The Big Ten has a full day of action on Saturday with four games in the afternoon. Three of the four have NCAA Tournament implications and a matchup between Ohio State and Nebraska looks like it could determine the direction of both teams going forward. Fans will learn a lot this afternoon.
Let’s take a look at today’s Big Ten action.
Game of the Day:
- Time/TV: 12:00PM (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-8)
How quickly things can change in college basketball. On the morning of January 2nd, these teams were a combined 23-3 on the season. Ohio State had gone on the road and beaten two top 50 teams and Nebraska had wins over Clemson, Creighton, Seton Hall, and Oklahoma State. Both teams appeared to be in good shape for great seeds in March.
But three and a half weeks later, things are markedly different. Ohio State is in an absolute free fall after losing five straight and the Huskers are 2-4 over the last six games. Both teams have faced tougher competition in recent weeks, but each has shown some serious signs of regression during this stretch.
This makes Saturday’s game particularly intriguing. Ohio State desperately wants to end its skid and Nebraska wants to add a valuable win to show that it belongs among the Big Ten’s better teams. It’s still January, but this feels like a game that’s going to have a huge impact for both sides on Selection Sunday.
The battle in the backcourt is going to be really interesting in this one. CJ Jackson and the Buckeye freshmen haven’t been great lately and they will have the task of trying to slow down James Palmer and Glynn Watson. Ohio State will have to hold up there to have a hope of coming out of Lincoln with a win.
- Pick Against the Spread: Nebraska
-Illinois Fighting Illini vs No. 13 Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 12:00PM (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Maryland (-10)
After reeling off seven straight wins, Terp fans were hoping that Maryland could get in the Big Ten title picture. But after losing on the road to Michigan State on Monday night, it’s hard to imagine Maryland being in serious contention for the Big Ten’s regular season title. However, there’s still plenty for the Terps to play for moving forward.
And that will start on Saturday with a very winnable game in New York against Illinois. By any measure, this is a game that Maryland should win. However, Illinois has shown a tendency to play close to quality teams over the last two years. It could be closer than expected.
- Pick Against the Spread: Maryland
- Time/TV: 2:15PM (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-10)
Eight days ago, it would have been tough to hype this game as much more than a clash between lower half Big Ten teams. However, Wisconsin then upset Michigan at home on Saturday and Northwestern knocked off Indiana. Both teams now have momentum and are feeling much better about their postseason projections.
This leaves us with an interesting picture heading into Saturday’s clash. Northwestern needs to keep building momentum to get back in the NCAA picture and Wisconsin is hoping it can get back in play for a top seed in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Losing a game to the Wildcats at home certainly won’t help that cause for Wisconsin.
The matchup to watch will be upfront. Both teams rely extensively on their big men offensively. Can Dererk Pardon slow down Ethan Happ? We’ll find out.
- Pick Against the Spread: Northwestern
- Time/TV: 4:30PM (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Penn State (-6)
Talk about two teams desperate for a win. Rutgers enters this game with a 2-6 record in Big Ten play and Penn State still remains winless in league games this season. This is also likely the most winnable game for both sides until March. Maybe not an exciting thing to say for fans of these teams, but something that’s accurate.
Penn State is the better team on paper, but Rutgers has a fierce defense. If the Scarlet Knights can get a hot game from Geo Baker, watch out.
- Pick Against the Spread: Penn State
Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 46-38-3