The Big Ten has another jam-packed day of action on Saturday as five matchups showcase different teams and storylines as everyone’s eyes turn to March.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from each game and how things might shake out.
Game of the Day:
-No. 9 Maryland Terrapins at Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM EST, ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-4)
Just a massive game from East Lansing in the overall Big Ten race. The Spartans, sitting two games back in the standings, need to this game badly if they want to try and grab a share of the Big Ten title.
For Maryland, they can take go a long way in all but eliminating Michigan State from conference contention. It would put them three games out with five to play. Maryland would also have a home game against the Spartans in that stretch as well.
It will be interesting to see how Maryland’s offense performs in East Lansing. Maryland is one of the most reliant teams in the country at getting to the line and converting free throws, nearly 23 percent of Maryland’s points come from the line. One has to wonder whether they will get some of those whistles on the road?
Michigan State’s struggling offense took made some strides in their victory over Illinois earlier in the week, but there are still issues in giving up offensive rebounds (14) and turnovers (16).
I think Michigan State comes out on top in this one. Maryland could struggle on offense if they aren’t getting to the line and aren’t shooting well from three. Michigan State only allows 28.5 percent in 3PT% defense.
However, things could go sideways for Michigan State if they can’t keep Maryland’s athletic wings and Jalen Smith off the offensive glass.
- Pick against the spread: Michigan State
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, FOX
- KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-5)
This one is tough to predict. Ohio State’s won four out of its last five, but it hasn’t felt like they are back to their dominant ways earlier in the season. Purdue looked to be turning the corner by blowing out Iowa at home and dominating Indiana in Bloomington but went down easily in a three-point barrage from Penn State at home on Tuesday.
It might be best to stick with a season’s worth of data. Purdue, in general, struggles away from Mackey Arena and could do so again on Saturday.
I think Ohio State takes this one as the Buckeyes get back to .500 in league play. Still, if Purdue can shoot the three-ball well, the Boilermakers might be able to sneak out of Columbus with a victory.
- Pick against the spread: Ohio State
-Northwestern Wildcats at No. 13 Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Penn State (-16)
I wouldn’t overthink this one. Penn State is one of the hottest teams in the country and should easily dispose of the hapless Wildcats. I wouldn’t bat an eye about the spread either.
What everyone might need to prepare themselves for is, if Maryland loses, Penn State basketball would be tied for first place in the conference with five games to go.
- Pick against the spread: Penn State
- Time/TV: 2:15 PM EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin (-6)
Wisconsin should be able to handle the Cornhuskers in this mid-afternoon game from Lincoln.
Still, it is interesting that this KenPom figure is a little low. The Cornhuskers haven’t won a game in six weeks, and are two possessions away from Wisconsin?
There are some things that you could talk yourself into with Nebraska on this game. They played Maryland tough on the road in their last game, Wisconsin is a middling three-point shooting team while Nebraska is top-4 defensively in conference play and the general fact that Big Ten teams have been pretty bad on the road all-conference season.
Still, I think stick with the Badgers to win and cover here. Look for some heady play, good defense, and balanced scoring to get them out of Lincoln with a win.
- Pick against the spread: Wisconsin
-No. 22 Illinois Fighting Illini at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 4:30 PM EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Rutgers (-3)
Another big game with conference tournament double-bye implications is Illinois at Rutgers.
Both teams are coming off losses, but Illinois is in a bit of a tailspin with three losses in a row.
Expect a rock fight in this matchup. Both teams are near mirror images of one another in many ways. They crash the glass, don’t shoot three’s well and would rather attack the basket, and are both good defensive teams.
It is unclear at this point if Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu will be available. If he can’t go expect Rutgers to win handily. If he can contribute, this one could come down to the final possession. I think Rutgers guts it out.
- Pick against the spread: Rutgers