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12/21 Big Ten Preview: Eleven Games On Tap

Check out what’s coming from a loaded Big Ten slate.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten lets loose on Saturday with eleven games throughout the day. So, if you’re already tired of the holiday festivities there’s plenty of opportunities to check out your and various other Big Ten games. Let’s start with the marquee matchup.

Game of the Day:

-No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 4:15 EST / CBS
  • KenPom spread: Ohio State -5

The Las Vegas showdown over top-10 teams could come down to the three-point line. It is a statistical category that, on paper, gives the Buckeyes an advantage. Ohio State has the fourth most efficient defensive percentage in the country and teams are only shooting 29.2 percent from three-point range. Kentucky is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, ranking 347th out of 352 in three-point shooting percentage (27.5 percent). The Wildcats were just 2-11 from three-point range in their home loss to Utah earlier in the week.

I think Ohio State runs away with this one in the second half. Take the Buckeyes to cover.

  • Pick against the spread: Ohio State

The Rest:

-Presbyterian Blue Hose at No. 14 Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: Noon (EST) / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Michigan -29

There’s not much to analyze in this one. Presbyterian is one of the worst D-1 teams in college basketball, and they are going into Ann Arbor to play a ticked-off Michigan team after two losses. The only question in this game is: “will Michigan cover?” I think they will, but that won’t clear itself up until the middle of the second half.

  • Pick against the spread: Michigan

-Indiana Hoosiers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Time/TV: Noon (EST) / ESPN
  • KenPom spread: Indiana -4

The opening tip from the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis finds the Hoosiers taking on in-state rival Notre Dame. The last time we saw Indiana they were fending off Nebraska from Assembly Hall. The Irish enter the game at 8-3 with losses to North Carolina, Boston College, and Maryland.

There are a lot of unknowns about these teams. Normally, this is the type of game I would stay away from a gambling perspective, especially given that it is a neutral-site game.

I think the Hoosiers take this one in a close win behind a mostly friendly Indiana crowd. Notre Dame takes a ton of three’s (46 percent of their shots), but only shoot 34 percent from distance. If Archie’s pack line defense is humming, Indiana could win this one going away. Here’s predicting that Notre Dame will keep it close, but Indiana pulls away to win by 5-7 points. Careful gambling this one though, a lot of unknowns.

  • Pick against the spread: Indiana

-Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Missouri Tigers

  • Time/TV: 1 PM (EST) / SEC Network
  • KenPom spread: Illinois -1

Many of the same things mentioned in the Indiana/Notre Dame game apply as well. This is another rivalry game at a neutral-site (St. Louis) with two teams that we still don’t know a ton about yet. KenPom predicts an Illini win by the slimmest of margins.

This game could come down to which squad can force its version of havoc on the other. Both are teams that commit turnovers on over 20 percent of their possessions and force 17+ turnovers on their opponents.

This is another game that I would be hesitant to lay money on. I think Illinois is a more talented squad, but if they start coughing up the ball, Missouri will be right there.

  • Pick against the spread: Illinois

-Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 17 Butler Bulldogs

  • Time/TV: 2:30 PM (EST) / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Purdue -1

The Boilermakers and Bulldogs face off from Indianapolis in the second game of the Crossroads Classic.

Butler has been somewhat of a surprise this season. Picked to finish 8th in the Big East, the Bulldogs have five top-100 KenPom wins and stand at no. 10 overall in KenPom’s rankings. The initial NET rankings had LaVall Jordan’s crew fourth overall.

Purdue’s been up-and-down this season, but have generally played teams close due to its good defense. Junior Matt Haarms will likely miss this game with a concussion which hurts some of that attack but still expect a close rock fight. I think the Bulldogs will prevail.

  • Pick against the spread: Butler

-Milwaukee Panthers at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 5:00 PM (EST) / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Wisconsin -17

This is a battle of two teams that are struggling mightily. Wisconsin has lost 4 out of 5 games and Milwaukee their last 5 of 6.

The Panthers are one of the worst offensively efficient teams in the country, ranking 285th out of 353 D1 teams. Wisconsin still hasn’t lost at home this season. The Badgers could hold the Panthers under 50 today. I think the Badgers and win and cover.

