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11/20 Big Ten Preview: Forget Maui, take me to St. Louie!

With six games on the docket, Tuesday is shaping up as a fun night of Big Ten basketball

NCAA Basketball: Hall of Fame Classic-Southern California at Texas Tech Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Six games on tap. Two pitting Power 5 teams against each other. It’s a good night of college basketball.

Let’s get into it!

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • Time/TV: 9:30PM ET - ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Texas Tech (-0.5)

Forget the Big Ten — this is a Duke-Aurburn matchup away from being THE Game of the Day.

Both teams enter the tilt at 4-0, while neither has really been tested yet (Nebraska’s best win coming at home to Seton Hall, Texas Tech’s on a neutral court against USC). Moreover, Nebraska-Texas Tech is a strength versus strength matchup between the Cornhuskers high-octane offense and the Raiders sixth ranked KenPom defense.

So something’s got to give.

For Texas Tech, you’d be fair in expecting Chris Beard’s team to take a step back after losing five seniors and first-round NBA Draft pick Zhaire Smith from last season’s Elite Eight squad — But you’d be wrong.

Outside of playing phenomenal defense — a given for any Chris Beard coached Red Raiders team, Texas Tech is getting enough offensive production from the trio of Jarrett Culver, Davide Moretti, and Matt Mooney to keep the Raiders well in the thick of things this year.

Nebraska, however, is still trying to convince the masses it’s for real and win over Texas Tech would go a long way in doing just that.

Always a Nebliever (ugh, that’s terrible), I really like the Cornhuskers in this game. Coach Tim Miles has a trio of standouts of his own in James Palmer, Glynn Watson Jr., and Isaac Copeland. Additionally, the Huskers are actually a much more balanced team than they get credit for — with its defense ranked one spot higher than its offense by KenPom and both its offensive and defensive efficiency rankings placing the Huskers within the top 25.

Evident by the spread, this game is a straight-up tossup. For every reason you could cite to pick Nebraska, there is an equal amount of rationale to pick the Red Raiders. But a pick must be made and I am a Nebliever after all.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Nebraska

The Rest:

-Illinois Fighting Illini vs Iowa State Cyclones

  • Time/TV: 4:30PM ET - ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa State (-6)

A Midwestern showdown taking place on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean? I love the Maui Invitational!

Moved to the losers bracket after disappointing losses to Gonzaga and Arizona, the Illini and Cyclones still have plenty of opportunities for marquee wins thanks to a stacked field at this year’s Invitational (we miss you Chaminade).

Iowa State has a balanced team with five players averaging double-figures, none of whom have been more impressive to start the year than former Virginia Cavalier Marial Shayok. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 19.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, developing into an unexpected straw to stir the Iowa State drink.

The Cyclones will need to rebound emotionally, however, from Monday’s game against Arizona — one that saw Iowa State blow a 10-point second half lead.

Illinois, on the other hand, nearly pulled off a midnight miracle agains the No. 3 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, falling six points shy of giving Illini Nation an exciting iPhone alert to wake up to.

Sophomore Trent Frazier was particularly impressive — putting up 29 points on a 8-for-19 night from the field, while also chipping in five steals, two assists, and a rebound for good measure.

It goes without saying that having Frazier back in the lineup (he missed the Georgetown game) is a huge plus for Brad Underwood. But Iowa State needs wins like this for its NCAA Tournament resume and the Illini are still a year away from legit postseason contention.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa State

-UT Arlington Mavericks at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana (-21.5)

If you want to talk about not using one’s status as a mid-major to accept mediocrity, look no further than UT Arlington. Despite three straight 20-plus win seasons, including one Sun Belt regular season title, athletic director Jim Baker fired head coach Scott Cross following last season, replacing him with first-time headman Chris Ogden.

And while the expectations at UT Arlington look to be NCAA Tournament or bust, Ogden has a complete rebuild on his hands, as the Mavericks lost its top eight (!) leading scorers from last year.

Junior College transfer Brian Warren has taken the mantle of lead guard for the Mavs, leading the team with 18.5 points per game and helping UT Arlington to a 3-1 record to start 2018-’19.

Indiana, on the other hand, is probably hella pissed after Sunday’s one-point loss at Arkansas. On top of that, they still have Romeo Langford and will be playing at Assembly Hall. And that’s really all I need to know.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Indiana

-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Santa Clara Broncos

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota (-13)

Three fun facts about the Santa Clara Broncos:

  1. It’s the alma mater of future NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash. In his two years as a Bronco, Nash led Santa Clara to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a modest upset of Maryland in 1996, before turning pro and putting Canada basketball on the map.
  2. Former NC State and Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek is entering his third year in charge of the Broncos. Accumulating a 28-36 record in two seasons at Santa Clara, that winning percentage is looking like it’ll take some more hits this year, as the Broncos are pegged to finish last in the West Coast Conference and are already off to an 0-3 start.
  3. Three-star freshmen (not to mention Madison, Wis. native) Keshawn Justice has been really good for Santa Clara so far this year, averaging 13.7 points per game despite having not started in any of his teams losses to Prairie View A&M, UC Irvine, or Washington.

Look, Santa Clara isn’t winning this game, so the question becomes can they cover the 13-point spread? This game is taking place in Canada as part of the TCL Vancouver Showcase (hey, maybe Steve Nash will be there!) and the Broncos did cover the 17-point spread in its 82-68 loss to Washington on Sunday.

But 13 is an awfully low number to give KenPom’s 234 ranked team.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Minnesota

-Samford Bulldogs at Ohio State Buckeyes (Nationwide Arena)

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - BTN Plus
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-17)

On first glance, I thought Samford had a real shot in this one.

I mean, the Bulldogs are off to a 5-0 start, are coached by a recognizable name in Scott Padgett, and are getting nearly a double-double from 6-foot-11 South Florida transfer Ruben Guerrero.

But then I dove a little deeper and saw Samford’s five wins have come against North Alabama, Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, Cleveland State, and someone named Miles.

Obviously I can’t pick the Bulldogs in this one, right? Wrong.

After Guerrero, Samford has four other players scoring in double-digits including one-time Penn State commit turned Alabama transfer Brandon Austin.

Plus, the Bulldogs are a veteran team with a good coach who don’t get a ton of upset opportunities against the caliber of an Ohio State.

Me thinks Samford will keep this one too close for comfort for Chris Holtmann.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Samford

-Penn State Nittany Lions vs Wright State Raiders

  • Time/TV: 8:30PM ET - CBSSN
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State (-8.5)

A first round matchup in the Cancun Challenge, this game has a chance to be, as the locals say, sigilosamente bueno (sneaky good).

Wright State is tabbed to win the Horizon and build on a season that saw the Raiders earn an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2006-’07.

Sophomore center Loudon Love is a preseason All-Horizon First Team honoree and is the man head coach Scott Nagy runs his offense through. The 6-foot-9 300 pound big man is off to a great start, averaging 16.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and is a potential matchup nightmare for a Nittany Lion team still without the services of forward Mike Watkins.

Penn State desperately needs a good showing at the Cancun Challenge (read: win the whole thing) after last week’s disappointing loss at DePaul. But with a thin frontcourt and a bad matchup, this could be another long night for the Lions.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Wright State

***

Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 5-5