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12/15 Big Ten Preview: Crossroads Classic

Preview the Big Ten’s slate for Saturday.

Crossroads Classic Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After a very slow week, the Big Ten is set for a monster Saturday featuring a multitude of marquee matchups. These include major showdowns for Indiana and Purdue and intriguing games for Michigan, Penn State, and Rutgers.

Let’s take a look at today’s Big Ten action.

Game of the Day:

-Indiana Hoosiers vs. Butler Bulldogs

  • Time/TV: 3:45PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana (-1)

The Hoosiers have quietly been putting together one of the Big Ten’s best resumes so far and will look to add another marquee win on Saturday afternoon in the Crossroads Classic. This is the eighth years of the event and Indiana is 4-3 overall. A win here would tie the Hoosiers with Butler for the best record in the event’s history.

On paper, this is a pretty even matchup. KenPom has this as a pick ‘em and the teams are literally right next to each other on KenPom’s ratings. Indiana has a three-game winning streak heading into Saturday, while Butler is looking to build off two wins against inferior competition in its last two outings. Expect a battle.

Kamar Baldwin is the player to watch for Butler. He’s not a great outside shooter, but is efficient inside and will dominate Butler’s possessions. The Hoosiers will need Justin Smith and Juwan Morgan to step up to slow down Baldwin and Butler’s interior attack.

A win here could propel Indiana to new heights. The Hoosiers would be 9-2 with three very manageable matchups next on the slate. After a few down years, that would be quite a scenario. It’s a big day for Archie Miller and his staff.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Indiana

The Rest:

-Bucknell Bison at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-18)

After two challenging Big Ten games, Ohio State returns home for what looks like a pretty manageable game against Bucknell at home. The Bison are 4-3 overall, but are only 181st nationally on KenPom. However, it is worth noting that Bucknell is a pretty good team from outside the arc offensively. If the Bison heat up from deep, this could be a bit closer than fans might like.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Bucknell

-Purdue Boilermakers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Time/TV: 1:30PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue (-5)

Despite its 6-4 overall record, Purdue still hasn’t lost a bad game this year. Every loss has come away from home and against top 40 teams. Add in that three of those losses came in the final minutes and that three came on the road and it’s easy to understand what happened to the Boilermakers.

However, at some point, Purdue is going to need to figure out how to win some of these tough games. The team did beat Maryland, but if it keeps letting so many marquee opportunities slip away, it’s going to end up in a tough spot on Selection Sunday. It would be a shame to see a top 15 KenPom team have to sweat out an NCAA berth.

And that’s what makes Saturday so important. Notre Dame isn’t a great team, but the Irish are a solid group and beating them on a neutral court would be a notable win. Purdue needs to find a way to win here. That way, it can start seriously building its resume heading into the second stretch of Big Ten play.

The matchup to watch will be in the backcourt. How will Prentiss Hubb and TJ Gibbs try and slow down Carsen Edwards? It will tell a lot about the outcome of this game.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Purdue

-East Tennessee State Buccaneers at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-5)

This might not look like an intriguing game at first glance, but these teams are actually remarkably close on KenPom. Illinois will have its work cut out on Saturday against an East Tennessee State team that’s 8-3 on the season. This is a big game for Brad Underwood and his staff. The Illini can’t afford to lose this game.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Illinois

-Western Michigan Broncos at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-23)

The Wolverines will be back in action after beating South Carolina at home last Saturday. Outside of the in-state angle, there isn’t a ton to take away here. Expect Michigan to pull away as the game continues. Look for Brandon Johns to get some time as the team looks to develop its interior depth.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Western Michigan

-Penn State Nittany Lions vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack

  • Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (ESPNU)
  • KenPom Spread: North Carolina State (-2)

It’s pretty tough to give any reasonable analysis on this Penn State team right now. The Nittany Lions are 5-4 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play, but have swung wildly between great and terrible so far this season. After all, getting a ready on a team that beat a top 15 Virginia Tech squad, but lost to Bradley and DePaul isn’t an easy task.

On Saturday, Penn State will get another shot a marquee win against North Carolina State on a neutral court. The Wolfpack at 8-1 with the team’s only loss coming away from home against Wisconsin in the Bahamas. On paper, NC State is a better and certainly more consistent team than Penn State. However, the advanced states peg this as a pretty even game. Expect a tight battle. Can the Nittany Lions close things out? We’ll see.

  • Pick Against the Spread: North Carolina State

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Seton Hall Pirates

  • Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (fs1)
  • KenPom Spread: Seton Hall (-7)

This game features two teams that have been on very different trajectories over the last few weeks. While Rutgers has lost its last three, including a game against Fordham, Seton Hall has won five of six and beat Kentucky on a neutral court last Saturday.

Seton Hall is a better team than Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights are a wild card this season. The team’s defensive is really good, which should keep it in games all year long. This looks like a game that should be close throughout. The question is if Steve Pikiell can find enough around Geo Baker offensively to grab an upset.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Rutgers

-Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Northern Iowa Panthers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa (-11)

Through nine games, things have looked pretty encouraging for the Hawkeyes. The team is 7-2 overall and both its losses came away from home against top 15 teams. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s tough to complain too much about that performance. Saturday doesn’t look like a marquee game on paper, but Iowa is hoping to keep building momentum moving forward. Northern Iowa enters the game at 4-5 overall.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Iowa

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 18-16-0