The season officially tips off today with 12 of the 14 Big Ten schools set to play. All 14 schools were originally supposed to play at some point today, but thanks to Covid-19 Northwestern’s game against Prairie View A&M was cancelled while Penn State’s game against Drexel was cancelled earlier this week. While there will be considerable uncertainty about the non-conference schedule, with more delays and cancellations likely, we still will have almost every Big Ten school playing at some point throughout the day.
Game of the Day:
-Liberty Flames vs Purdue Boilermakers
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM ET (CBSSN)
This may seem like a weird game for game of the day when you have seven different ranked teams set to play, but the Purdue game is the only one on a neutral court and the Boilermakers will tip off against a Liberty team that won 30 games last season. Of course they played in a weak Atlantic Sun conference, but it does create the best opportunity for a competitive game unless we get a massive upset somewhere else today.
Tipping off in Florida, the winner of this game will go on to face Clemson or Mississippi State. For Purdue it’s an opportunity to start fresh after an incredibly inconsistent 2019-20 season. While the Boilermakers lose Matt Haarms and Nojel Eastern, the Boilers will bring a roster that includes seven freshmen and zero seniors. Purdue will look to improve on their ability to shoot the ball while hoping junior Trevion Williams makes the next step after a breakout sophomore season.
Liberty lost leading scorer Caleb Homesley , as well as all-conference Scott James, point guard Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz and heavily utilized sub Myo Baxter-Bell. Liberty may have been good last season, relying on a strong defense, but this isn’t the same Flames squad from last year.
Purdue has had issues scoring the ball and Liberty plays good on defense. That could prove problematic for Purdue, though their young team brings considerably more experience and should have the talent to take down a young Liberty team.
- Pick: Purdue
-McNeese State Cowboys at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET (BTN)
Nebraska won a whopping seven games in a very forgettable first season under Fred Hoiberg. To little surprise, a team full of transfers and fresh faces didn’t immediately gel and Nebraska did little to compete in conference play. McNeese State is a much more manageable opponent, though Nebraska also had some rough losses to start off last year. The Cowboys lose a pair of entertaining forwards, but bring back an experienced trio of senior guards. Nebraska once again has a roster full of fresh faces, this time more players with D-1 experience. Nebraska could take awhile to gel once again, but they should have the athleticism and talent to take down the Cowboys.
- Pick: Nebraska
-North Carolina A&T Aggies at #8 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET (BTN)
Illinois fans had to be ecstatic when both Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn announced they were returning. Now the Illini are aiming for a Big Ten title with the only thing potentially holding that up is their inability to shoot the ball from outside. If they can improve on that front, the Illini will be a legit Big Ten contender and a potential Final Four team, or at least they’ll warrant their top ten preseason ranking.
First up? North Carolina A&T. The Aggies are led by point guard Kameron Langley, who averaged 9.4 points and 8.0 assists per game last year. Unfortunately for the Aggies, they lack the presence in the frontcourt and will struggle to keep up with the Illini size inside.
- Pick: Illinois
-Illinois State Redbirds at #23 Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET (ESPN)
Ohio State will look considerably different this season after losing Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad and D.J. Carton. The Buckeyes will still bring back a strong backcourt with CJ Walker and Duane Washington, though the frontcourt will look considerably different. The drop in experience in the frontcourt could prove problematic when faring against some of the more talented Big Ten programs, but it shouldn’t be a huge issue today against Illinois State. The Redbirds won 10 games last year and lost two of their best players. It’ll be a large task if they want to pick up the upset.
- Pick: Ohio State
-Old Dominion Monarchs at Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET
While Maryland brings back many of their weapons from last year, the loss of Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. have considerably lowered expectations this year. Old Dominion struggled last season, but they were decimated by injuries and bring back a talented backcourt. The Terps, however, bring back three starters and sixth man of the year Aaron Wiggins. The Monarchs will be much improved and will contend in the CUSA, but will they have enough firepower to keep up with Maryland? Not likely.
- Pick: Maryland
-North Carolina Central Eagles at #5 Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET (BTN)
The return of Luka Garza and basically every major weapon on Iowa launched them right to the top of the Big Ten and a legit contender for the Final Four. Their first opponent will be a North Carolina Central team that finished first in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic and has won at least 18 games in each of the past four seasons. Without leading scorer Jibri Blount, who averaged 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game, the Eagles will need to find a new primary scorer. And going up against an Iowa team that has a laundry list of offensive weapons it’s unlikely the Eagles will find a way to keep pace with one of the nations top offenses.
