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Saturday Big Ten Preview: A Top-25 Matchup From The Palestra

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Plus Indiana and Maryland play from College Park.

NCAA Basketball: Cornell at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play is back in full swing this Saturday with a couple of good matchups Saturday afternoon. First up is No. 15 Maryland taking on Indiana from College Park. The second is a top-25 matchup not many would have predicted at the start of the season. No. 23 Iowa and No. 21 Penn State travel to the historic Palestra for a neutral-site game. Let’s take a look at both matchups.

Game of the Day

-No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. No. 21 Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM EST / FS1
  • KenPom spread: Penn State -1

Two of the hottest teams in the Big Ten square off as Iowa and Penn State fight for Big Ten positioning in a conference that looks rugged and wide open.

It will be interesting to watch the tempo in this one. Both teams like to push the ball, but I wonder if Penn State will want to grind it out a bit more given Iowa’s ability to score. Making Iowa play half-court defense could be a good thing as well. If not, we could be looking at a scoring total that resembled Iowa and Michigan’s game earlier this season (194 points).

Another interesting matchup is Luka Garza against Penn State’s bigs. Garza is currently fifth (!) in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings and is coming off a 23-point, six rebound performance against Kennesaw State. Penn State senior Mike Watkins has the sixth-highest block percentage rate in the country, but needs to be careful to avoid foul trouble.

This is a fun and interesting matchup today from Penn State. It shows the strength and depth of the Big Ten that both teams are playing well and ranked at this point in the season. I am going to give the slight edge to Penn State is the better defensive team.

  • Pick against the spread: Penn State

The Other Game

-Indiana Hoosiers at No. 15 Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: Noon EST / FOX
  • KenPom spread: Maryland -7

This FOX matchup gets things going at noon EST from College Park. Both these teams have solid overall records but enter the matchup on some shaky ground.

Maryland’s schedule has been ho-hum (113th in the country according to KenPom), but they’ve struggled with slow starts all season. Here are the scores from Maryland’s games this season at the 10-minute mark of the first half.

Maryland at the first half 10-minute mark

Date Opponent Score
Date Opponent Score
11/5 Holy Cross Maryland 25-22
11/9 Rhode Island Rhode Island 21-12
11/16 Oakland Oakland 16-15
11/19 Fairfield Maryland 13-12
11/22 George Mason George Mason 18-13
11/28 Temple Temple 18-16
11/29 Harvard Harvard 15-9
12/4 Notre Dame Notre Dame 11-8
12/7 Illinois Illinois 18-12
12/10 Penn State Penn State 22-12
12/19 Seton Hall Seton Hall 10-7
12/29 Bryant Maryland 14-11

Maryland’s only been up in three of their games! Now they’ve obviously come back and have a solid 11-2 record this season, but the chances of this continuing to work out in Big Ten play are slim. When you throw in the Mitchell twin transfer drama and some eyebrow-raising quotes from Turgeon and Anthony Cowan after the Seton Hall loss, things look tenuous from afar.

For Indiana, they looked well on their way to earning a solid Quad 1 win at home against Arkansas last Sunday before collapsing in the game’s final eight minutes. Poor defense, turnovers, missed shots at the rim and from beyond the arc doomed the Hoosiers. They enter today’s game in pretty much the same place they were last year. After an 11-2 start, the Hoosiers then went 2-12 over their next 14 games. Indiana is trying to avoid that fate and put those demons to rest this Big Ten season.

In the pick against the spread, I’m taking Indiana today. I am not sure they win outright, but I do think it’s going to come down to the final possession.

  • Pick against the spread: Indiana

[Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally had Iowa playing in Happy Valley.]