Big Ten basketball followed the script Saturday with no real upsets amongst the four games. Sunday offers an intriguing double feature of games. Both match ups have NCAA tournament and Big Ten conference implications.
Let’s take a look at a preview of the day’s games. Betting odds are courtesy of vegasinsider.com
Big Ten Game of the Day:
-Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers
- Time/TV: 1:00 PM EST – CBS
- Spread: Indiana (-3)
The second meeting between these two schools comes at a critical time for each in their hopes to make the NCAA tournament.
According to BracketMatrix, a site that collects 90+ brackets from various sites around the internet, Indiana (15-10, 5-7) is only on 56 of those brackets at an average of around an 11 seed. Michigan (15-9, 5-6) is not in their bracket projection and part of the “First Four Out.”
From a momentum standpoint, Michigan has the advantage.
The Wolverines are 3-2 over their last five games and blew out the Hoosiers by 30 points in their first meeting in Ann Arbor. Michigan is coming off of a destruction of Michigan State on Tuesday.
However, playing at Indiana is a different animal.
The Hoosiers need this home game badly today. They have lost 4 out of their last 5 games and are in a position of now trying to play their way back into the tournament.
Injuries continue to be a major storyline for Hoosiers. Freshman De’Ron Davis was hurt with a facial injury in the second half of the Purdue game. His status is unknown heading into today’s game. The Hoosiers did welcome James Blackmon Jr. back against Purdue. He struggled, scoring 11 points on 3-14 shooting. Indiana will need him to be better today.
Indiana has to shore up defensively if it wants to win today. They looked better in the loss against Purdue, but in the previous meeting with Michigan, the Hoosiers shot over 50% and lost by 30.
A matchup to watch here is at the point guard position. Michigan’s Derrick Walton Jr. has been excellent over his last four games averaging 22.5 points per game. Indiana’s Josh Newkirk will be the man trying to stop him. Newkirk was pedestrian against Purdue with 8 points on 3-9 shooting, but broke out in the two previous games against Wisconsin and Penn State with multiple 20 point games.
Given all of it, I think Michigan comes out on top today. Indiana took a hard loss on Thursday to its in-state rival and had the look of a broken team. Michigan, while still inconsistent at times, looked excellent Tuesday and a win today has them ready for a Thursday showdown at home against Wisconsin.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan (+3)
-Northwestern Wildcats at No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 6:30 PM EST – BTN
- Covers Spread: Wisconsin (-10.5)
Why is this line so high? A trend with Vegas this season is to overestimate the Badgers’ lines and underestimate the Northwestern Wildcats (18-6, 7-4). According to Vegasinsider, the Badgers (21-3, 10-1) are 10-10 against the spread this season. Northwestern is 14-6, including a 6-2 mark on the road.
On the court, both teams enter today’s game not playing its best basketball.
Northwestern got the bandwagon packed up and ready after a six game winning streak in January, but has now dropped two straight. A connection in this two game losing streak is that it has occurred without the services of leading scorer Scottie Lindsey. The junior guard has battled mono and his status is unclear heading into today’s game.
With Wisconsin, you get the sense that the Big Ten’s top team has been playing with fire as of late. The Badgers have won eight in a row, but over their last four have shot less than 40%.
The Badgers should have ample motivation to play well today as they were left off the top 16 seeds in yesterday’s bracket reveal. This comes despite a number 7 ranking on the AP poll.
Expect this one to be close today. If Lindsey is out again, I don’t see a path for a Northwestern victory. A match up to watch is at the center position. Sophomore center Dererk Pardon is a talented rim defender and averages 2.4 blocks a game, but the crafty moves of Ethan Happ will be difficult to defend.
I think Wisconsin will take the victory today, but Northwestern will cover the spread.
- Pick Against The Spread: Northwestern (+10.5)