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1/11 Big Ten Preview: Ohio State looks to avoid a slip up against Maryland

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NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten’s have’s and have-not’s are on display Thursday night, with both games looking to be oddly competitive.

Ohio State will look to make more people into believers with a home win over Maryland, while, barring some sort of power outage or weather phenomenon, either Illinois or Iowa will finally break through with its first conference win.

Big Ten Game of the Day

-Maryland Terrapins at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-4.5)

If you’re like me, you took the Buckeyes being ranked this week as a forgone conclusion. All they managed to do was absolutely throttled the then-No.1 ranked team in the nation, as Keita Bates-Diop murdered the spirit of Spartans fans across the country.

Yet to many’s dismay, both the AP and Coaches polls were released with the Buckeyes conspicuously absent, keeping Ohio State unranked and undervalued for another week.

Pencilled in to finish as one of the Big Ten’s worst, Ohio State’s win over Michigan State left the Buckeyes as one of only two undefeated teams in conference play, a distinction it shares with the Purdue Boilermakers.

And as Mark Titus of Club Trillion and One Shining Pod fame points out, Ohio State’s best win is better than Purdue’s pinnacle while the Boilermakers worst loss dwarfs that of the Buckeyes.

So clearly Ohio State is the best team in the conference, I say with not nearly as much sarcasm as you’d expect.

What’s been so impressive about Chris Holtmann’s team is that they don’t just rely on Bates-Diop to do all of the heavy lifting. Sure, he’s been otherworldly but the Buckeyes are getting consistent play up and down the roster with players like C.J. Jackson, Jae’Sean Tate, and Kaleb Wesson contributing key minutes.

This balanced attack is a big reason why Ohio State is ranked 40th and 31st in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, despite having a top 40 ranked strength of schedule.

On the flip side, with Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter leading the way for Maryland, not to mention freshmen and future NBA lottery selection Bruno Fernando starting to roll, it’s fair to believe that the Terrapins pose another blue blood barometer test for Ohio State.

But while the Terps have that aforementioned emerging three-headed attack, injuries have left them without the horses necessary to run with the big dawgs. Maryland has the look of a team more than capable of beating up on those its suppose to, but struggling when faced with a real challenge.

So if Ohio State wants to turn more heads and convince the remaining skeptics that they should be taken seriously, now is not a time for a hiccup or setback.

I believe in Chris Holtmann. I believe in Keita Bates-Diop. And I believe that Ohio State will cover the spread.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State

The Rest

-Iowa Hawkeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-4)

Speaking of teams Maryland is capable of beating up on, Iowa comes into this game on the heels of a 91-73 loss at College Park that pushed the Hawkeyes conference record to 0-5.

Despite remaining winless in Big Ten play, Iowa has been able to score the basketball with some regularity. Tyler Cook, Isaiah Moss, Jordan Bohannon, and Luka Garza all average double-digit point outputs, so putting the rock in the peach bucket isn’t the problem.

But stopping the other team sure is, as the Hawkeyes can attribute its winless start to its conference slate to some glaring defensive deficiencies, checking in 148th nationally.

For everything that Iowa is or isn’t, Illinois is the opposite.

However doing things the opposite way hasn’t produced any better results for the Illini.

Pairing a defense that ranks in the top 50 nationally with an offensive that’s sub-150 has lead to a woeful 0-4 start to Big Ten play.

Only two players score in double figures for Illinois and that’s including Michael Finke and his 10.6 points per game.

So something has to give here.

Defense might win championships, but one hot hand can turn the tide in a single game. And Iowa has more potential hot hands to roll the dice with.

The Hawkeyes climb out of the basement while push Illinois down the stairs.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 17-11-1