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11/12 Big Ten Preview: First Real Test For The Gophers

Plus three bodybag games

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska Omaha at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten is back in action on Monday night and fans get to enjoy at least one interesting matchup on paper with Minnesota hosting Utah at home.

Let’s take a look at each of the games.

Game of the Night

-Utah Utes at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota (-6)

After thumping Nebraska Omaha in a tune-up game on Tuesday, the Gophers will welcome some legitimate competition to The Barn Monday in the form of Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah squad. Utah hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, but neither have they been awful. They’re known for their efficiency from 2-point range, which is likely to be a category that the Gophers look pretty good in themselves in Jordan Murphy’s senior season.

This is not a make-or-break game for Minnesota, but it should be a good benchmark to let us know what we can expect out of the Gophers this year.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Gophers. Utah doesn’t have anyone as good as Murphy and Amir Coffey.

The Rest

-Jacksonville State Gamecocks at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 7:00 EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State (-16)

The undercard for Monday is Penn State against Jacksonville State. (That’s Jacksonville, Alabama, by the way. Not Florida.) The Gamecocks are coached by Ray Harper, who won two D-II national titles at Kentucky Wesleyan (and went to six title games in a row.) Harper is one of the more controversial figures in the college game, having left both Wesleyan and Western Kentucky under less-than-ideal circumstances. That said, he lead the Gamecocks to their first Big Dance two years ago. The man can coach.

But he’s not going to coach this team to a victory over Penn State on Monday. KenPom has Jacksonville State at a respectable-for-the-OVC No. 189, but they were at No. 162 before getting blasted by 20 points at Samford. You don’t want to extrapolate too much from one game, but it’s entirely possible the Gamecocks are going to be much worse than expected this season.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Nittany Lions. Penn State is a lot better than Samford.

-American Eagles at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:00 EST, BTN Plus
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern (-14)

The Eagles just went on the road and beat George Mason in overtime, so this might be a halfway decent test for Chris Collins’ squad. The Eagles return every major contributor from last year. So were they any good last year? Um, no. They went 6-24 to finish No. 328 in KenPom. They were bad at pretty much everything except forcing turnovers. They forced 15 at George Mason. They will need to force more than that to take down the Cats.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Wildcats. That new arena smell hasn’t worn off yet.

-North Carolina A&T Aggies at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:00 EST, ESPNU
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-28)

Why is this game even on the schedule, much less on ESPNU? I don’t want to say that the Big Ten should mandate that teams can’t schedule MEAC and SWAC teams anymore, but is the money you save by playing a cheap opponent really worth the hit to the strength of schedule and to the patience of your season ticket-holders? Seriously, it’s one thing if you schedule a terrible team with some kind of local connection or because they’re coached by a former assistant or something. But in this case it’s like waking up to see that your roommate hooked up with a thot who is a 3.5 at best. Just because she’s cheap and available doesn’t mean you have to bring her back to our place, Mike! Yeah, you got the easy W, but it’s in Quadrant Four.

  • Pick Against the Spread: I don’t know, man. How do you pick a game like this? 28 points is a shellacking, but that’s what it’s probably going to be. I guess I’ve taken the Big Ten team in all the other three games, so give me the Terps in this one. I’m nothing if not a giant Big Ten homer.


Season Record Picking Against KenPom’s Spread: 2-2