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12/23 Big Ten Preview: Triple Header Set For Wednesday

Rutgers and Ohio State highlight the day.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at UCLA Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a triple header on BTN today with the action set to tip at 4:30 with Rutgers and Ohio State playing in a top 25 matchup.

Game of the Day

#11 Rutgers Scarlet Knights at #23 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 4:30 PM ET (BTN)

A year or so ago it would be weird to see Rutgers ranked 11th in the country. Now with a chance to beat Ohio State they could be in the top ten by next week. Rutgers is coming off of a win over Illinois and Maryland and is looking to improve to 3-0 in conference play. They travel this afternoon to Columbus to face an Ohio State team that bounced back from a loss at Purdue with a much needed win over UCLA.

Probably the best thing for Ohio State heading forward is that they got E.J. Liddell back, as well as the first appearance from Seth Towns last weekend. Liddell only had 9 points and 3 rebounds against UCLA, but he also had five fouls and was limited to 19 minutes. The return of Liddell helps solidify Ohio State inside and fixes one of the biggest weak spots the team dealt with in their loss at Purdue.

Ron Harper Jr. has exploded so far this season, with 24 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Mix that with Jacob Young and Montez Mathis, who are averaging 16.5 and 14.0 points per game, and you have an explosive backcourt that has helped pace Rutgers so far this season. Myles Johnson has also done a good job inside, averaging 8.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

Rutgers has been the more consistent team, but with Liddell back in the fold Ohio State should have the ability to keep pace with Rutgers. With Ohio State limiting turnovers and the game being played in Columbus that should give the Buckeyes the edge.

Pick: Ohio State

#18 Illinois Fighting Illini at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET (BTN)

It’s been a somewhat rough start for the Illini, underwhelming in a loss to Rutgers last weekend, as well as losing to much hated rival Missouri earlier in the month. Illinois is sitting at 5-3 but they do have a win over Duke, the early highlight of the year. The Illini have been led by Ayo Dosunmu, who has led the team in scoring in every game besides when Kofi Cockburn added 33 against Minnesota.

The Nittany Lions fell to Seton Hall in overtime but ran past Virginia Tech by 20 and almost knocked off Michigan last week. Penn State has been struggling on offense, shooting 42.1% from the field (243rd). They’ve fared better from outside, hitting 37.7% from three (60th) and averaging 10.4 made three pointers per game. Seth Lundy and Izaiah Brockington have led the team in scoring with 14.4 and 14.0 points respectively.

While Penn State’s offense has struggled, their defense has stepped up the last two games. They’ll need to have another strong night as Illinois has been explosive on offense so far between Dosunmu and Cockburn. Illinois has underwhelmed but look for them to bounce back and pick up a much needed victory.

Pick: Illinois

Northwestern Wildcats at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET (BTN)

In the last game of the night Indiana will host a Northwestern team coming off of a surprise upset of a top five Michigan State team. The last time out Boo Buie scored 30 points and shot 9 of 15 from the field, while Pete Nance added 15 points and 12 rebounds. It’s somewhat hard to get a good read on Northwestern prior to the Michigan State game as they won three games against incredibly dreadful opposition and then lost to Pitt. The Michigan State win was a mix of a solid shooting night by the Wildcats going up against a Spartans offense that could get nothing going.

As for Indiana, the Hoosiers bounced back after a loss to Florida State with a pair of wins, most recently knocking off Butler in the Crossroads Classic. Indiana has been carried so far this season by Trayce Jackson-Davis as the forward is leading the Hoosiers with 21 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Past that Indiana is still trying to find some consistency, with a backcourt that has struggled shooting from outside. Sophomore guard Armaan Franklin has emerged the last two games with 39 points, including a much needed 5 of 7 shooting from three against Butler (the rest of the team shot 2 of 9).

This is a prime setup for a letdown game by Northwestern after a massive upset win over Michigan State. Indiana needs to string together some consistency from outside, but Franklin has been solid and the team will always have Jackson-Davis inside. Look for the Hoosiers to win their conference opener.

Pick: Indiana