The Big Ten has four games on tap for Saturday as the conference tries to sort its conference and bubble uncertainty. Two matchups involve in-state rivalries as Purdue travels to Bloomington to play Indiana in a huge Big Ten bubble battle. Michigan State heads to Ann Arbor as they try to keep pace with Maryland at the top of the Big Ten. The other two games have Penn State hosting Minnesota and Iowa welcoming Nebraska. Let’s break them down.
Game of the Day:
- Time/TV: 2:00 PM EST, ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Indiana (-1)
The Boilermakers and Hoosiers pick up their storied rivalry from Bloomington as both teams are trying to solidify a place in the NCAA Tournament.
Right now, according to Joe Lunardi, both are in the “Last Four Byes” column as 10-seeds. A win today for either team would be another all-important “Quad 1” win.
It could be a tough go for either team offensively today. Indiana is averaging 61 points per game in their three-game losing streak and Purdue is one of the least efficient offensive teams in the country on the road this season.
An intriguing matchup is whoever picks up Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis. The talented freshman needs an active and solid game today, and it’s unclear who the Boilermakers might throw at him. Evan Boudreaux might be able to body him up but might not have the quickness if Jackson-Davis tries to take him off the dribble. Nojel Eastern gives up a few inches, but his ability to guard pretty much anyone has Purdue as a top-15 defense on KenPom. What can Aaron Wheeler bring to the table after a nice game against Iowa? It will be interesting to see if Purdue sags off Jackson-Davis and dares him to knock down jump shots.
I think this is an absolute dog fight with Indiana coming out on top in the game’s final few possessions. It looks like Bobby Knight might be back in Assembly Hall for the first time since being fired in 2000. Expect another raucous, hotly contested Indiana-Purdue game. It should be fun to watch.
- Pick against the spread: Indiana
-No. 16 Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Wolverines
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, FOX
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State (-1)
The other big rivalry game today is Michigan State at Michigan.
Both teams find themselves in ruts and coming off home losses. For Michigan, this game is a way to stop the bleeding and earn an important Quad 1 win. The Wolverines are 2-5 in their last seven games, and even earning negative attention for things off the court as well.
Michigan State is desperately trying to keep pace with Maryland in the Big Ten race and needs to match Maryland’s road victory yesterday to keep pace. The Spartans have to take care of the ball better today as they are averaging nearly 14 turnovers per game over their last two contests. It will be interesting to see if Michigan State’s perimeter defense returns in this matchup. The Spartans allowed Penn State to shoot 42 percent from three-point range in their loss on Wednesday, and Michigan is not shy about letting it fly from deep.
It’s tough to Michigan with the program controversies, injuries, and inconsistencies. Michigan State hasn’t been great on the road this season, but I think the Spartans pull out a close one behind the timely play making of Cassius Winston and the rebounding of Xavier Tillman.
- Pick against the spread: Michigan State
-Minnesota Golden Gophers at No. 22 Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Penn State (-6)
This could be a sneaky good one from Happy Valley.
Perhaps no one in the Big Ten is playing better than Penn State right now. They are winners of their last five and sit just one game out of first in the loss column in the conference title race.
Minnesota is looking for a 2-0 week after they handled Wisconsin at home, 70-52. The Golden Gophers turned in a dominant defensive performance as the Badgers were only able to muster a 0.81 PPP.
The matchup to watch here is Lamar Stevens and Daniel Oturu. They are two of the Big Ten’s best big men, and they aren’t friends.
Oturu had some not at all nice words for Stevens in the handshake line pic.twitter.com/68FATjeuNT— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 16, 2020
Oturu put up 26 and 14 on Penn State in the season’s first matchup and here’s guessing neither player has forgotten about that game or that exchange.
I think Penn State comes out firing again and the Nittany Lions earn a little revenge against Minnesota in an 8-10 point win in Happy Valley.
- Pick against the spread: Penn State
-Nebraska Cornhuskers at No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM EST, BTN
- KenPom Spread: Iowa (-15)
The Hawkeyes head home after getting shellacked by Purdue on Wednesday in West Lafayette.
It might have been a “burn the tape” type game for Fran McCaffery and his players, but there needs to be an effort correction in this game. Iowa, outside of Luka Garza, didn’t look ready to play in that one and didn’t look interested in competing after things started to go sideways. If they come out sluggish again today that could be a sign of a larger problem.
Nebraska continues to muddle through its conference season malaise as they have lost seven-in-a-row.
Don’t expect a Nebraska surprise here. I think Iowa comes back forcefully and dominates today. While no one is stopping Garza this season, Nebraska has one player above 6-foot-8. Expect Garza to feast and Iowa to get back to its winning ways.
- Pick against the spread: Iowa