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2/15 Big Ten Preview: Maryland and Northwestern square off in a huge Wednesday matchup

Wednesday’s Big Ten slate features a pair of important games.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday’s triple header featured some exciting action and Wednesday night offers a pair of meaningful games for all four teams involved.

Let’s take a look at Wednesday night’s matchups. Betting odds are courtesy of Vegas Insider.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-No. 23 Maryland at Northwestern

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM — BTN
  • Spread: Northwestern (-2)

Who at the beginning of this season would have thought Maryland at Northwestern would play such a big role in the Big Ten regular season championship? Probably not many, but that certainly will be the case on Wednesday night in Evanston.

Both Maryland (21-4, 9-3) and Northwestern (19-6, 8-4) appear to have their NCAA Tournament tickets punched as long as the wheels don’t completely fall off during the stretch. And both as of right now have the ever so important double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. But both could still gain a lot with a win tonight.

The Wildcats would tie the Terrapins in the Big Ten standings with a win and also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Terrapins come out on top, then they would hold a two-game advantage over the Wildcats and remain only one game back of Wisconsin for first place in the league. It should also be noted this is the only matchup between Northwestern and Maryland this season.

Northwestern enters tonight’s matchup after knocking off the Badgers on Sunday up in Madison. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Wildcats, and proved they could win a tough game despite not being at full-strength — leading scorer Scottie Lindsey missed his third straight game on Sunday.

Maryland also rebounded from a two-game losing streak last time out with a home victory over Ohio State on Saturday.

With so much on the line and both teams entering the game with some momentum it is going to come down to who can protect the ball better. In Maryland’s four losses this season they averaged 13 turnovers per game. Pair that with Northwestern’s ability to hold on to the ball — fourth in the league in turnover margin and a +6 turnover margin on Sunday at Wisconsin — and this could be a key area to watch.

Another big question mark is the health of Lindsey, and whether he’ll play. He is currently suffering from mononucleosis and reports suggest he will miss tonight’s game. That’s a big blow to the Wildcats if it is in fact true.

Without a key piece like Lindsey, I like Maryland’s chances in this one. Despite winning in Madison without Lindsey, Northwestern has struggled to put the ball in the hoop in his absence, averaging only 62 points — down 11.5 points from season average — and shooting only 37.9 percent — down 5.4 percent from season average. The Terrapins’ high-powered offense will be hard to hang with as they pick up a big road win.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Maryland

The Rest:

-Indiana at Minnesota

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM EST — BTN
  • Spread: Minnesota (-6)

While the first game on Wednesday’s slate has Big Ten title implications, the second game simply is about a couple of teams trying to make the big dance.

Both Minnesota (18-7, 6-6) and Indiana (15-11, 5-8) are fighting it out for a NCAA Tournament bid, and one team is trending in the right direction while the other is falling quickly. The Golden Gophers enter Wednesday evening riding a three-game winning streak, while the Hoosiers have lost three straight and five of its last six.

Injuries have played a huge role in the downfall of the Hoosiers, but a lack of production from their guards has plagued them lately. Following Sunday’s home loss to Michigan, Head coach Tom Crean called out junior guards James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, who combined for only 11 points, for having “no ability right now to see past themselves when it comes to what it takes for us to be successful as a team.”

Publicly calling out your team can either spark the squad or simply backfire and blow up in your face. Wednesday night will be an indicator of which result we’ll see down the stretch for the Hoosiers.

On the opposite side of the court is possibly the streakiest of teams in the entire league, who happens to be in the midst of another hot streak. Junior guard Nate Mason has been money during the Golden Gophers’ three-game winning streak, averaging 18 points per game during that stretch. Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy has been equally dominant with a double-double in each of the last two games — 17 points and 11 rebounds at Rutgers, and 25 points and 19 rebounds vs. Iowa.

The combination of Indiana’s recent struggles and Minnesota’s great inside-outside play makes this an easy call to take the Golden Gophers at home. Plus, it’s never easy winning at the Barn.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota