Big Ten basketball is back in action after a flurry of narrow games this weekend and a much-needed day off yesterday. A troubled Indiana team travels to Iowa, Northwestern takes on Illinois in an inner-state battle and Penn State hosts No. 14 Purdue.
Let’s take a closer look at the games.
Game of the Night:
-Indiana Hoosiers at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 9PM ET — ESPN
- Covers Spread: Iowa (-1.5)
A disastrous Hoosier season drags on tonight in Iowa City. As it stands, IU would play on the Wednesday of the Big Ten Tournament week...yikes. Tom Crean’s club has been the center of attention after the coach publicly questioned the maturity of his team on a postgame radio show following a loss to Michigan on Feb. 12.
Indiana responded to Crean’s public criticism with its ninth loss of the conference season Wednesday in Minnesota in heartbreaking fashion 75-74. The Hoosiers have now dropped six of their last seven contests.
Iowa enters tonight firmly planted in the thick of the crowded middle of the conference standings. The Hawkeyes are in the midst of a three-game losing skid in which Peter Jok has shot 14-for-39 from the field.
Fortunately, one team’s losing streak will come to an end tonight. For it to be Indiana, Thomas Bryant must be better than the 3-for-14 display he turned in against the Golden Gophers. If Iowa wants to win, it comes down to one person and two words.
- Pick Against the Spread: Indiana
-Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 8PM ET — BTN
- Covers Spread: Illinois (+2.5)
The Northwestern basketball program was in the clouds after fending off then-No.7 Wisconsin at home last week. In its following game, on Wednesday, the Wildcats had yet another opportunity to knock off a nationally ranked conference opponent but lost 74-64 to Maryland.
On the bright side, the team’s leading scorer Scottie Lindsey eased back into game action after missing four games with mononucleosis Sunday—a game in which Northwestern squeaked past Rutgers 69-65 at home. Lindsey scored six points in 24 minutes.
Illinois comes into this contest on the heels of a quality win in Iowa City. Talks of coach John Groce’s job safety have been everywhere, and it was nice that his guys went and got him a win.
This would be a quality victory to add to Illinois’ scarce win column. The Fighting Illini defeated Northwestern earlier in the month 68-61 behind a dazzling 45 percent from the field and eight three-pointers.
To secure a season sweep over its inner-state rival, Illinois will need to maintain that same level of shooting efficiency, which for the most part, has evaded them this season.
Oh, and get Michael Finke some more minutes.
- Pick Against the Spread: Northwestern
-Purdue Boilermakers at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 6PM ET — BTN
- Covers Spread: (PSU +8)
Purdue comes into tonight riding a five game winning streak that includes two victories over then-ranked Northwestern and No. 24 Maryland. Now, Purdue should handle this one without a problem, but the Boilermakers have shown a faint tendency of dropping “trap” games.
For example, Purdue has dropped games to Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska this conference season—all games in which the team was favored.
Penn State quietly has the ability to get hot and raise some eyebrows through the likes of shooters Shep Garner, Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. PSU will need every ounce of each of their best efforts to take down a red-hot Boilermaker team.
- Pick Against the Spread: Penn State