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12/22 Big Ten Preview: Ohio State Faces UCLA

Preview the Big Ten’s slate for Saturday.

Bucknell v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Big Ten will have a loaded slate on Saturday before going off for a Christmas break. Three Big Ten teams have marquee matchups and plenty more will be in action after some time off. It should be a fun day of action.

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

Game of the Day:

-Ohio State Buckeyes vs. UCLA Bruins

  • Time/TV: 3:00PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-5)

This game has lost a lot of its charm after UCLA’s recent struggles, but it’s still a marquee opportunity for the Buckeyes. Even if the Bruins aren’t what some expected, this is Ohio State’s final chance to pick up a quality win before entering the restart of Big Ten play.

But the major concern for Ohio State will be whether the team shows up in early season form or in its most recent rendition. The Buckeyes have been pretty mediocre as of late and nearly went down to Bucknell a week ago. Even if this is an underwhelming UCLA team, Ohio State will need to play better to come out on top.

The matchup to watch will be in the backcourt. Jaylen Hands has been the key piece for UCLA so far this season and CJ Jackson will have his hands full.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Ohio State

The Rest:

-Grambling State Tigers at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-24)

This is one of several games on Saturday that won’t come with much intrigue. Wisconsin enters this game as a 24-point favorite and should be able to grab an easy win. This should be a nice tune up before the Badgers go on the road to face Western Kentucky.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Grambling State

-Savannah State at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa (-33)

The Hawkeyes enter this game at 9-2 overall and have won three in a row. And while there might be some concern about a letdown, Savannah State is one of the worst teams in the country and ranked 344th on KenPom. Expect an easy win for Iowa.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Iowa

-Columbia Lions at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Rutgers (-13)

Things haven’t been easy for Rutgers over the last few weeks. The Scarlet Knights are 5-5 overall and have lost four in a row. Many thought this might be a breakthrough season for Steve Pikiell, but that hasn’t been the case as of late. Saturday should offer Rutgers an opportunity to get back on track against a beatable opponent.

Columbia enters this game at 234th on KenPom and is 3-7 overall. The key player for the Lions is Mike Smith in the backcourt. If Rutgers can slow him down, this should be the team’s first win in several weeks.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Columbia

-Cal State Fullerton Titans at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 2:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-17)

After two straight games against marquee opponents, Nebraska will return home for what looks like a far easier game on paper against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. This should be a nice opportunity for Tim Miles and his staff to grab another win before Christmas as the team prepares for the restart of Big Ten play.

However, Cal State Fullerton isn’t a pushover. The Titans may be 3-8, but nearly all the losses have come against quality competition and many have gone down to the wire, such as the team’s double overtime loss at Arizona State to open the season. As such, Nebraska will need to show up and take the Titans seriously to get a win. The two players to watch on Cal State Fullerton are Khalil Ahmad and Kyle Allman. Both play on the wing.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Cal State Fullerton

-Air Force Falcons at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 4:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-24)

This is another game that doesn’t look particularly intriguing on paper. Michigan enters as a significant favorite and few are expecting the Falcons to keep things close. The only real question is whether the Wolverines will come out and play a solid game. Michigan remains one of just six undefeated teams nationally and will put its record on the line on Saturday.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Michigan

-Seton Hall Pirates at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 5:30PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-8)

Outside of Ohio State’s game against UCLA, this is undoubtedly the Big Ten’s biggest game of the day. Seton Hall may not be an elite team, but it’s 8-3 overall and Maryland is in desperate need of a quality win. This will be a huge opportunity for the Terps to grab a marquee win before jumping back into Big Ten play.

The two key players for Seton Hall are Myles Powell and Michael Nzei. Powell creates in the backcourt and Nzei is really good at getting to the free throw line. Eric Ayala and Jalen Smith are going to need big days to slow these two down.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Seton Hall

-Jacksonville Dolphins at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana (-24)

Indiana will have its second game against an underwhelming opponent at home this week on Saturday against the Dolphins. Don’t expect much to happen in this one and motivation will be a major concern for the Hoosiers. Head coach Archie Miller will hope to be able to get his bench into action.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Indiana

-Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Missouri Tigers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Missouri (-1)

The final marquee Big Ten game of the day will tip off in the evening as Illinois faces off against Missouri in the annual Bragging Rights showdown. Despite the program’s recent struggles, Illinois has actually beaten Missouri five straight times. That streak will be put on the line on Saturday night.

Missouri’s best player will be a familiar one to Illini fans. Jeremiah Tilmon has really come into his own this season and is averaging 11 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. He’s an absolute monster on the boards and really efficient offensively. Of course, there will be a little extra fire there on Saturday, as Tilmon as committed to Illinois as a high school prospect. It will be a big challenge for Giorgi Bezhanishvili.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Missouri

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Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 28-18-1