Three ranked teams are in action tonight with a pair of Big Ten games on BTN and FS1.
Game of the Night
#18 Iowa Hawkeyes at #15 Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET (BTN)
The Terps have had issues on offense all season long so to see Maryland come out against Indiana shooting lights out was a bit of a surprise. Maryland didn’t have that same success in the second half, but a late rally at the end of regulation helped Maryland edge Indiana by a point. Speaking of late rallies, Iowa was trailing 45-57 with 7:13 before a 21-2 run gave them a 66-59 lead with 14 seconds to go. An explosive Iowa offense was cold all night until it wasn’t and managed to avoid losing to Wisconsin.
Will we see a return to form for both teams tonight? Jalen Smith blew up against the Hoosiers with 29 points on 10 of 14 shooting (including 4 of 6 from three), including the game winning layup with 16 seconds remaining. With Smith rolling and the Terps backcourt doing just enough, while limiting turnovers to only five, Maryland was able to win in a hostile environment in Bloomington. Now they’ll face a strong Iowa team on their home court.
Iowa’s offense is averaging just under 80 points per game and considering Maryland’s issues shooting the ball, you would think that’d be good news for Iowa. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes Maryland is giving up only 61.8 points per game and will have a massive home advantage playing in College Park. With Iowa dismantling Maryland earlier in the month look for the Terps to be ready to get some revenge.
As long as Maryland can keep their defense rolling they should have the edge here due to their home court advantage. They’ll need some more consistency from guys like Anthony Cowan Jr., but look for another night where the home team wins in the Big Ten.
Minnesota Golden Gophers at #19 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET (FS1)
Minnesota couldn’t take advantage of a home game against Michigan State and now at 11-9 they’ll need to pick up some big wins over the next month if they want to maintain their status as a NCAA Tournament bubble team. A road trip to Illinois provides a perfect opportunity, though it comes at a bad time with the Illini rolling on a six game winning streak.
Illinois won on the road against Michigan last time out and haven’t lost at home since losing to Miami earlier in the season. Ayo Dosunmu blew up against Michigan with 27 points, which was a good thing since the remaining starters combined for 19 points. While the frontcourt struggled in Ann Arbor, Dosunmu did enough to get the job done. The sophomore has been big this year, averaging 16.2 points per game, and leading an explosive offense that averages over 75 points per game.
Minnesota’s loss to Michigan State highlights one of the Gophers biggest vulnerabilities. While Daniel Oturu has been a force, the backcourt has been hit or miss most of the season. Against the Spartans the backcourt shot a combined 7 of 32 from the field and 4 of 21 from three. When Marcus Carr, Gabe Kalscheur and Payton Willis can shoot efficiently and take some of the pressure off of Oturu the Gophers can hang around with basically anyone. But if opposing teams can keep the backcourt from finding its rhythm than that puts too much pressure on Oturu to carry the team.
So the question is can Illinois slow down the Minnesota backcourt? Well through nine conference games the Illini have given up 61.1 points per game, good for first in the Big Ten. Look for Illinois to slow down the Gophers backcourt and roll at home once again.