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1/5 Big Ten Preview: Michigan State Looks For Fourth Win In A Row Against Michigan

The two ranked teams tip off at 1:30 on CBS.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Game of the Day

#12 Michigan Wolverines at #14 Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 1:30 PM ET (CBS)

The game of the day is easily the in-state showdown between Michigan and Michigan State. It’s also set to be an interesting game with the two teams trending in opposite directions and gives Michigan a perfect opportunity to see if they can contend for a conference title this season.

Michigan got off to a hot start in non-conference play with wins over Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga. Things have cooled down a bit with back-to-back losses to Illinois and Oregon and a 3-3 run over the past six games. Of course Oregon is a good team and winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard, but the Wolverines haven’t had an opportunity to improve their stock much with their last two games coming against Presbyterian and UMass-Lowell. With Michigan State, Purdue and road trips to Minnesota and Iowa all up next, it’s the perfect time for Juwan Howard to prove if his team is for real and can get back to their success from November.

As for Michigan State the team hasn’t lost since a 12 point defeat to Duke and is coming off of a 20 point win over Illinois. The Spartans seem to be turning into the team we thought they were going to be and star Cassius Winston has scored 21 points in the last three games he’s played. Sitting at 3-0 in conference play, Michigan State is the only undefeated team in the Big Ten and will look to improve to 4-0. Michigan State won all three games in the series last year and are 8-3 the last 11.

Even more problematic is the fact that Isaiah Livers is considered day-to-day and unlikely to suit up today. Livers is averaging 13.6 points per game, second only behind Jon Teske, and is also hitting 50% of his three pointers. The loss could prove detrimental as Michigan tries to keep pace with a Spartans offense that is averaging 81.4 points per game. The loss of Livers will put a lot of emphasis on Zavier Simpson as the senior guard looks to another showdown with Winston. So far this season Simpson is averaging 11.2 points and 8.9 assists per game.

With Livers not likely to play and this game taking place in East Lansing it’s unlikely Michigan will end their current skid against Michigan State.

Pick: Michigan State

The Rest

Northwestern Wildcats at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET (BTN)

Northwestern got off to a rough start when they lost their opener to Merrimack but looked to be improving throughout the non-conference slate. They even managed to hang around and lose by only five points to Michigan State and DePaul. Then they lost at home to Hartford.

Minnesota is sitting at 7-6 but they’ve had narrow defeats to Oklahoma, Butler, Utah, DePaul and Purdue that they all could have won. Last time out they took Purdue to double overtime and were one shot away from landing the upset in regulation. Daniel Oturu went off for 29 points and 18 rebounds, something he’s been doing all season.

Oturu will prove a huge issue for Northwestern, but to be honest, Oturu has proven problems for most opponents Minnesota has faced. The Gophers are their best when they get Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur performing and the backcourt has been surging as of late. If not for a fresh Nojel Eastern slowing down Carr late Minnesota would have likely won earlier this week.

Does Northwestern have anyone that can stop Oturu? Probably not. Does Northwestern have the offensive fireworks to hang around if Carr and Kalscheur show up? Probably not. They have a strong defense but the lack of offense and the fact that this game is on the road means Minnesota should be able to bounce back tonight.

Pick: Minnesota

Purdue Boilermakers at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (FS1)

I’ve detailed Purdue’s inability to consistently score so I’m going to do that once again. With 12:01 remaining the Boilermakers took a 49-41 lead after a layup by Trevion Williams. The team would score three points over the next six minutes and see their eight point lead turn into a three point deficit. This keeps happening.

Matt Haarms looks to almost fully be back after returning from a concussion, with Matt Painter noting some conditioning issues. Trevion Williams has looked good, Sasha Stefanovic has been hitting from three and Nojel Eastern has been key at times on defense. But the offense has stalled time and time again under Jahaad Proctor and Eric Hunter Jr., with little support from Aaron Wheeler and Isaiah Thompson off the bench. As good as Eastern is defensively he’s a liability on offense. He shot only once in 29 minutes throughout the double overtime win against Minnesota.

Illinois has been drastically improved this season but couldn’t get their offense rolling against Michigan State on the road, shooting 29.3% from the field and 3 of 28 from three. Purdue also brings a strong defense so look for them to try to repeat the Spartans performance. Kofi Cockburn and Giorgi Bezhanishvili went 5 of 22 from inside and Matt Painter’s team will benefit if they can cause issues down low once again. Even more so with Illinois only shooting 29.5% from three (320th in the nation) while hitting 54.6% from two (53rd). If Purdue can keep Illinois from scoring inside then they’ll be in good position for the win.

Winning on the road is hard and Purdue will need to do that against the Illini tonight. Purdue has a stout defense and enough offensive weapons that they should be able to find a way to win, but if the offense stalls at an inopportune time then look for Illinois to take advantage. It’ll be close so I’m only giving the edge to Purdue because of the defense.

Pick: Purdue