Saturday is set to be a monster day for the Big Ten. There are 10 teams in action, including five games against top 100 opponents. It’s a huge opportunity for the league to put a frustrating start to the season in the rear-view mirror.
Let’s take a look.
Big Ten Game of the Day
-Kansas Jayhawks at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Kansas (-9)
Even in a loaded day for the Big Ten, this is the biggest one. A nationally elite Kansas team will go on the road to face a frisky Nebraska team at night. It’s a matchup that Husker fans have waited years to see and should harken back to their former Big 12 days.
But before we look at the matchups, let’s acknowledge a few things. Kansas is a better team than Nebraska. There’s simply no way one can compare the resumes of the two teams or their rosters and believe Nebraska is better. It’s just a fact. However, as any college basketball fan knows, Nebraska just has to be better for one night. That’s all.
Nebraska enters this game playing its best basketball in quite a win. The team has won four of its last five games, with the only losses on the road to quality Michigan State and Creighton teams. Those four wins also included wins over Boston College and Minnesota, who are solid teams.
For Kansas, this is a bounce back opportunity. The Jayhawks lost a neutral game to Washington on December 6th and then followed that up with a rare home (!!!) loss to Arizona State on December 10th. The key player for Kansas is senior guard Devonte Graham, who has been phenomenal all season. He is a National Player of the Year candidate.
If Nebraska is going to pull this off, it will likely need to do what Washington did. Hit some deep shots, limit Kansas from deep, and stay close on the boards. The backcourt battle will be the place to watch. Somehow, Anton Gill and Glynn Watson need to find a way to slow down Graham.
All told, expect a battle in front of a raucous crowd.
- Pick Against the Spread: Nebraska
-Illinois Fighting Illini vs New Mexico State Aggies
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Illinois (-2)
Through 12 games, Illinois has put together a pretty mixed resume. While the team has taken care of business against its weaker foes, it hasn’t been able to finish things off against more challenging teams. On Saturday, Illinois will get a chance to change that narrative with a neutral game against New Mexico State.
For New Mexico State, keep an eye on Jemerrio Jones and Zach Lofton. They dominate most of the offensive possessions. Jones is a fantastic reboudner and Lofton is really effective inside the arc. Illinois will need a big performance from Leron Black.
- Pick Against the Spread: Illinois
-Indiana Hoosiers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Time/TV: 2:30PM ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Notre Dame (-7)
There’s no debating that Indiana hasn’t gotten off to the start that fans were hoping to see when Archie Miller took over the program. The Hoosiers are 5-5 overall and lost at home to Indiana State to start the season. And with a down Big Ten, it seems unlikely Indiana will be in serious position for the NCAA Tournament this year.
However, Saturday offers a huge opportunity for Indiana to get back on track. Notre Dame enters the game with an 8-2 overall record and a nationally elite player in Bonzie Colson. If the Hoosiers can find a way to control Colson and teammates like Matt Farrell and TJ Gibbs, an upset could be in the cards.
- Pick Against the Spread: Notre Dame
-Iowa Hawkeyes vs Drake Bulldogs
- Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa (-7)
It’s been a disastrous start for Iowa so far this season. The team is 5-6 overall and has yet to be a top 100 KenPom opponent. That won’t change on Saturday either, as the Hawkeyes prepare to face an underwhelming Drake team. The goal for Iowa will be to continue building and avoid an upset. Drake’s player to watch is Reed Timmer. He’s a very efficient offensive scorer and outside shooter.
- Pick Against the Spread: Iowa
-Michigan Wolverines vs Detroit Titans
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan (-19)
After one of the more dramatic three-game stretches you may ever see, Michigan finds itself sitting at 9-3 heading into a matchup against Detroit. While the Titans are only 4-6 overall and ranked 294th on KenPom, don’t underrate the fight out of the in-state opponent. Moritz Wagner figures to be limited for the Wolverines with an ankle injury. One storyline to watch is the player of Kameron Chatman, who transferred from Michigan to Detroit earlier in his career.
- Pick Against the Spread: Detroit
-Michigan State Spartans vs Oakland Golden Grizzlies
- Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (ESPN)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-17)
Few teams are hotter than Michigan State right now and the Spartans will take that momentum into an in-state matchup with Oakland. The Grizzlies have found a star in former Illinois transfer, Kendrick Nunn, but he may miss Saturday’s game. If Michigan State can keep Oakland off the free throw line, this should be an easy win.
- Pick Against the Spread: Michigan State
-Appalachian State Mountaineers at Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-15)
After a tumultuous offseason, Ohio State entered this year with underwhelming expectations. However, the team has gotten off to an 8-3 start, with wins over Michigan and Wisconsin. Saturday will give the Buckeyes to keep the momentum going with an underwhelming Appalachian State team at home. Ohio State’s defense will be tested as the Mountaineers have a few decent shooters, including Justin Forrest.
- Pick Against the Spread: Ohio State
-Northwestern Wildcats at DePaul Blue Demons
- Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-3)
While this game is going to fly under the radar, it’s arguably one of the more intriguing Big Ten matchups of the day. Northwestern is still trying to get back on track after a rough start to the season and will look to do so on the road against a tricky DePaul team. Northwestern is coming off two blowout victories.
The most intriguing matchup will be on the wing, where Eli Cain and Maz Strus will face Aaron Falzon and Vic Law. Neither Cain or Strus are outstanding shooters, but both can get inside and do some damage. Who wins this matchup will likely win the game.
- Pick Against the Spread: Northwestern
-Purdue Boilermakers vs Butler Bulldogs
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue (-7)
After Michigan State, no Big Ten team is hotter than Purdue right now. The Boilermakers have won six straight, including four games against top 50 opponents. And Purdue can now put the final mark on its non-conference resume with a win over a solid Butler team on a neutral court.
The key players to watch for Butler are Kamar Baldwin and Kelan Martin. Both dominate the offense, Baldwin is a tough defender, and Martin is an outstanding rebounder upfront. However, the one difference here might be from three-point range, where Butler has struggled all season. Unless Butler gets hot, expect a Purdue win.
- Pick Against the Spread: Purdue
-Seton Hall Pirates at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Seton Hall (-7)
For the second straight season, Rutgers has jumped out to a fast start by racking up wins against underwhelming competition. The Scarlet Knights are 9-3 overall, but have yet to beat a team ranked inside the top 230 teams on KenPom.
However, that could change on Saturday, as Seton Hall comes to town. While we know the Pirates are a better team than the Scarlet Knights, madness happens in college basketball. If Rutgers is going to win, it’s going to need to start from long range. Seton Hall has been a mixed shooting team all season.
- Pick Against the Spread: Seton Hall
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 2-1-0