After a great week of Big Ten action, the schedule for Saturday is chalk full of good matchups.
With numerous bubble teams ready for battle, the NCAA Tournament picture should be much clearer after the weekend games. Four games will be played Saturday, including a showdown at 4:00 P.M ET on ESPN between Michigan State and Purdue.
You can preview all of Saturday’s games below.
Game of the Night:
- Time/TV: 4:00PM ET — ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Purdue (-12)
The day’s most significant game will take place in West Lafayette, where Tom Izzo and his squad will travel to face a Purdue team tied for first in the league standings. The Spartans desperately need a marquee win for the team’s NCAA hopes and Purdue needs to keep pace in the Big Ten title race.
For Michigan State, this is a “no lose” situation. If the team can find a way to go on the road and beat Purdue, it would be a massive win that would undoubtedly put the Spartans on the right side of the bubble. However, if the team loses, it won’t do much damage to the resume considering the venue and quality of opponent. As such, there won’t be much for Michigan State to lose on Saturday.
However, Purdue desperately needs to win this game. Not only is this just one of two remaining home games for the Boilermakers, but with the close race at the top of the Big Ten, losing a game like this would be devastating for Purdue’s title hopes. In short, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Purdue on Saturday.
- Pick Against The Spread: Purdue
- Time/TV: 2:00PM ET — BTN
- Covers Spread: Iowa (-2)
Both of these teams had hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth this year, but will now be fighting for an NIT berth.
Illinois has completely fallen apart since Big Ten play started, including only two wins in their last nine games. After a 10-3 start, they currently sit at 14-12. With the poor record, it’s expected that head coach John Groce will be relieved of his duties following the season.
With that said, I can see the Illini playing their tails off in a last ditch effort to save Groce’s job. After all, they did beat the Hawkeyes in their first meeting and the Illini have the talent to run with anyone.
- Pick Against The Spread: Illinois
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET — BTN
- KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-6)
On paper, there won’t be much intrigue when Nebraska and Ohio State face one another on Saturday. After all, both teams are well outside the Big Ten title race and neither team is likely to make the NCAA Tournament. However, both teams still are looking to finish the regular season strong and Ohio State may still have some fringe at-large hopes, depending on your favorite bracketologist.
The key battle to watch in this game will be upfront, where Nebraska freshman Jordy Tshimanga will face Ohio State’s Trevor Thompson. Both have shown improved play over the last few weeks and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top when the two meet on Saturday.
- Pick Against The Spread: Nebraska
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET — ESPNU
- Covers Spread: Northwestern (-12)
The Scarlet Knights have flown under the radar this year as one of the most improved teams in the conference. After only seven wins in 2015-16, head coach Steve Pikiell has already won 13 games in 2016-17.
Rutgers will head to Evanston Saturday night to play another one of the more improved teams in the Big Ten, Northwestern. The Wildcats are coming off a loss to Maryland, but should officially punch their ticket with a win over Rutgers.
In their first meeting of the year, Rutgers played Northwestern very tough at the RAC. The final score was 69-60, but the Scarlet Knights actually led at halftime and hung in tight the whole way.
Moving forward, I think it’s a really good spot for Rutgers. After all, after playing two top-tier teams back-to-back, I can see the Wildcats having a slight let down. Plus, Rutgers is double-digit underdogs, so all they need to do is keep it close.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern star Scottie Lindsey is expected to be available for the game versus Rutgers.
- Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers
Casey’s Record vs The Spread: 36-22-1