This Saturday in the Big Ten has a tough act to follow, seeing as the weeknight games were outstanding.
During the course of the week, the Big Ten had two exciting overtime games, plus an upset in Evanston and a in-state rivalry game in Indiana.
With the conference schedule coming into the home stretch, virtually every game has postseason implications. With that said, Saturday’s games are chalk full of teams on the bubble and teams looking to fortify their tournament resumes.
You can preview all four Saturday games below, with the betting odds coming courtesy of Covers.com.
Big Ten Game of the Day:
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET - BTN
- Covers Spread: Michigan State (-6)
Although, this classic Big Ten showdown doesn’t have the same gravitas that it did last year, it does have all the makings of a classic.
Both programs are still alive in the NCAA Tournament discussion, with the Hawkeyes needing a lot more work than the Spartans. With that said, Iowa has won three of their last four conference games and have a 6-6 Big Ten record. Also helping their tournament resume is their three wins over KenPom Top-30 teams (Iowa State, Purdue, and Michigan).
As for Michigan State, they’re currently holding a No. 8 seed in Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology. They have seven Big Ten games remaining, plus the Big Ten Tournament. If they want to stay in the chase, they’ll need to start by beating Iowa. After all, their last game was a blowout loss to Michigan, so their margin for error is shrinking.
When these two teams meet on Saturday night, you can expect Sparty to play with some extra juice. When teams are embarrassed on national television, they tend to come out firing and you can expect the same from Tom Izzo’s team.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET — ESPNU
- Covers Spread: Minnesota (-4.5)
The Gophers recently ended their five-game skid with back-to-back wins over Illinois and Iowa. Even though neither team is ranked in the Top-50, the games were certainly must-wins for Minnesota, as they’re NCAA Tournament hopes were slipping away.
Joe Lunardi currently has Minnesota as a No. 10 seed and moving forward, I think they have the potential to move up. They have one of the best starting fives in the Big Ten and can score a ton of points.
The Gophers offense looks to be a very bad matchup for Rutgers, even with the Scarlet Knights excellent defense. Rutgers D is very good in the paint, but Minnesota has a lot of shooters and players who can create for themselves.
Look out for the Corey Sanders/Nate Mason matchup, Steve Pikiell always puts Sanders on the opposing teams best player and that will definitely be Mason. If Mason can get Sanders in foul trouble again, the Scarlet Knights will have no one to score on offense.
- Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota
- Time/TV: 2:00PM ET — BTN
- Covers Spread: Illinois (-5)
Saturday’s game will be the second meeting of the season between Illinois and Penn State. On January 28th, the Nittany Lions escaped with a 71-67 win in Happy Valley.
For Illinois, this game is extremely important for a few different reasons. First, they’re technically still alive in the NCAA Tournament race, but that hinges on them basically winning out. However, if anyone can do it, it would be Illinois, the most unpredictable team in the Big Ten. Secondly, the program needs wins in order to try and save head coach John Groce’s job. Many believe if the Fighting Illini miss the tournament again, he will be ousted after the season.
As for Penn State, they’re coming off their biggest win of the season, a 70-64 upset of Big Ten juggernaut Maryland. The future is bright for Penn State, as they have one of the best freshmen classes in the conference.
Even though Illinois is like a ‘box of chocolates’, I believe they can build off of their 68-61 upset over Northwestern. After all, that was a HUGE road victory and a game that earned them bragging rights in-state. Look out for a double-digit win at home for Illinois, as Penn State suffers a let down at the raucous State Farm Center.
- Pick Against The Spread: Illinois
- Time/TV: 4:00PM ET — ESPN
- Covers Spread: Maryland (-7.5)
Just as the Buckeyes were gaining some steam, they were dealt difficult news. In Thad Matta’s Friday press conference, he announced that Jaquan Lyle and Keita Bates-Diop would not travel with the team on Saturday due to emergency family situations.
Although, Bates-Diop is already out for the season with an injury, Jaquan Lyle had just returned to the lineup last game versus Rutgers. The loss of Lyle makes the Buckeyes bench shorter than usual heading into this tough Big Ten showdown.
As for Maryland, they are coming off their worst loss of the season at Penn State. However, they’re still ahead of schedule with such a young team and fans are surely happy with their 20-4 record.
Ohio State would have had a tough time with Maryland at full strength, now with the recent news, a win seems even more out of reach. They are getting 7.5 points, but even that may not be enough to cover the spread. Look for the ‘Terps to bounce back, as I’m rolling with all chalk this Saturday for the first time.
Pick Against The Spread: Maryland
Casey’s Record vs The Spread: 33-21-1