With four teams separating themselves from the rest of the pack, the Big Ten is hard pressed right now to produce high-level matchups in-conference. That said, both of Thursday’s games have some intriguing storylines that will make for two potentially competitive basketball games.
The Wolverines will look to continue to prove themselves with a tougher-than-you’d-expect game at Nebraska while Minnesota and Maryland look to gain any type of momentum as they hope to claw their way back into postseason contention.
Big Ten Game of the Day
-No. 23 Michigan Wolverines at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - BTN
- KenPom Spread: Michigan (-3.5)
It took until the middle of January but the Big Ten is finally starting to see some separation between the haves and the have nots. Luckily, and a little surprisingly, for John Beilein his Wolverines have found itself amongst the conferences best and very much in the picture for a double-bye when the league heads to Madison Square Garden in late February.
The Martin Luther King Day weekend saw Michigan produce two wins, albeit with two drastically different routes taken to victory in each game. Against in-state rival Michigan State, the Wolverines played a back-and-forth affair, pulling away late to cap off a resume defining road win. Back at home against Maryland, making up a 10-point halftime deficit was necessary to eek out a one point victory over the visiting Terrapins.
Junior forward Moritz Wagner paced the Wolverines in both games, dropping 27 points against the Spartans only to follow that up with a modest, by comparison, 18 points against Maryland. Those strong performances by Wagner were a necessity as junior forward Charles Matthews had back-to-back off nights going a combined 6-for-20 from the field.
For the Cornhuskers, the 2017-’18 Big Ten slate has been an exercise in trying to find any bit of continual momentum. For every game that Nebraska has gone out and won, it’s immediately followed that up with a loss in its next conference outing.
Off the court Tim Miles received some good news as sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga ended his Ross-and-Rachel will-they-won’t-they dance and returned to Nebraska, electing to forgo a possible transfer.
His return to the rotation will be a welcomed addition for a Nebraska team looking to pull off an upset on its home court.
That said, I don’t see a ton of paths for the Cornhuskers to spring that upset tonight. For everything good Nebraska does Michigan manages to do it better. Roll with the Wolverines in Lincoln.
- Pick Against The Spread: Michigan
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET - FS1
- KenPom Spread: Maryland (-7.5)
The similarities between Maryland and Minnesota go far beyond each teams “M” logo this year.
Both of these teams have been losing players left and right, making it tough to get a read on what either’s peak output is right now.
Assuming both schools have enough players to suit up on Thursday, the game will most likely be decided by which individual player has the hot hand and decides to take over.
For the Terrapins, that’s consistently been Anthony Cowan’s job as he’s really established himself as Maryland’s first option on offense. Sure, Maryland’s gotten some solid production from Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando, but as Cowan goes so do the Terps.
Over with the Golden Gophers, Jordan Murphy responded from two ho hum performances against Purdue and Northwestern with a monster game in Minnesota’s victory at Penn State. Playing a season-high 43 minutes, the junior forward finish with 22 points and 19 rebounds.
And he wasn’t the only player to go off against the Nittany Lions as Nate Mason had 25 points of his own while Dupree McBrayer contributed a season-high 24 points.
For the talent level that Minnesota posses the 7.5-point spread seems a little high. However, the wheels are really starting to fall off the bus for Richard Pitino and company. Add in the fact that the Gophers have been away from home for an extended stretch and I like Maryland to win and cover.
- Pick Against The Spread: Maryland
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 19-11-1