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1/3 Big Ten Preview: Seeing Red

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Take a look at Friday’s slate of games.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

There are four Big Ten teams playing two games tonight. All four teams are red. Three of the four are also feeling really good about the direction they’re heading—only Ohio State, arguably the best team in the Big Ten, has a bad taste to wash out of their mouth.

Game of the Night:

-Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State -10

On paper Ohio State is the double-digit favorite, but KenPom doesn’t account for momentum. Wisconsin is looking scary good after annihilating Tennessee. (And Rider. Lol.) They’re doing it with defense. As long as they hit a reasonable percentage of their threes, Wisconsin is in the conversation as being one of the best teams in the league.

Meanwhile, the secret for Ohio State lies a little bit closer to the basket. In both Buckeye losses (at Minnesota and a neutral-site game against West Virginia), Kaleb Wesson shot a lot of twos, missed the majority of them, and turned the ball over a lot. It’s disrespectful to how well Ohio State has played relative to expectations this season, but what everyone thought would be true at the start of the season is definitely still very much true—as goes Kaleb Wesson, so go the Buckeyes.

There are a ton of great post matchups on tap for us in the Big Ten this year, but Wesson vs. Nate Reuvers should rank among the best. Reuvers will be an interesting matchup for Wesson. He has two inches on the Ohio State big man, and he blocks a lot of shots. But he’s giving up 35 pounds. Both of these guys can hit the three, so they’ll be pulling each other away from the basket, and we’ll get to see them do more than just bump bodies on the low block.

If Wisconsin wins, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say they’re a Big Ten contender. And to think, just a few weeks ago the Badgers were 5-5 and it was looking like Greg Gard was looking like the master of managed decline rather than a true successor to Bo Ryan. I don’t think Wisconsin will win, but 10 points seems like an awfully big ask for the Buckeyes. Straight up, I’ll take the home team (particularly this year), but give me the Badgers and the points.

  • Pick against the spread: Wisconsin

The Rest:

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST, BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Rutgers -5

Amazingly, from what I can tell, this is the first Big Ten road game that Rutgers has ever been favored in. This is their sixth season in the league. That’s a testament to just how bad the Knights were when they joined, and to the rebuilding job that Steve Pikiell has done in Piscataway.

In their last two games against legitimate competition, Rutgers was able to bag two huge home wins, Wisconsin and Seton Hall. The latter was a 20-point butt-whipping against an in-state rival. Rutgers fans have never felt as good as they do right now.

But this one won’t be a cakewalk. Nebraska has shown some signs of life after a rough, rough start to the Fred Hoiberg era. They came within a whisker of beating Indiana in Bloomington, then turned around and did beat Purdue in Lincoln. Both IU and Purdue are better teams that Rutgers.

And there’s good news for casual fans tuning into this one. Both teams do an excellent job of playing defense without fouling, so believe it or not, Nebraska/Rutgers might just be one of the most aesthetically pleasing games you’ll see all season. At least, you know, until both teams just start clanking everything.

I was going to take Nebraska in this one because I don’t believe in Rutgers away from home, but given that both teams are apt to miss a lot of shots, and given that rebounding is a major weakness for the Huskers and a major strength for the Scarlet Knights, I think I’m going to change my mind and hop aboard the Scarlet bandwagon. Next stop, NIT! (Probably.)

  • Pick against the spread: Rutgers