Last season the Big Ten started playing games every night of the week and this year with the 20-game conference schedule, that will continue. No rest for the dedicated Big Ten fan as it used to be that we got Mondays and Fridays off. As it stands, I’ll be previewing those two nights for you each week.
So here’s 2019’s first Friday Night Preview. If the Big Ten doesn’t win all four of these games, we’re in for a long season, boys and girls.
Game of the Night
- Time/TV: 8:30 EST, CBS Sports Network
- KenPom Spread: Maryland (-14)
Navy is No. 277 in KenPom, so why is this the game of the night? For one, the other games are all terrible, too. But there are actual reasons this game is at least somewhat compelling:
- It’s a road game
- ...against an in-state rival
- ...coached by a former Big Ten coach
That’s right, Navy is coached by former Penn State head man Ed Dechellis. Maryland fans won’t remember Ed since he was before your time, but he had a tendency to roll out pesky Nittany Lions squads that usually had one or two star players (Geary Claxton, Talor Battle) but could never break through to the NCAA Tournament until his eighth season, despite winning the NIT once.
Wait a minute, are we sure that Ed Dechellis and Pat Chambers aren’t the exact same guy?
This is Navy’s second game, and they got thumped in their first by Old Dominion, so Maryland should have ample opportunity to experiment with lineups and figure out their chemistry.
- Pick Against The Spread: Give me Navy. The Terps only besting Delaware by 6 makes me apprehensive.
- Time/TV: 8:00 EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Indiana (-24)
Another overmatched squad comes into Bloomington to play Washington Generals to the Romeo Langford show. The Bobcats are 0-1, and that one loss came by 30 points to a mediocre Utah State squad. Montana State should provide something more of a challenge than Chicago State, which is barely a university at this point, and the Bobcats do bring back a significant number of minutes from last year’s team. The problem is that last year’s team finished at No. 270 in KenPom.
- Pick Against The Spread: I’ll take the Bobcats. It’s hard to beat anybody by 24 points.
- Time/TV: 7:30 EST, BTN Plus
- KenPom Spread: Penn State (-19)
Rumor has it that Penn State bested West Virginia in their secret scrimmage. If that’s true, this might just be the breakthrough season that Nittany Lion fans have been waiting for. Tony Carr is gone, but there’s enough talent returning that the NCAA Tournament has to be the goal this year.
Meanwhile, looking at the KenPom profile of last year’s Ospreys is one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. North Florida’s average possession length on defense was the shortest in the country. Usually that’s a sign of a team that likes to pressure and force turnovers. Not so here. The Ospreys were the fourth-worst team in the nation at forcing turnovers last year. They were also the fourth-worst at sending opponents to the foul line. So the short possessions were because the these guys foul so much and so quickly. Yeesh. This game is going to be ugly.
- Pick Against The Spread: Penn State, if they can hit their free throws.
- Time/TV: 7:00 EST, BTN Plus
- KenPom Spread: Rutgers (-10)
This matchup pits the Knights from New Jersey against the other Knights from New Jersey. That’s probably going to be the most entertaining thing about it.
Rutgers’ season comes down to one question—do they have anybody on the roster that can shoot? Last year they actually rolled out a top-30 defense, but the offense stagnated because as brilliant as Corey Sanders was, shooting 22% from three and 44% from two is not a recipe for efficiency. At this point, I don’t care about anything else in this game. Steve Pikiell is a good enough coach that the defense and rebounding and passing will get there eventually. The Scarlet Knights could have 30 turnovers but shoot 45% from behind the arc, and I’d chalk that up as a win. Turnovers are correctable throughout the season; lack of shooting is not.
- Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers. If you can’t beat a mid-level NEC squad on your home floor by more than 10, just cancel the season now.
Andrew Michael H’s Season Record Picking Against KenPom’s Spread: 0-0