Let’s all be very grateful that we finally get a Big Ten night game on a Saturday. Numerous many times this year, the latest game on Saturday has been 6:00 P.M, so it’s nice to have Northwestern and Indiana at 8:00 P.M this week.
There will be four games total, each with postseason implications. As of now, Joe Lunardi has seven teams projected in the field of 68, with the Hoosiers on the wrong side of the bubble.
You can preview all four games below, with betting odds courtesy of Covers.com.
Game of the Night:
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET — BTN
- Covers Spread: Indiana (-3)
To say that the Hoosiers need a win here would be an understatement. This team has their backs against the wall, with six straight losses and their NCAA Tournament hopes dangling by the tiniest of threads.
Currently, Indiana is one of Joe Lunardi’s ‘Last Four Out’, but even that seems generous.
By my calculations, Northwestern is about 90% guaranteed for a spot in the ‘Big Dance’. The boys from Evanston need one more win to solidify themselves, after dropping four of their last six conference games. Lunardi has them as a No. 9 seed in the East Region, but trending downward.
With that said, both teams need this win. The ‘Cats cannot afford to waste such a good opportunity, especially after revitalizing their city and fanbase. On the other hand, the Hoosiers simply need the win to stay on the committee’s radar.
Luckily, both teams are back to full strength, as Northwestern had Scottie Lindsey return and Indiana has James Blackmon Jr. back to his old self.
In my mind, you’ve got to roll with the home team here, as they are going to be playing in front of a lively home crowd and simply are the more desperate team here.
On a side note, let’s all enjoy this rare occurrence of having a Big Ten night game on a Saturday.
- Pick Against The Spread: Indiana
- Time/TV: 3:00PM ET — BTN
- Covers Spread: Minnesota (-8.5)
The Gophers are now mortal locks for the NCAA Tournament. There’s no other way to put it. Throughout the year, people tried to discount Minnesota’s performance, but with six straight conference wins they have quieted all critics.
Penn State is not headed to the ‘Big Dance’ unless they win the Big Ten Tournament. That seems highly unlikely, so their best bet is to shoot for the NIT. However, with two consecutive losses, their hopes of a postseason are quickly fading.
In the first meeting of the year between Minnesota and Penn State, the Nittany Lions upset the Gophers 52-50 in Happy Valley. With that said, the Gophers are a much different team than they were on January 14th, having grown into one of the most cohesive units in the conference.
However, on Saturday, I can see Minnesota having a let-down game. After all, they know they’re locked in for the ‘Big Dance’ and it’s only Penn State, right? Look for the young Nittany Lions to take advantage of a languid Gopher team and push them to the brink.
Take the 8.5 points and watch out for a potential straight up win for PSU.
- Pick Against The Spread: Penn State
- Time/TV: 4:00PM ET — ESPN2
- Covers Spread: Purdue (-1)
This game could have easily been the ‘Game of the Day’, but with the Northwestern/Indiana game being a rare nightcap, it slightly edged out this showdown.
Like Minnesota, the Boilers are a mortal lock to hear their names on Selection Sunday. On the flip side, the Wolverines cannot collapse down the stretch if they want the same fate.
Michigan has won four of their last five Big Ten games, including a monster win over the
Buzzcuts Badgers. They’re playing their best basketball at the right time and if they can continue that trend, a tourney berth should be on deck. Also, the Wolverines have the firepower to win the Big Ten Tournament, so if they fall short of an at-large bid, they could be in line for the automatic qualifier.
Similar to the ‘Cats and Hoosiers game, the Wolverines are the more desperate program headed into Saturday. They’ve been fighting teams tooth and nail lately, and that won’t change versus Purdue. If they can snag a home win over the Boilermakers, it could solidify their tournament resume.
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET — ESPN2
- Covers Spread: Maryland (-9)
If I was Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey, I’d have my team thinking that they could sneak into the ‘Big Dance’ with three-straight wins to finish the season. Even though it’s not entirely realistic, it would still be a nice way to light a fire under a young Hawkeye team.
Having said that, Iowa has the kind of team that can make a run in a tournament format. Don’t be surprised if they win a few games in the Big Ten Tournament.
In Maryland’s case, they’re pretty much locked into the NCAA Tournament at this point. But, with such a young team, I expect Mark Turgeon to have them going full throttle on Saturday. After all, they’ve lost two games in a row and need to get some momentum going soon.
Lay the big number here, as Melo Trimble and company get back on track with a double-digit win over Iowa.
Casey’s Record vs The Spread: 39-23-1