After a huge week highlighted by the 2018 edition of the Gavitt Games, the Big Ten returns to action on Saturday. Both Michigan and Wisconsin will tip-off as substantial favorites, looking to build on quality road wins earlier this week.
Let’s take a look at the day’s games.
Game of the Day
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: Xavier (-1)
It’s been a frustrating opening to the season for the Illini this year. After entering with such high hopes, Illinois now sits at 1-3 and has lost two games already by just a few points. If you need evidence to show just how frustrating it’s been, just look at the team’s KenPom ratings. Illinois has actually improved on KenPom, despite losing three of four. That speaks volumes about how close these games have been.
And Illinois should be in another tight one on Wednesday against Xavier. The Illini enter as a narrow underdog and will be hoping to score the team’s first notable victory of the season. Trent Frazier will also look to continue his hot play, as he scored double-digits in each of the team’s first two games in Maui.
Xavier is also a team that has struggled recently, losing three in a row. The Musketeers are led by guard Quentin Goodin and Tyrique Jones upfront. The key will be Illinois stopping Xaiver on the boards.
- Pick Against the Spread: Illinois
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa (-25)
There isn’t much to write home about this one. Iowa enters as a substantial favorite and will be looking to walk away with an easy win heading into the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday night. The main question will be how motivated Iowa is in this matchup. Keep an eye on Jacoby Ross for Alabama State.
- Pick Against the Spread: Alabama State
- Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Minnesota (-1)
Through four games, Minnesota is undefeated and has two wins against top 100 opponents. The Gophers will get an opportunity at a third on Wednesday night in a game against the Huskies. KenPom has Minnesota as the narrowest of favorites in what is essentially a pick ‘em game. Expect a competitive matchup.
Washington enters at 4-1 with its only loss come on the road against a really good Auburn squad. Noah Dickerson and Jaylen Nowell lead the Huskies. Nowell is a monster outside the arc and Dickerson is a really good rebounder and can get to the free throw line. How Minnesota does against these two will determine the game.
- Pick Against the Spread: Washington
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (CBSSN)
- KenPom Spread: Penn State (-7)
After beating Wright State on Tuesday night, Penn State will get to face off against Bradley on Wednesday. Although the Braves are outside the top 100 on KenPom, it’s only by the narrowest of margins and the team could be in the NCAA conversation at season’s end.
The key for Penn State will be slowing down Darrell Brown in the backcourt and Elijah Childs upfront. Brown is a good outside shooter and Childs is great at getting to the free throw line. He also cleans up on the defensive boards. Lamar Stevens will need a big game.
- Pick Against the Spread: Bradley
- Time/TV: 2:30PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-9)
This week, Wisconsin will be playing in the Bahamas and the team will open up play on Wednesday against Stanford. The Cardinal are currently 87th on KenPom and are a decent underdog heading into Wednesday’s tilt against the Badgers. However, Stanford does have a pretty good frontcourt with KZ Okpala and Josh Sharma. As such, Ethan Happ will have his work cut out on Wednesday.
What’s particularly important to emphasize about this one is that it will have massive ramifications on Wisconsin’s strength of schedule. That may sound odd, but the Battle 4 Atlantis has a very large bracket. If Wisconsin loses and heads to the “loser’s side,” it will likely end up playing a variety of underwhelming opponents. Winning the first game is crucial in this tournament.
- Pick Against the Spread: Wisconsin
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 3-2-0