Big Ten basketball returns after a day off yesterday for a three-game Valentine’s Day slate. If you happen to be locked into dinner plans tonight, no need to worry—the earlier game on the slate sports nearly a 20 point spread.
Rutgers travels to No. 17 Purdue, Ohio State heads to East Lansing to take on Michigan State and Penn State travels to Nebraska for a matchup with the Cornhuskers.
Let’s take a closer look at the games.
Big Ten Game of the Day
-Ohio State at Michigan State
Time/TV: 9PM ET -- ESPN
Covers.com Spread: Michigan State (-8)
While the spread does look a little heavy, it is important to remember the significance of this game for the Spartans. Tom Izzo’s team is on the fringe of the NCAA tournament, which only means one thing: Michigan State (15-10, 7-5) will be ready to go as a loss would be disastrous for its resume.
Michigan State is (somewhat) accustomed to this kind of situation. Two years back the Spartans lost four conference games and slipped all the way to a No. 7 seed in the big dance. The committee has shown its harshness towards the Big Ten at last weekend’s reveal show, so the Spartans should undoubtedly understand the significance of racking up as many wins as possible. While the Spartans would likely get the benefit of the doubt if they’re in line for one of the last spots, they need to avoid any bad losses down the stretch with a weaker Big Ten this year.
Ohio State (15-11, 5-8) will come into this game with nothing to lose. Thad Matta’s club should leave it all on the floor for a chance to play spoiler in one of their most esteemed rivals’ building. For the Buckeyes to pull a marquee upset, they must continue to provide a balanced scoring act.
Ohio State has five players averaging over 10 points a contest and all five starters surpassed that threshold to knock of Michigan State 72-67 on Jan. 15. Matta will be hoping his team can get another win over the Spartans, especially with 2016-17 turning into another disappointing season.
Pick Against the Spread: Michigan State
-Rutgers at Purdue
TV/Time: 7PM ET -- BTN
Covers.com Spread: Purdue (-19)
This one should be quick and painless. Purdue (20-5, 9-3) smells blood after witnessing Maryland and Wisconsin begin to trend downwards and the team will be sure to take care of Rutgers tonight.
Purdue are winners of five of their last six games and need to use this game against the troubled Rutgers as a stepping stone to accumulate even more momentum heading into the crucial final stretch.
The success of the Rutgers (13-13, 2-11) program on a given night relies heavily on its backcourt duo of Nigel Johnson and Corey Sanders. Both of these guys are true scorers, but one of them will have to deal with Dakota Mathias, who is coming off of an impressive defensive performance against the Hoosiers last week.
Oh, and look for Caleb Swanigan to dominate per usual and add another double-double once again.
Pick Against the Spread: Purdue
-Penn State at Nebraska
TV/Time: 9PM ET — BTN
Covers.com Spread: Nebraska (-4)
This is the dark horse contender for potentially the closest game on tonight’s slate. Penn State (14-12, 6-7) seems to have a knack for playing in thrillers and Nebraska (10-14, 4-8) is certainly no slouch.
The Cornhuskers have left many shaking their heads. Nebraska has shown flashes of potential with narrow defeats to the likes of Wisconsin and upsets over Maryland and Purdue, however the team hasn’t been able to get over the hump and is once again trending towards the bottom of the Big Ten.
The matchup to watch tonight is Tai Webster versus Shep Garner. Both of these guards have the ability to score in bunches and it’s always appeasing to see two guys who can find the bottom of the net go after each other.
Pick Against the Spread: Penn State