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12/21 Big Ten Preview: A few David’s look to knock off Big Ten Goliath’s

Six Mid-Major double-digit underdogs look to pull upsets on Thursday night

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NCAA Basketball: Houston Baptist at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday’s slate of Big Ten games feature some heavy, double-digit favorites looking to roll over Mid-Major also-rans while the once mighty Indiana Hoosiers hope to just stop pooping the bed.

Outside of Indiana-Central’s clash with Tennessee Tech that gives us five matchup’s where David will look to knock off a Big Ten Goliath. But do any of the visiting foes have the right recipe to be the Rocky Balboa to the home teams Apollo Creed? Or Clubber Lang? Or Ivan Drago?

With the conferences continued rocky footing it’s not out of the realm of possibility that someone is left screaming “Yo Adrian, I did it!” by the time Thursday night concludes.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Long Beach State 49ers at No. 2 Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - BTN Plus
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-28)

Of all the underdogs competing Thursday evening, Long Beach State is the one that intrigues me most. The 49ers are battled tested, having already played seven Power 5 teams, picking up wins against Oregon State as well as the programs first-ever victory over in-state rival Stanford along the way.

Long Beach State also has a solid road win over Pepperdine and played Nebraska close, falling to the Cornhuskers by a final of 85-80 earlier this year.

So that’s the good news.

On the flip side, the 49ers have lost four games by at least 29 points including a recent 106-70 defeat to Fresno State. So the 28-point line on this one feels about right.

Since it’s early season loss to Duke, the Spartans have been absolutely rolling and may very well be the best team in college basketball. Miles Bridges has been a man amongst boys, dropping 33 points in Michigan State’s last game against Houston Baptist.

For the 49ers, its offense runs through senior forward Gabe Levin, who averages 15.1 points per game, so there’s the potential of a semi-intriguing matchup between him and Bridges.

That said, Michigan State is in a whole other class than Long Beach State. If the 49ers were matched up against really any other team in the Big Ten, I’d like them to hang around and keep it close.

But not against Tom Izzo. Not at Breslin. No way, no how.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State

The Rest

-Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana (-10.5)

Had IU not laid a giant egg Monday night in its loss to Fort Wayne, this game would have been the easy pick for the Big Ten Game of the Day. But I just couldn’t bring myself to put the enigma that is Indiana basketball in the spotlight.

Archie Miller has himself a big ol’ rebuild on his hands, and how his teams comes out and responds in this game will say a lot about the players that currently make up the Hoosiers roster.

On paper, Tennessee Tech posses an interesting matchup as it brings an 8-4 record into Assembly Hall. But that record is inflated by a weak schedule including two wins over sub-Division I teams.

The Golden Eagles rely on a trio of seniors to do the heavy lifting as forward Curtis Phillips Jr., and guards Aleksa Jugovic and Kajon Mack all average double-digit point outputs per game.

I have a sinking feeling I may end up regretting this pick, but I believe in Archie Miller as a coach. He’s not letting this team drop back-to-back non-conference clunkers.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Indiana

-Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - ESPNU
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-23)

Fairleigh Dickinson brings a five-game losing streak into College Park, having dropped outings against college basketball powerhouses NJIT, Iona, and Saint Peter’s during that span. The Knights have also lost against Penn State and Rutgers by a combined score of 173-111 earlier this year, so they don’t just lose but do so in style.

Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter have been rolling for the Terps, proving to be a dominate one-two punch for Maryland.

With Mark Turgeon’s team coming in ranked 38 in KenPom offensive efficiency and Fairleigh Dickinson checking in at 299 in defensive efficiency, I think this one gets out of hand quickly.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Maryland

-Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - ESPNU
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-31)

The Bulldogs have made losing an art form this year, as they enter this game an improbable 0-11. And while that’s impressive enough, they are currently one of five teams from the SWAC that are currently winless on the season. So things could be much, much worse Big Ten!

Michigan, on the other hand, has yet to lose a game at home and currently has an impressive three-game winning streak which includes victories over UCLA and Texas. Junior guard Charles Matthews have been solid for the Wolverines over that stretch, dropping 20, 12, and 20 points, respectively, in his teams three wins.

Having previously lost by 43 points at Minnesota and 37 points at Alabama, I feel pretty confident laying the 31 points and picking against Alabama A&M in this one.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Michigan

-Oral Roberts Golden Eagles at Minnesota Golden Gophers

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

In the battle of who’s golden mascot shines brighter, the Gophers entertain the Eagles of Oral Roberts.

After two tough road losses at Nebraska and Arkansas, Minnesota rebounded with a much-too-close-for-comfort win over Drake last Monday. Jordan Murphy was dominate in that game, finishing with 24 points and 18 rebounds for his 12th straight double-double on the year.

Oral Roberts comes into Minneapolis-St. Paul fresh off an impressive win of its own over former NCAA Tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast. The Golden Eagles score by committee with five players currently averaging double-digit point totals for the season.

In the end, however, I can’t see a way for the Eagles to slow down Jordan Murphy. The Gophers prove to be more golden.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota

-Tennessee State Tigers at No. 16 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 6:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue (-22.5)

Purdue welcomes the Tigers to Mackey Arena where it’ll look to run its win streak to eight games against the visitors from the Ohio Valley Conference.

In a game that set the sport of basketball back a few years, Tennessee State lost a nail bitter at Texas 47-46 its last time out. That scoreline is a microcosm of how the Tigers win basketball games, as they currently check in win a fairly solid 80th ranking in KenPom defensive efficiency and an equally far less impressive 314th in offensive efficiency.

For Purdue, it continues to make a strong case to be considered the second best team in the Big Ten, evident by its 82-67 win over Butler Saturday afternoon.

All five of the Boilermakers starters had at least 12 points in the win over the Bulldogs, including 18 by sophomore guard Carsen Edwards who continues to play well for Purdue.

But I expect one of the Big Ten’s favorites to be tested Thursday evening and I’m thinking Tennessee State is the team to do just that.

Pick Against The Spread: Tennessee State


Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 11-8-1