Over the last week, the Big Ten title race has taken firm shape with Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue leading the charge. That battle should be even more dramatic over the weekend with several marquee matchups.
As such, let’s take a look at Saturday’s action.
Game of the Day
-Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-10)
If you had asked Spartan and Wolverine fans about this game a week ago, many would have likely laughed about Michigan’s chances to come out on top. Michigan State sat atop the polls and had a 14-game winning streak. Michigan looked like a good team, but not capable of going on the road and beating a team as talented as the Spartans.
But things change quickly in college basketball.
And how did things change? Well, Michigan State proceeded to go on the road on Sunday and get blown out by a good, but likely not great Ohio State team, Michigan lost at home to a great Purdue team on a controversial call, and Michigan State barely survived Rutgers at home on Wednesday.
The Spartans are still favored, but this game feels much bigger.
For Michigan, this is an opportunity to go on the road and score a marquee win that would propel the team into the postseason. Moreover, Michigan could grab another win over its in-state rival in the only (scheduled) clash between these two this season. A win would, obviously, really change expectations for this Wolverine squad.
On the other side, Michigan State needs this win. Not only to put the struggles of the last week in the rear-view mirror, but to stay on schedule. The goal for the Spartans this season is to make the Final Four and win a national championship. Teams that accomplish those goals rarely lose at home and, especially, to rivals. Michigan State would surely survive with a loss, but it would be a big blow to the team’s resume.
The matchups to watch are going to be at the one and four spots. To start, the battle in the backcourt should be a good one. Cassius Winston will face off against a pesky Zavier Simpson at the point, which could have massive implications on who comes out on top on Saturday. Winston is the better player, but Simpson can be disruptive. If he can get a turnover-prone Winston into trouble, Michigan could have a chance.
Additionally, the battle at the four spot should be an interesting one. Michigan will rotate numerous defenders on Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, but who does Duncan Robinson end up guarding? Moreover, when Isaiah Livers enters the game, can he hold his own against Michigan State’s pro athletes? That will likely be the game.
- Pick Against the Spread: Michigan State
-Purdue Boilermakers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue (-8)
Earlier this season, this game looked like it could very well be a battle between Big Ten title contenders. However, with the recent suspension to Reggie Lynch and the injury to Amir Coffey, Minnesota has been relying. While this still figures to be a competitive matchup, much of the game’s sizzle has disappeared.
For Purdue, this is a huge opportunity to build positive momentum going forward. According to KenPom, this is Purdue’s second-most difficult remaining game (at MSU is the most difficult). Thus, scoring a win over the Gophers after Tuesday’s win against Michigan would be substantial for hte team’s Big Ten title odds.
On the other side, Minnesota is looking to get back on track after a disastorous last few weeks. Putting the ethical and legal issues aside, Minnesota has lost two games in a row, including a home loss to a bad Indiana team. Time is running out to save the season and Saturday offers a huge opportunity.
The matchup to watch will be upfront. How will Minnesota try to stop Isaac Haas without Reggie Lynch in the lineup? The Gophers will have to find a way if the team is going to have a chance to win. Bakary Konate needs to play well.
- Pick Against the Spread: Purdue
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 9-17-1