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12/30 Big Ten Preview: Minnesota Tangles With Harvard

BTP previews Saturday for the Big Ten.

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

While Saturday doesn’t figure to be a loaded day for Big Ten basketball, it does feature a few intriguing matchups. Additionally, it also marks the close of non-conference play for much of the league.

As such, let’s take a look at Saturday’s action.

Game of the Day

-Harvard Crimson at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota (-15)

While this game may not get Gopher fans all that hyped heading into Saturday, it does project to be the best game of the day on paper. Minnesota is still very much in the NCAA Tournament discussion and is looking to add another win to its resume against Harvard at home.

On the other side, Harvard is looking to bounce back after a rough start. The Crimson are 5-7 overall and have lost four of six. However, Harvard has a few top 150 wins and put up a fight against Kentucky on the road earlier this year.

The two players to watch for Harvard are Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns. The two were part of a talented 2017 recruiting class for Harvard and have dominated the team’s offense so far this season. However, Aiken has been struggling with an injury as of late and his status remains unknown. Whether he plays or not will have huge implications on what happens on Saturday.

For Minnesota, this is the team’s last chance to boost its resume before entering the heart of Big Ten play. It will also be one of its last opportunities to tinker with its bench. The bench is still likely Minnesota’s biggest weakness, so continuing to develop there will be a key point going forward. Expect a competitive game if Aiken plays.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Minnesota

The Rest:

-Brown Bears at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-17)

After a rough trip to Oklahoma, Northwestern will look to turn the page and finish non-conference play with a win over Saturday. And, with a weak Brown team coming into town, that figures to be the result. Brown is 6-5 overall and 235th on KenPom. As such, don’t expect a close one.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Northwestern

-Miami (OH) Red Hawks at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-19)

After traveling to New Orleans to face off against North Carolina, the team will return home to face off against Miami (OH). However, there shouldn’t be much intrigue in this game. The Hawks aren’t all that good and enter the matchup ranked 280th on KenPom. Ohio State will be hoping to cruise to an easy victory.

Perhaps the only thing worth noting is that this is one of the first times that Ohio State has played an in-state mid-major foe in recent memory. Thad Matta tried to avoid scheduling these opponents. Expect that to change going forward.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Ohio State

-Coppin State Eagles at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State (-30)

After losing to Rider at home a little over a week ago, Penn State will look to turn the page and get back on track. On paper, Penn State should win this game pretty easily. Coppin State is terrible and is 0-14 on the season. Be alarmed if this is competitive.

Pick Against the Spread: Coppin State

-Grand Canyon Antelopes at Illinois Fighting Illni

  • Time/TV: 4:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-5)

After the matchup between Harvard and Minnesota, this projects as the second-best game on Saturday for the league. Illinois is coming off a big win over Missouri last weekend and will now play host to pretty solid Grand Canyon team.

It’s important to stress that Grand Canyon is not a pushover. The Antelopes are 10-4 overall and ranked 115th on KenPom. That’s better than Rutgers. Simply put, this is going to be a challenge for Illinois.

The tricky part about Grand Canyon is that it isn’t a team led by a single player. The team is well balanced and gets contributions in multiple spots. Joshua Braun gets the most usage offensive, but he hardly dominates the possessions. However, the key battle will be upfront, where freshman Alessandro Lever battles Illinois.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Illinois

-UMass Lowell River Hawks at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 4:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-16)

There’s no way around it. The first two months of the season have been rough ones for the Badgers. The team enters Saturday’s contest at just 7-7 overall and with three home losses already on the season. Not something common in Madison.

Perhaps the lone saving grace to Wisconsin’s season, however, is the fact that Wisconsin has yet to lose to a bad team. The Badgers will hope to keep that intact on Saturday against a bad UMass Lowell team. The Hawks are 6-6 overall and rated 286th on KenPom. Keep an eye on Jahad Thomas, who is dynamic on the boards.

  • Pick Against the Spread: UMass Lowell

-Jacksonville Dolphins at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-27)

This projects to be the worst game of the day on paper, as Michigan plays host to one of the worst teams in college basketball. Jacksonville enters the game at 5-10 overall and ranked 337th on KenPom. Michigan will hope to cruise to victory and get its bench into action. Expect a one-sided affair.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Michigan

-Lipscomb Bisons at Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue (-20)

After a fantastic start to the season, Purdue will look to put the final touches on its non-conference resume on Saturday at home against a tricky Lipscomb team. The Bisons are rated 124th on KenPom and enter the game at 9-4 overall. The team also has a tricky defense that could make Purdue’s offense have to work.

Lipscomb’s key player to watch is Garrison Matthews. He is lights out from three is one of the more efficient players in the Atlantic Sun. Purdue’s wing group will have its hands full trying to contain Matthews.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Lipscomb

***

Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 7-9-0