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Week Nine: BTP Game of the Week: Maryland at Michigan State

BTP looks at this week’s biggest games.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

With no undefeated teams left in college basketball, pundits have been quick to latch onto the tired “no elite teams” mantra that gets trotted out every year Kentucky underperforms and Duke doesn’t play defense.

While it’s true this isn’t 2015, when those aforementioned blue bloods along with “Peak Wisconsin” actually were elite, I’ll contend that Villanova, Purdue, Michigan State and Duke are “elite” by any reasonable person’s definition of the term. KenPom’s current top four are all (reasonably, @MattPainter) well-coached and have made a habit of hitting their stride later in the season.

The implications of this categorization for the Big Ten are largely positive. A two-way title race between nationally relevant teams, an epic showdown in East Lansing on February 10th and a weirdly-timed tournament that will draw tons of media attention. Maybe there’s another capable challenger in the Heartland, but after two months my money is on the Spartans and Boilermakers taking it to the wire.

Game of the Week:

- Maryland Terrapins at Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State immediately gets to prove they’re worthy of their #1 ranking with two key games this week. The first is a home matchup with Maryland, which received a crushing blow in losing both Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender for the year. There’s still plenty on talent on the roster, but the injuries, combined with an atrocious December SOS, make Maryland a pretty tough read. Anthony Cowan looked incredible in his last meaningful game on December 3rd at Illinois, but has been turnover-prone, both in that game and since.

The Spartans, for their part, haven’t been challenged since December 16th, when they held off a solid Oakland team late. Prior to that, we last saw Michigan State in a challenging game dismantling then-#5 Notre Dame. The Spartans have been hanging a silly amount of points on lesser foes, but I’d expect their defense to turn over Cowan and stifle a suddenly-thin Maryland offense.

Honorable Mention:

- Michigan State Spartans at Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State started the Big Ten season 2-0, remember, and after Thursday this could be a matchup of two 3-0 teams. Expect Michigan State to win, of course, but this is one of their only road trips in a home-heavy January, so there exists some rare upset potential here.

- Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Wolverines

Purdue draws Nebraska and Rutgers prior to this game, so a 4-0 start is the expectation. Michigan gets Iowa and Illinois, meaning anywhere from 1-3 to 3-1 is very possible. After their run in the Big Ten Tournament last year, it’s surprising that Michigan remains so much of a dark horse in the Big Ten this year. Exit this game with exactly two league losses and the Wolverines will be in great shape to surprise.

Worst Game of the Week:

- Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Purdue Boilermakers

Apologies to Rutgers in their first appearance of the season in this space. You don’t have to look too hard to see progress in Piscataway. A win over Seton Hall was huge, and hanging with Michigan State was also impressive. I suppose Rutgers is still at a place in their rebuild where they can say, “Hey, at least we only lost to Hartford and Stony Brook by two.”

Season Stats:

Game of the Week Appearances by Team:

  • Iowa – 1
  • Maryland – 1
  • Michigan – 2
  • Michigan State – 3
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Purdue – 2
  • Wisconsin – 1

Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances by Team:

  • Illinois – 1
  • Indiana – 2
  • Iowa – 1
  • Maryland – 2
  • Michigan – 1
  • Michigan State – 1
  • Minnesota – 4
  • Nebraska – 1
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Ohio State – 2
  • Penn State – 2
  • Purdue – 1
  • Wisconsin – 3

Total Appearances by Team:

  • Illinois – 1
  • Indiana – 2
  • Iowa – 2
  • Maryland – 3
  • Michigan – 3
  • Michigan State – 4
  • Minnesota – 4
  • Nebraska – 1
  • Northwestern – 2
  • Ohio State – 2
  • Penn State – 2
  • Purdue – 3
  • Wisconsin – 4

Worst Game Appearances by Team:

  • Illinois – 1
  • Iowa – 1
  • Michigan – 1
  • Michigan State – 1
  • Nebraska – 1
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Ohio State – 1
  • Purdue – 1
  • Rutgers – 1
  • Wisconsin – 1