Didn’t I just write this preview on Friday? For the second time in four days, we get to watch games involving some combination of Iowa, Rutgers, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. And for the second time in four days, Michigan State and Wisconsin will win. Probably.
Game of the Night
-Iowa Hawkeyes @ Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 6:30 PM EST, FS1
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-9)
As of the time this article is written, Michigan State and Wisconsin are Nos. 9 and 10 on KenPom, respectively. Michigan State has an adjusted efficiency margin of 22.42; Wisconsin’s is 22.41. It’s tough to get much closer than that.
Here’s my point—If Iowa couldn’t beat Wisconsin at home, how are they going to go on the road and beat a just-as-good Michigan State?
Yeah, OK, basketball is more random than you think. Maybe Fran has his team fired up after a tough loss. Maybe the Spartans are looking ahead to their road trip to Florida. It’s not impossible for Iowa to win. The numbers support the hypothesis that they could get to the line a lot more than the Spartans. But I’m not about to come out and predict that Iowa shoots fifteen more free throws than Michigan State. I won’t be shocked if Iowa wins, but I will be mildly surprised.
- Pick Against The Spread: All that said, nine points seems like too much. Iowa is not a bad team, and Michigan State isn’t going to force Iowa to play a much slower tempo like the Badgers did. Spartans win but don’t cover.
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-14)
Seriously, this is the worst possible recombination of these four teams. If the winners had played and the losers had played, that would have been a fun little four-team mini-tournament. Instead, the two teams that both already lost at home now get to go out on the road. Real suspenseful.
The reason to watch this game isn’t because there’s any doubt that Wisconsin will win—it’s because of the matchup down low: Ethan Happ vs. Shaq Doorson. Ethan Happ is the craftiest post player in America, but he hasn’t gone up against an elite 7-foot shot-blocker like Doorson yet. I’m curious to see if Doorson can contain Happ.
Neither of the two centers is particularly foul-prone, which is good because neither one of them can hit a free throw. Seriously, I think both Happ and Doorson and the viewers at home would be happier if instead of free throws, the person who got fouled instead gets a chance to go one-on-one against his opposite number on the low block. Make it happen, Commissioner Delany.
- Pick Against The Spread: Again, I think KenPom overstates the degree to which we should expect the home team to win. This game feels like a low-scoring grinder, where a 6-point lead will feel like a fourteen point lead. I’ll take Rutgers and the points.
-Jingle All The Way vs. The Santa Clause 2
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM EST, AMC
- KenPom Spread: Santa Clause 2 (-11)
The computers love Santa Clause 2. It did a bigger box office than Jingle, and its Rotten Tomatoes score of 55% is far better than the 16% that Arnold Schwartzeneggar and Sinbad put on the board. SC2 even wins the star power category, no doubt helped by the fact that Tim Allen has another Toy Story coming out soon.
But this is a case where the computers have it wrong. Santa Clause 2 is a classic crappy Hollywood sequel. There’s a forced romance plot. The villain is a toy Santa that comes to life and turns evil. Instead of the relatively grounded original, here instead we get appearances by the Tooth Fairy, Cupid, and the Easter Bunny. The movie’s tone is more inconsistent than Fran McCaffery. It’s just a mess.
Jingle All The Way, meanwhile, is the best guilty pleasure Christmas film out there. The premise is good—in fact it’s the same premise as the original Santa Clause—an overworked dad doesn’t spend enough time with his son and has to learn what really matters. Arnold gets to show off his comedy chops, and this film gave us memes before memes were ever a thing—I recommend that you watch and take a drink every time you hear “Turbo Man” in an Austrian accent, or any time someone mentions how much everybody hates Booster.
Seriously, Booster sucks. But everything else about Jingle All The Way is fantastic.
- Pick Against The Spread: Arnold, Sinbad, and Jake Lloyd, straight up. Eat your heart out, Bernard the Elf.
Season Record Picking Against KenPom’s Spread: 13-16-1