- Pick: Iowa
-Bowling Green State Falcons at #25 Michigan Wolverines
- Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
Bowling Green is set to contend in the MAC once again but will need to replace Dylan Frye (13.3 points, 4 assists per game). The return of Justin Turner, who averaged just under 19 points per game, brings some serious offensive firepower to the backcourt. Something the Falcons will need after finishing 273rd in scoring defense last year.
The Wolverines were inconsistent in their first season under Juwan Howard and will now need to replace mainstays Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske. There is definitely plenty of experience, though, with Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner and Eli Brooks looking to form a strong core for an improved Michigan program in Howard’s second year. A pair of transfer in Mike Smith and Chaundee Brown and a considerably deeper roster this year should help Michigan avoid a potential upset bid.
- Pick: Michigan
-Eastern Michigan Eagles at #13 Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM ET (BTN)
Michigan State brings a strong recruiting class and pairs it with transfer Joey Hauser, as well as returning players Rocket Watts and Joshua Langford. Michigan State had some ups and downs last season, but started to get things up and running when the season was shut down. The Spartans are once again set to be a contender in the Big Ten. Eastern Michigan has had a pair of lackluster seasons and will be trying to bounce back in 2020-21. An experienced team full of seniors, as well as Holy Cross transfer Drew Lowder, should help the Eagles in conference play. It won’t be enough against one of the most talented teams in the country.
- Pick: Michigan State
-Sacred Heart Pioneers at #24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET
A surprisingly successful season for Rutgers would have likely got them into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in almost three decades if not for the season ending in early March. Now the Scarlet Knights start the season ranked and set for one of their most hyped seasons in quite some time.
They’ll get a relatively easy start to the season with a Sacred Heart program that is 325th in the KenPom ratings. The Pioneers had their first winning record since 2009 but were pinned to finish last in the NEC in the conferences preseason poll thanks to losing five of their top six scorers.
An inexperienced and rebuilding Sacred Heart squaring off against one of the best Rutgers teams in decades? The Scarlet Knights will tip off the season with a win.
- Pick: Rutgers
-Green Bay Phoenix at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET
The cold truth is Minnesota could have been a tournament caliber team last year if they could simply win close games. That didn’t happen, though, and now they lose star center Daniel Oturu. They do return one of the top guards in the conference in Marcus Carr, as well as key transfers Liam Robbins and Both Gach. Green Bay will have a new head coach in Will Ryan and have 11 new players on a roster that will look considerably different this season. They do return Horizon League freshman of the year Amari Davis, though not much else. Minnesota will need to replace Oturu, but Robbins could be a viable option down low. The Gophers should have no problem with a fresh faced Phoenix squad.
- Pick: Minnesota
-Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Indiana Hoosiers
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN)
The Hoosiers still haven’t made it to the NCAA Tournament under Archie Miller. They might have last season, but the season was shutdown before that was guaranteed. Miller and Hoosier fans will hope for better luck this time. With returning Trayce Jackson-Davis and debuting freshman Khristian Lander, Indiana is looking to improve on last years end result. First up is a Golden Eagles squad that couldn’t win 10 games this past season. While Tennessee Tech brings back their top two scorers, there’s too much of a talent divide for them to hang with the Hoosiers.
- Pick: Indiana
-Eastern Illinois Panthers at #7 Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 10:00 PM ET (BTN)
Wisconsin is a top ten program and could have been the favorite to win the Big Ten if a few players had remained in the NBA Draft. That’s not an easy match for Eastern Illinois, even if the Panthers bring back an incredibly experienced squad. Unfortunately for Eastern Illinois, Wisconsin also brings back an experienced squad with Nate Reuvers, Micah Potter, Brad Davidson and D’Mitrik Trice all back. Also, the Badgers finished last season rolling and once again feature one of the top defenses in the conference. And the game is in Madison. Look for Wisconsin to roll late night.
- Pick: Wisconsin
-Prairie View A&M Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats
No date currently set to be rescheduled.
-Drexel Dragons at Penn State Nittany Lions
No date currently set to be rescheduled.