  • Pick against the spread: Wisconsin

-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • Time/TV: 5:30 PM (EST) / ESPN 2
  • KenPom spread: Oklahoma State -5

The Golden Gophers and Cowboys tip-off from Tulsa this evening with Minnesota trying to continue its momentum after upsetting Ohio State at home last weekend.

It won’t be easy as the Oklahoma State possesses one of the more underrated defenses in the country. They are currently no. 15 in KenPom and are no. 16 in three-point percentage defense. They get opponents to turn it over 22 percent of their possessions.

With both teams possessing average to below-average offensive numbers, this likely will be a low-scoring, possession-by-possession game. Minnesota needs to knock down some three’s and hit their free throws (63.8 percent as a team) to continue their winning ways. I don’t think it’s going to be enough. I’m taking the Cowboys to win and cover.

  • Pick against the spread: Oklahoma State

-North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 6:00 PM (EST) / none
  • KenPom spread: Nebraska -10

Nebraska is hoping to build off its big win against Purdue last week by welcoming the struggling Fighting Hawks. North Dakota has a common opponent in Minnesota, a team they lost to by 24 earlier in the year.

This is an important opportunity for Nebraska and Fred Hoiberg. The Cornhuskers can build on their win last Sunday and pick up another one in a game they should control. With previous losses to UC Riverside, Southern Utah, and George Mason, expect anything this season.

I think Nebraska wins and covers tonight. They seem to be more in-sync recently and playing with a higher level of energy. Questions of consistency are still out there, but here is a nice opportunity to put together another win. Getting Jervey Green back will help as well.

  • Pick against the spread: Nebraska

-Eastern Michigan Eagles at No. 15 Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM (EST) / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Michigan State -21

The Spartans start a five-game homestand against the in-state Eastern Michigan Eagles tonight. The Eagles come into the Breslin Center with a 9-1 overall record, but their schedule has been Charmin-soft. Three of their opponents aren’t on the D1 level.

Despite the disappointing news that Joshua Langford will miss the entire season, Michigan State should roll in this one. The Eagles are not a good rebounding team and players like Xavier Tillman should feast on the boards.

  • Pick against the spread: Michigan State

-Northwestern Wildcats at DePaul Blue Demons

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM (EST) / CBSSN
  • KenPom spread: DePaul -7

The intra-city showdown between the Wildcats and Blue Demons tips off tonight from DePaul’s Wintrust Arena. Northwestern played Michigan State tough on Wednesday night behind a breakout performance from freshman Boo Buie. An interesting matchup tonight is Buie and DePaul point guard Charlie Moore. The former Kansas and California guard is averaging 15.8 points per game.

The Blue Demons are also a very good field goal percentage defensive team. They are top-50 in the country in effective field goal percentage defense, three-point percentage defense, and two-point field goal defense. They are 12th best in the country at forcing turnovers. If they can get Northwestern to take bad shots, it will be a long night for the Wildcats.

I think this will be a close one for most of the night with DePaul pulling away late. I’ll take the Blue Demons to win and cover.

  • Pick against the spread: DePaul

-Cincinnati Bearcats vs Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM (EST) / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Iowa -3

This might be the most underrated game of the day. Two hot teams from a neutral location (United Center in Chicago), trying to earn a Quad I win.

The Hawkeyes enter the game playing some of its best basketball of the season. They’ve won 3 of 4 and are humming offensively. Cincinnati earned a nice, double-digit home win against Tennessee on Wednesday. Another top-30 KenPom win against the Hawkeyes could right their ship after a shaky two-game stretch against Xavier and Colgate.

This isn’t Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati Bearcats. They want to play with pace, are better offensively, and a little worse defensively. Jarron Cumberland is still around and a solid player, but hasn’t quite been as effective this season.

I think Iowa takes this one. The Hawkeyes are playing pretty well right now and should be able to get some offensive opportunities against a Bearcat team that won’t grind you down as much as they used to. Take Iowa to win and cover.

  • Pick against the spread: Iowa