing time in this one, which should be good news for a Wildcat team trying to get back on track after a rough start to the season.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Chicago State

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Record against the spread this season: 0-0