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2/19 Big Ten Preview: Maryland and Wisconsin Battle to Keep Pace in the Big Ten Race

Plus a game in Minneapolis that has NCAA tournament implications.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Northwestern
Melo Trimble and the Terrapins look to defend home court against the Badgers today
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After four games yesterday, Big Ten hoops is back with two games that are important in the Big Ten conference race and NCAA tournament aspirations.

Check out a preview Sunday’s games below.

Game of the Night:

-No. 23 Maryland Terrapins at No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET — CBS
  • Spread: Wisconsin (-6.5)

Will Bronson Koenig play? That is the key question heading into this showdown in College Park.

According to Andy Katz, the Badgers point guard practiced Saturday and is “day-to-day” before today’s game.

The game couldn’t be bigger for both teams. The Badgers and Terrapins are currently a half game out of first place after Purdue took care of Michigan State in West Lafayette yesterday. The loser of today’s game will sit one game back in the loss column with two adversaries above them. The winner keeps pace with the Boilermakers with only four games left in the conference season.

The Badgers played without Koenig on Thursday in Ann Arbor and couldn’t get by. The Wolverines used 21 points from sophomore Mortiz Wagner and 18 from Zak Irvin to upset the Badgers 64-58.

Maryland is coming off a nice road win in Evanston against the upstart Wildcats. Melo Trimble played one of the best games of his career with 32 points on 12-17 shooting.

Whether or not Koenig plays today, Wisconsin needs to get more production out of Nigel Hayes. The senior forward scored just 7 points on 3-7 shooting in 33 minutes in the loss to Michigan. Ethan Happ needs a scoring partner and Hayes is the best candidate to do that.

Where will this game go today? Wisconsin could pull out a gutsy victory on the road, but I think the Terrapins come out on top. The Terps will struggle against Happ, but have many ways on offense to beat the Badgers. Expect a close game with Melo Trimble confidently closing it out in the game’s final minutes.

Wisconsin is surprisingly favored by 6.5. They haven’t covered in four straight games. Take the Terps with or without Koenig playing today.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Maryland

The Rest:

-Michigan Wolverines at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET — BTN
  • Spread: Minnesota (-1.5)

The nightcap on Sunday is a good one from The Barn.

According to Bracket Matrix, both teams are safely in the field. Joe Lunardi has Michigan on the “Last Four Byes” line, so today’s opportunity against the RPI-friendly Golden Gophers is an important one.

To come out with a road victory, Michigan will need to contend with an imposing Minnesota front line. Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy has three consecutive double-doubles while fellow forward Reggie Lynch is probably the Big Ten’s best rim protector.

Expect the undersized Wolverines to counter by trying to pull the bigs out away from the basket with outside shooting and floor spacing. Michigan’s bigs can shoot. It is critical that Michigan shoots well from deep today. It will open things up everywhere else.

A player to watch for the Wolverines is senior Derrick Walton Jr. He had a mixed game against Wisconsin on Thursday, but is averaging 20 points per game over his last six games. If Michigan is shooting well, expect some things to open up for him to get to the basket.

Overall, I think Minnesota wins this one. A combination of a disruptive front court, good defense, rebounding and timely three-pointer’s will be too much for the Wolverines. Take the Gophers.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota