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12/28 Big Ten Preview: Wisconsin Travels To Knoxville

Plus two other games around the Big Ten

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten basketball is back on the hardwood after nearly a week away. The headlining game is a Wisconsin trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee. Purdue and Minnesota are also in action as well. Let’s take a look at what’s on tap for today.

Game of the Day:

-Wisconsin Badgers at Tennessee Volunteers

  • Time/TV: 12:30 PM EST / CBS
  • KenPom spread: Tennessee -5

It has been an up-and-down non-conference season for Wisconsin. The Badgers sit at 6-5 with two non-conference games left. An opportunity exists in Knoxville today to get some momentum going and a top-50 NET road win.

They might be catching Tennessee at the right time too. The Vols are 1-2 over their last three games and recently lost their best player, Lamonte Turner, to season-ending shoulder surgery. Tennessee’s offense now faces major questions. Turner was used in 29 percent of the Vols’ possessions, nearly 10 percent more than any other player.

This is a tough pick. Tennessee might be a completely different team without Turner, but Wisconsin hasn’t proven an ability to win on the road yet this year. I’d stay away from this one as a gambler, but if I needed to pick a team, I’d stick with Tennessee at home.

  • Pick against the spread: Tennessee

The Other Games:

-Central Michigan Chippewas at Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Purdue -20

The Boilermakers are back at Mackey trying to find some offense after a disappointing performance against Butler last Saturday. The Boilermakers were only 10-37 from the two-point range in the game and only put up 21 points in the first half.

The Chippewas are only 256th in defense efficiency and allow teams to shoot 54 percent from the field. If Purdue wanted an opponent to find their rhythm again, Central Michigan is a good option.

An intriguing thing to watch from a defensive perspective for Purdue is Central Michigan’s pace of play. The Chippewas are tenth in the country in adjusted tempo, while Purdue is 344th. If Central Michigan can play their style and force some Purdue turnovers, then this game could get interesting.

Here’s guessing that Purdue will be able to control the game, pound it inside to Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams (Central Michigan doesn’t have a player above 6-foot-8) and come away with an easy victory. Take Purdue and the spread.

  • Pick against the spread: Purdue

-Florida International Panthers at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST / BTN
  • KenPom spread: Minnesota -14

Much of the talk about improved play in the conference has been around Iowa, but Minnesota has seemingly figured out some things with recent double-figure victories over Ohio State and Oklahoma State. Today they conclude non-conference play by welcoming the FIU Panthers.

The Panthers enter with a 9-3 record and have played some Power 6 schools tough. They’ve lost to Mississippi State and NC State by single digits, but also have a bad sub-300 loss neutral-site loss against UNC Wilmington. Like the Chippewas above, they want to push the ball and are one of the best teams statistically defending the arc (23.2 percent).

Still, I think Minnesota runs away with this one. The Golden Gophers were dominant in their win against a good Oklahoma State team last Saturday. The sophomore trio of Daniel Oturu, Marcus Carr, and Gabe Kalscheur have come on strong the past two games and could be becoming one of the Big Ten’s best sophomore groups.

Think Minnesota takes this one going away in the second half.

  • Pick against the spread: Minnesota