It’s been quite a week for the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament already. The league is 7-1 so far and is hoping to build off that on Saturday. Five teams will be in action, which should make for a pretty thrilling slate of games.
Let’s take a look at what’s to come.
Game of the Day:
-No. 2 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 7:45PM ET (CBS)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-10)
All things considered, this was a pretty easy pick for Game of the Day. Not only because it features the league’s highest seeded team, but primarily because it features two Big Ten teams. It’s been quite some time since the league has seen two of its own face off in the NCAA Tournament and it will be happening on Saturday.
Generally speaking, fans know what to expect out of this one. These teams are quite familiar with one another and one has to figure that will show up on Saturday. Michigan State is going to rely on its staunch defense and Cassius Winston and the Gophers are going to hope to hit the boards hard and get a big game from Amir Coffey.
On paper, there’s little debating that Michigan State is the better team here. The Spartans are 4th nationally on KenPom and won the Big Ten regular season title and the Big Ten Tournament. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 44th and was worried about its NCAA seeding heading into Chicago last week. There’s clearly a divide between the two.
But even with that said, Minnesota has shown itself capable of pulling off upsets. And while the regular season matchup wasn’t that close (Michigan State won 79-55), that game happened on February 9th. Both sides have grown quite a bit since then. The Gophers also clearly outplayed the Spartans on Thursday, as Michigan State had to get a second half surge to get past a 15th seeded Bradley squad.
All told, Michigan State will be favored, but get ready for a physical game that extensively features each side’s big men.
- Pick To Win: Michigan State
-No. 6 Maryland Terrapins vs. No. 3 LSU Tigers
- Time/TV: 12:10PM ET (CBS)
- KenPom Spread: LSU (-1)
During the days between Selection Sunday and the opening day of the NCAA Tournament, a lot of things happen. Fans break down each region, various brackets are filled out, and a variety of predictions are made about every single matchup of the Tournament.
Included within that mix are the projected upsets.
Yes, everyone likes to select their game or two where they think the underdog will come out on top. And few teams were doubted more coming into Thursday than LSU and Maryland. But when all was said and done, both teams advanced. LSU beat Yale and the Terps were able to get past Belmont in a really exciting game.
So now, the two doubted squads will face off for a shot at the Sweet 16. The Tigers arrive without their head coach and Maryland looks to put some of its past postseason demons to bed with a huge opportunity. And things look relatively even on paper as LSU is 20th on KenPom and Maryland is 24th. There’s simply no significant divide here.
This matchup is likely to come down to how Tremont Waters and Anthony Cowan matchup in the backcourt. Waters is a fantastic passer and facilitator. It’s going to be up to Cowan and Darryl Morsell to make him uncomfortable.
LSU also has a relatively weak defense, largely relying on turnovers and blocks to hold things together. If Maryland can avoid turnovers and feed it to Bruno Fernando, there’s a pretty clear route to come out on top on Saturday.
- Pick To Win: LSU
-No. 2 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 10 Florida Gators
- Time/TV: 5:15PM ET (CBS)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan (-7)
In what seems to be turning into a frequent rivalry between the two, Michigan and Florida will face off in the Round of 32 on Saturday evening. This will be the second time the two have matched up in the NCAA Tournament since 2013 and Wolverine fans are well aware of the numerous times the schools have played in football recently as well.
Regardless of past histories, these two project to have a really tough and defensive focused game on Saturday. Both teams are top 15 in defensive efficiency and played really well in their wins on Thursday. Michigan got past Montana and the Gators were able to upset Nevada in a pretty competitive game.
This matchup is largely going to come down to how Michigan’s guards perform against a tough Florida defense. The Gators’ defense relies a lot on turnovers. If Michigan can avoid making mistakes in that category, it should be in really good shape.
- Pick To Win: Michigan
-No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 6 Villanova Wildcats
- Time/TV: 8:40PM ET (TNT)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue (-5)
The late game of the day for the Big Ten projects to be an absolute thriller. Both teams come in with top 20 offenses and the Wildcats are the defending national champions. Add in that Purdue is trying to put some recent NCAA Tournament demons to bed itself and this feels like a matchup that could easily feel like an Elite Eight game.
On paper, Purdue is the better team. The Boilermakers are significantly higher on KenPom and, simply put, Villanova isn’t the team it was last year. However, the Wildcats had a nice win over Saint Mary’s on Thursday and recently won the Big East Tournament. Plus, Villanova is a battle tested team. It won’t go down without a fight.
To win this one, Purdue needs to figure out a way to slow down Phil Booth. He’s one of the better guards in the nation and is the key to Villanova’s offense. The Boilermakers will have their hands full. Carsen Edwards will have to out duel him in this one. It won’t be easy.
- Pick To Win: Purdue