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1/7 Big Ten Preview: Michigan State-Ohio State highlight Sunday slate

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A battle to remain undefeated and in first place will take place in Columbus today.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, we get a great slate of Big Ten games on Sunday. There’s only two games, but both could be exciting, close matchups.

The game of the day features a matchup between two of the league’s final three unbeaten teams: No. 1 Michigan State and Ohio State. The Spartans will travel to Columbus in what could be the nation’s top ranked team’s hardest game since November. This nationally televised matchup could also be the coming out party for first year head coach Chris Holtmann’s Buckeyes.

The nightcap pits a pair of teams still trying to figure some things out. One looks like a NCAA Tournament team while the other has yet to win a game in league play. But don’t be surprised if this one is also a close matchup.

Conference play is always fun around these parts, so with that let’s take a look at both of these matchups.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-No. 1 Michigan State Spartans at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 4:30PM ET/CBS
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-7)

Michigan State has been rolling as of late but the Spartans will get a real test in a nationally televised road game at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have also been very impressive lately, creating a fun matchup early in Big Ten play.

The Spartans enter this matchup on a 14-game winning streak with each of their last five wins coming by 30 or more points. Michigan State has been a complete and dominant team as of late, led by sophomores Miles Bridges and Nick Ward. The two are both averaging more than 19 points per game across the last five, which includes a 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds performance by Bridges in Thursday night’s 30-point victory against Maryland.

Ohio State has also been pretty darn good across the last month. Since the beginning of December, Ohio State is 7-1 with its lone loss coming in a neutral court game against then-No. 5 North Carolina. Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop has been incredible during this eight game stretch. He has scored at least 17 points in each game, and is averaging 21.1 points and eight rebounds. He has quickly emerged as a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year.

With both teams playing solid ball right now, this game will come down to a few key areas — who wins the turnovers battle and does Ohio State have enough depth to hang with the Spartans. Both teams commit more than 13 turnovers per game so giveaways will play a role in this matchup. Michigan State’s ability to rotate so many effective players into its lineup makes them very hard to beat, but Ohio State also has a deep bench. The Buckeyes have nine guys who are seeing more than 10 minutes per game right now, so being able to match the Spartans in this area is a plus for Ohio State.

I believe this game will be close throughout, and the Buckeyes could very well be leading late in the second half. However, Michigan State’s top players are simply better than Ohio State’s right now and they’ll make enough plays to earn the hardfought road victory. With some made free throws at the end of the game, the Spartans will narrowly cover this spread.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Michigan State

The Rest:

-Iowa Hawkeyes at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET/FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-9.5)

Both of these teams enter this game off a loss, and both of them could really use a win in this matchup — especially Iowa.

The Hawkeyes enter this matchup still searching for their first Big Ten win after dropping back-to-back home games this week. The issue for Iowa right now is too many turnovers and not enough stops on the defensive end. Iowa has a league-high 60 turnovers in the first four Big Ten games — that comes out to 15 turnovers per game. On the other end, teams are shooting 46.6 percent from the field against the Hawkeyes — that is the fifth worst in the league. Those two stats combined create a bad concoction.

Maryland on the other end is sitting 2-2 so far in conference play, and if they are going to make the NCAA Tournament they’ll need to win games like this. The loss of Justin Jackson means the Terps will need more out of its other scorers, such as sophomore guards Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan. The two are combining for 36.5 points per game in Maryland’s first four conference matchups. If they continue this hot start then the Terrapins will be just fine moving forward.

Maryland is banged up but Iowa is reeling. Neither team looked good earlier this week so this could truly be a toss up game. I believe Maryland will end up winning this game, but it won’t be a blowout so I’ll take Iowa. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Hawkeyes finally limit the turnovers and pull off the upset.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa

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Record against the spread this season: 17-11-1