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1/29 Big Ten Preview: Michigan against Ohio State headlines a trio of interesting games

While an undercard featuring Northwestern-Maryland and Wisconsin-Nebraska is nothing to sleep on

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Three games. Plenty of storylines. A ton of intrigue. And a Big Ten that can’t stop beating up on itself.

Just another Tuesday night in college basketball’s best conference.

Game of the Day:

-Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET - ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-10)

Jim Harbaugh. Tom Brady. Charles Woodson. Eddie George. Woody Hayes. Cris Carter.

What’s that? Wrong sport? Crap. Well it’s still fun when Michigan and Ohio State get together, even if it’s on the hardwood.

After suffering its first loss of the season, Michigan barely survived an upset bid by Minnesota in Ann Arbor last week before handedly besting Indiana on the road Friday night.

Ignas Brazdeikis rebounded from two subpar games to score 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting against the Hoosiers, while the trio of Jon Teske, Charles Matthews, and Zavier Simpson all contributed double-digit scoring figures as well.

That balanced scoring from arguably its four best players is a welcome development for coach Beilein, as if there’s anything close to a weakness for this Michigan squad it’s its offensive efficiency, which KenPom ranks 26th in the country (I know, I know – that’s not a bad figure, but sometimes you need to spin a little when looking for a negative about a nearly perfect team).

Ohio State, on the other hand, finally broke its five game losing streak with a 70-60 win at Nebraska Saturday afternoon. Freshman guard Luther Muhammad had by far his best game as a Buckeye, scoring 24 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including going 3-for-4 from three, as he led Ohio State back into the win column.

Muhammad’s emergence as a scoring threat is an important development for a Buckeye team that’s struggled to find consistent buckets from someone whose last name is not Wesson or Jackson.

With Tuesday’s game taking place at the Crisler Center, a place Michigan has failed to beat its opponent by double-digits only twice this year (the aforementioned game against Minnesota, as well as a Dec. 15 tilt against Western Michigan), Ohio State will need to play close to 40 perfect minutes of basketball to escape Ann Arbor with a marquee road win.

So can the Buckeyes do just that?

Probs not.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Michigan

The Rest:

-Northwestern Wildcats at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET - FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-8.5)

Man, things were going so well for the Terps before it ran into Michigan State and a suddenly spunky Fighting Illini team.

In back-to-back losses to the Spartans and Illinois, Maryland has lost all the momentum gained from a seven game win streak that included victories against Indiana and Ohio State (albeit those are results that suddenly look a lot less impressive).

Junior guard and leading scorer Anthony Cowan Jr. struggled mightily against Michigan State, managing only seven points on 3-of-12 shooting, while every player not named Cowan, Fernando, or Smith struggled against the Illini with the rest of the Terps only contributing 19 points.

For Northwestern, it continues to tread water in the Big Ten, as the Wildcats haven’t put together a streak – winning or losing, of more than two games since it picked up three consecutive wins over La Salle, Utah, and Georgia Tech in late November.

A big reason for Northwestern’s inconsistent play is its struggles to develop an offense. The wildcats are currently ranked 116th by KenPom in terms of offensive efficiency, a figure that’s only above Illinois, Penn State, and Rutgers among teams in the conference.

Despite its recent struggles, Maryland is playing at home and is pretty clearly the more talented team. With that in mind, I’m rather confidently picking the Terrapins in this one.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Maryland

-Wisconsin Badgers at Nebraska Cornhuskers

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

You really got to feel for Isaac Copeland.

The senior forward was helping push Nebraska to the cusp of an NCAA Tournament bid before a knee injury suffered in Saturday’s game against Ohio State ended his Cornhuskers career and put a big cloud over his team’s postseason hopes.

Adding insult to his injury, Nebraska has now dropped three conference games in a row and finds itself sitting at 3-6 in the Big Ten with upcoming games against Wisconsin, Maryland, and Purdue looming.

If Nebraska has eyes on ending its skid and gaining some momentum with a win over Wisconsin Tuesday night, it’ll more than likely be done on the back of senior guard James Palmer. Carrying the Cornhuskers is nothing new for the talented guard though, who’s quietly leading Nebraska in scoring for the second straight season.

For Wisconsin, it’s used the springboard of defeating the previously undefeated Wolverines to three straight conference wins and a top 25 ranking.

Ethan Happ continues to operate like a robot designed to dominate the low post and score double-doubles, while guards D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison have provided Happ with backcourt support to the tune of a combined 24.9 points per game and 44.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

With the Badgers clicking on all cylinders and the Cornhuskers staring a potential free fall straight in the face, it just makes sense to roll with Wisconsin.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Wisconsin

***

Season Record vs KenPom’s Spread: 11-14