While the Big Ten only has one game on Thursday night, it should be a good one that puts two teams trying to get back on track against each other. It also offers the Big Ten one of its few remaining opportunities to secure a quality win in non-conference play.
Let’s take a look.
Big Ten Game of the Day
-Valparaiso Crusaders at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-7)
Since the season tipped off in early November, things haven’t been all that easy for the Wildcats. Despite making the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance last season, Northwestern entered December with a record just barely above .500. The team had lost all of its games against quality opponents and appeared to have taken a step backward.
And while things have improved since then, Northwestern enters Thursday’s matchup with a 6-4 overall record and has just one win against a top currently ranked among KenPom’s top 100 teams. To put things simply, time is starting to run out for Northwestern to get itself in position for another NCAA run.
The good news, of course, is that time hasn’t run out and Northwestern will get a nice opportunity to get back on track on Thursday night. While Valpo isn’t a juggernaut, it’s a top 100 opponent with an 8-2 record. Grabbing a win over a team with a resume like that would be a boost for Northwestern.
For Valpo, things started off with a bang. The Crusaders raced out to an 8-0 record that included three wins away from home and a win over a few tricky teams. And even if Valpo slipped back with losses to Purdue and Ball State over the last week, the team still looks respectable.
As these teams prepare to meet, the primary matchup to watch should be in the backcourt. Valpo relies extensively on star guards Bakari Evelyn and Tevonn Walker. Slowing those two down will be a top priority for the Wildcats. Evelyn is a really efficient shooter and passer and Walker is productive on both sides of the floor. Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh will have their hands full.
Expect a competitive game on both sides of the floor and one that goes down to the final minutes. Perhaps the most interesting thing will be to see how Northwestern performs after playing just one game in the last 11 days. The Wildcats didn’t look sloppy on Monday, but one has to wonder.
- Pick Against the Spread: Northwestern
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 1-1-0