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1/18 Big Ten Preview: Purdue and Maryland Battle It Out

Plus three other games from around the Big Ten

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten slate today offers some intriguing opportunities for road teams to undo some of the dominance by home teams so far in conference play. The road team is favored in the KenPom spread in two out of four matchups, while Purdue is nearly a one-possession underdog heading into College Park. As you can see with the picks, I mostly chickened out and trusted the homecourt advantage, but it will be interesting to see if any of these teams can earn important road victories today.

Game of the Day

-Purdue Boilermakers at No. 17 Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM EST, ESPN2
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland (-4)

The Terps welcome the Jekyll and Hyde Purdue Boilermakers to College Park for an afternoon tip between two teams looking to get above .500 in conference play.

Maryland is coming off two consecutive road losses against Iowa and Wisconsin, but nobody can win on the road in the Big Ten this year.

Still, there is a lingering question of offensive production with this Maryland team. The Terps have cracked 70 points in only two out of its last seven games. Three-point shooting and turnovers are two of the biggest culprits.

Purdue is coming off its biggest win of the season, a dismantling of Michigan State, 71-42. In it, the Boilermakers showed the blueprint for how they can be a dangerous team - strong inside play from Trevion Williams and Matt Haarms, timely three-point shooting, and stifling defense.

The problem has been translating this blueprint to the road. In a league of struggling road teams, Purdue sticks out. It has not won a road game all season and has scored over 60 points just once. There were some encouraging signs at Michigan almost two weeks ago, a game Purdue could have won, but I’m sticking with the Terps in today’s game. It should be a low-scoring slugfest in the first half with Maryland pulling away for an 8-10 point win.

  • Pick against the spread: Maryland

The Rest:

-No. 21 Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, ESPNU
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-2)

This is an important matchup between two teams that have dug themselves a 2-4 conference season hole.

Ohio State has the services of its entire backcourt in this game after Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad served a one-game suspension for “failing to meet program expectations.”

For Penn State, they are looking to right the ship in the midst of a three-game skid. Chief among the reasons for the struggles is that the shooting has gone away. Penn State is averaging 25.6 percent from three-point land on an average of 22 attempts per game. Ohio State is average in defending the three but is one of the country’s best effective field goal percentage defense. If Ohio State forces them to launch from three, can Penn State make them pay?

Another question for Penn State is its big man play. Ohio State can punish you with Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young and Penn State’s big men Mike Watkins and John Harrar have struggled with effective play.

This one feels like it is trending in Ohio State’s favor, but I am going to stick with the homecourt advantage and go with Penn State. I think they come out with better shooting and come away with a victory.

  • Pick against the spread: Penn State

-Northwestern Wildcats at No. 24 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 5:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois (-10)

The only explainable reason for this game being close could be some in-state rival shenanigans, but even that feels like a stretch.

Illinois should win this one handily. The Big Ten’s best defense in conference play takes on the conference’s worst offense. Rebounding and 3PT field goal percentage are also concerns for Northwestern amongst other things.

Not much else to add in this one. Take Illinois and don’t think twice about it.

  • Pick against the spread: Illinois

-Indiana Hoosiers at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana (-6)

Two of the Big Ten’s more enigmatic teams square off in Lincoln in the Big Ten’s nightcap.

I think Indiana wins and covers, but concern exists with offensive production on the road. The Hoosiers were a paltry 19-60 (31.6 percent) from the field including 2-19 (10.5 percent) from three-point range. Nebraska does not have as good a defense as Rutgers, but they are a top-30 team in defending the three-point line on KenPom. The mere fact that they are playing at home tonight seems to add an advantage in the Big Ten this year.

Still, I think this is one Indiana pulls away in the final five minutes. If not, that’s four losses in their last six with a brutal schedule coming up. I’m taking Indiana, but I’m not necessarily feeling good about it.

  • Pick against the spread: Indiana