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2/20 Big Ten Preview: Ohio State and Iowa Set for Top 25 Showdown

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NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There are two games tonight with Michigan State heading to Nebraska and a ranked showdown between Ohio State and Iowa on ESPN.

Game of the Night

#25 Ohio State Buckeyes at #20 Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (ESPN)

After going 5-1 over their last six games the Buckeyes are finally back in the polls. Their reward? A road trip to Iowa followed by a home game against a top ten Maryland squad. Ouch.

The Buckeyes have looked more like they did earlier in the season, but with wins over Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan and Purdue, it could be Ohio State just taking care of business against the back half of the conference. An Iowa team on the road should offer a much bigger challenge tonight.

Iowa has been all over the place as of late. They had a 4-1 run with three wins over ranked teams and their lone loss coming on the road to Maryland. Starting to gain momentum they then gave up 104 and 89 points in losses to Purdue and Indiana. Then in a game they were outplayed in for 35 minutes, the Hawkeyes took advantage of a costly cold streak from Minnesota and stole a victory on the road. Now they face a surging Ohio State team.

The story behind Iowa is pretty straight forward. Great at home, awful on the road. Explosive offense (first in scoring in Big Ten Play), dreadful on defense (13th in defensive scoring in conference play).

So where does that leave them heading into today’s game? While the Buckeyes rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to both offensive and defensive scoring, they also play one of the slowest paces in the conference (the Buckeyes rank 14th in field goal attempts while coming in 1st in field goal attempts allowed). A lot of the success Ohio State has is when Kaleb Wesson has a good night, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he scored 10 points total in their last two losses. If the Buckeyes can get Wesson going it will create the opportunity for the upset, but if Iowa can slow down the junior than it’ll be a long day for Ohio State fans.

The Hawkeyes have been all over the place and struggle enough on defense that it’s hard to really guess how they’ll come out and play each night. We all know Luka Garza is one of the league's top centers, while Joe Wieskamp is a legit scorer in the backcourt. Mix in CJ Fredrick from three and guys like Jordan Bohannon and Ryan Kriener and you have a deep Iowa team with plenty of options. But will they play defense?

Since the game is on their home court look for Iowa to win their seventh game in a row at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It should be an exciting game, but Iowa has enough weapons on offense to find a way to get the W.

Pick: Iowa

The Rest

Michigan State Spartans at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET (FS1)

It’s weird to see Michigan State unranked but it’s not entirely a surprise considering they’ve gone 1-4 over the last five games. Of course all four of those losses were to teams likely in the NCAA Tournament, including losses to Maryland and Penn State. The Spartans haven’t lived up to their preseason hype but one has to wonder if they can gain some momentum heading into March that they can be just as deadly anyway in the NCAA Tournament.

Tonight provides a good opportunity to create some positive momentum as the Spartans head west to Nebraska. While the Cornhuskers have had success at home in the past, and Michigan State has struggled on the road this season, Nebraska has been dreadful this season and is currently riding a ten game losing streak. Nebraska’s defense is giving up a whopping 76.3 points per game and no one on offense has stepped up with a trio of guards leading the team in scoring with 12.4, 12.4 and 11.4 points per game.

Those defensive woes provide Michigan State with a chance to pick up a much needed win. The Spartans have been inconsistent and sloppy at times, but the offense has been rolling behind Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. Up against a bad Nebraska defense they should have no issues scoring. It would take another awful road performance from Michigan State to allow Nebraska to hang around tonight and we all know it’s only a matter of time before Tom Izzo gets things turned around again.

Michigan State wins big.

Pick: Michigan State