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2/7 Big Ten Preview: The Battle for Michigan

Who will win the battle of Michigan and can Maryland get back on track?

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten basketball is back tonight with a three game slate that features an inner state battle between Michigan and Michigan State. On the other hand, Maryland looks to get back into the win column against a sneaky Penn State team and Northwestern seeks a victory at home against Illinois.

Let’s take a closer look at the games.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Michigan State at Michigan

  • Time/TV: 9PM ET — ESPN
  • Spread: Michigan (-4)

Michigan State (14-9, 6-4) is set to board the bus for a quick road trip for a showdown in the Great Lakes state with Michigan State (14-9, 4-6). The two teams played on Jan. 29 in East Lansing, and the Spartans defended their home court in the rivalry match with a 70-62 victory.

In that contest, Miles Bridges was pivotal for Michigan State. The freshman posted a double-double 15 points and 13 rebounds and played all but four minutes. In that contest, Bridges went 7-for-17 from the field. The second most attempted field goals on the team? Nick Ward with six. It was clear that the game plan was to feed Bridges, and it likely will be more of the same in tonight’s rematch.

Michigan will need to find an answer for Bridges. The 6-foot-7 wing player is a tough draw for defenders due to his ability to handle the ball and shoot like a small forward as well as score in the paint.

Michigan must also clean up its rebounding. In the Wolverines’ defeat to Ohio State on Saturday, the team allowed a cringe worthy 16 offensive rebounds—nearly 50 percent of Buckeyes’ missed attempts. If the Wolverines allow over 10 offensive rebounds to the Spartans tonight, it will likely spell trouble for John Beilein’s team.

Pick against the spread: Michigan State

The Rest

-Maryland at Penn State

  • Time/TV: 6PM ET — BTN
  • Spread: Penn State (+3)

Coming off its first loss since New Years Day, the Terrapins look to regroup in College Park in a date with Penn State. Maryland (20-3, 8-2) suffered a tough 73-72 loss at home against Purdue Saturday afternoon and relinquished sole possession atop the conference to Wisconsin.

Penn State (12-12, 4-7) is up there with the most unpredictable teams in the Big Ten. One night, they will show up and fight modestly against teams like Minnesota and Indiana and the next they will lose to Rutgers on their home floor.

Maryland is the best road team in the conference, posting an unblemished 8-0 record away from the XFINITY Center. The Nittany Lions don’t exactly provide a hostile environment either, so the road trip should not phase Maryland in the slightest.

As always, PSU’s success offensively will rely on its young guys’ ability to score the rock and connect from distance. Juniors Shep Garner and Payton Banks are tied for the Big Ten lead in made three-pointers with 63. Penn State could also use another productive game from its prized freshman Tony Carr, who leads the team in scoring in conference games with 13.3 points a contest.

Pick against the spread: Maryland

-Illinois at Northwestern

  • Time/TV: 8PM ET -- BTN
  • Spread: Northwestern (-5.5)

Oh, Northwestern. The Wildcats took a six game winning streak and a freshly awarded No. 25 ranking into West Lafayette in what could have served as a statement game against Purdue.

Purdue cruised with a 21 point victory.

Dropping back out of the polls, Northwestern (18-5, 7-3) looks to re-calibrate in what should be the ideal matchup to get back on course. Illinois (13-11, 3-8) are losers of six of its last seven games. To be fair, the Fighting Illini have hung around in the majority of those contests, as only two of those defeats were of the double-digit variety.

Northwestern leading scorer Scottie Lindsey is expected to return tonight from a flu that kept him sidelined against Purdue. That alone should be enough to hoist the Wildcats to victory at home and get back in the win column.

Pick against the spread: Northwestern