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12/18 Big Ten Preview: Inching closer to competitive basketball

T-minus 15 days till we’re out of the dredges of December and conference play kicks in

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

I opined last week that neither of the two games on the Big Ten agenda were worthy of being referred to as “Game of the Day” but man, they look like Final Four matchups compared to what we’re being feed tonight.

That said, I was told that “we’ve got to have a game of the day” and “it doesn’t make sense to just dive right into The Rest” so with that directive in mind, I present to you the finest action the Big Ten has to offer on this cold and dark Tuesday evening.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-Western Carolina Catamounts at No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa (-24.5)

The Catamounts and Hawkeyes “earn” the Game of the Day moniker thanks to KenPom considering Western Carolina a half-point more likely to shock the world Midwest and spring the upset over a ranked Big Ten team.

Currently sitting at seventh in the Southern Conference with a record of 3-7, Western Carolina hasn’t exactly set the world on fire to start 2018-’19. Its three wins have come against the Hiwassee College Tigers, Jacksonville Dolphins, and UNC Ashville Bulldogs — or schools that sound like computer-generated Backyard Baseball opponents.

The Catamounts did take AP Top 25 darling Furman to double-overtime earlier this year, but failed to turn Cinderella’s carriage back into a pumpkin in a 90-88 loss.

Junior forward Carlos Dotson has been Western Carolina’s best player, as he averages 13.3 points and nine rebounds per game, and produced a double-double against Wake Forest, NC State, and the aforementioned No. 24 ranked Furman Paladins.

All of that said, I just used 152 words to preview this game when really two would have done: Pick Iowa.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Iowa

The Rest:

-Youngstown State Penguins at No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-25)

Over in Columbus, the Buckeyes take on a familiar foe in the Youngstown State Penguins — a program that, for my money, has one of the best nicknames in all of college athletics.

But much like Western Carolina before it, Youngstown State has had a rough go of it to start the year.

Sitting at 4-8, the Penguins have managed victories over just two division 1 opponents, besting Columbia and Binghamton, along with one school I’ve never heard of (Westminster PA Titans), and one most famous for being the alma mater of ESPN anchor John Buccigross (Heidelberg Student Princes).

Sophomore guard Garrett Covington is the only Youngstown State player averaging more than 10 points per game, but it’s the Penguins defense that looks to be more of a concern as its allowed 98 points or more on four separate occasions this season.

Don’t be surprised if after Tuesday that number gets run up to five such outcomes.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 8-10