The Big Ten heads into its final weekend of conference play with plenty to settle. The most pressing issue is the conference crown, an award that up to three teams could share if they all win this weekend. One of those teams, Wisconsin, must navigate Indiana’s Assembly Hall and a Hoosier team that could use another Quad 1 win.
Elsewhere, Rutgers is trying to stay on the right side of the bubble, while Purdue is trying to play their way in. Finally, Penn State heads to Northwestern looking to keep a five seed in Big Ten Tournament play and for the NCAA Tournament.
Plenty of storylines and intrigue this weekend as March gets into full swing. Let’s check out what to expect from today’s three games.
Game of the Day:
-No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers at Indiana Hoosiers
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST (ESPN)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana (-2)
On January 28th Wisconsin sat at 12-9 overall and 5-5 in the Big Ten. They were on the wrong side of an early bubble, dealing with injuries, suspensions, and an ugly team departure. Since that point, Wisconsin is 9-1 and improbably looking for their first Big Ten title since 2015.
Standing in their way are the Indiana Hoosiers. According to bracketmatrix, the Hoosiers currently sit as a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a win today would probably solidify their hopes in entering the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
This is a series Wisconsin has dominated in recent history. The Badgers are 28-3 against the Hoosiers since 2007. The Hoosiers haven’t beaten the Badgers by more than one possession since January 2007.
I see this matchup coming down to guard play. Wisconsin’s developed into a good three-point shooting team over their last 10 games and is second in the conference in three-point shooting percentage. Indiana is a mediocre perimeter defensive team, but if they can give effort, that has turned around a bit. The Hoosiers need their trio of guards Rob Phinisee, Aljami Durham, and Devonte Green to play well and provide support to Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Overall, I think Wisconsin continues its dominance over Indiana with a close win today.
- Pick against the spread: Wisconsin
- Time/TV: 2:00 PM EST (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue (-5)
Around 100 miles to the north of Bloomington is another game with important postseason implications. The Boilermakers and Scarlet Knights will battle it out at Mackey Arena looking to get on the right side of the bubble.
Rutgers did a lot to help their case earlier in the week with a dominating performance at home against Maryland. According to bracketmatrix, they are an 11-seed right now and appear on 99 out of 101 brackets included in the composite.
Purdue revived its NCAA Tournament hopes with an impressive road win at Iowa earlier in the week. Bracketmatrix has them in the “First Four Out” category and the Boilermakers likely need at least two wins to feel like they could get in on Selection Sunday.
This game will likely be a rock fight. The Boilermakers and Scarlet Knights are not great offensive teams and are more comfortable at a slower pace. A key player to Purdue’s mini-resurgence is Eric Hunter. The sophomore is averaging 18 points per game over his last two and has shown solid decision making handling the ball in pick’n’roll situations. He has a slender frame, so look for Rutgers to aggressively play him on defense to see how he (and the referees) respond.
The Boilermakers have dropped a few home games this year, which not the norm, but I think they come through today and pull away in the second half.
- Pick against the spread: Purdue
-No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Penn State (-7)
The key for Penn State today is momentum. The Nittany Lions have dropped four out of five and need to establish some positive play before the Big Ten Tournament next week.
Chief on the agenda today is to try and establish some offensive success. Penn State is averaging just 63.8 points per game over their last five. There’s only been one game in that span that the Nittany Lions have scored over one point per possession.
Northwestern will try to do what it does at home and limit the possessions, muck up the game, run their sets, and come out with a close victory. Penn State’s inability to produce on the offensive end could be a worry in a game that will probably be light on possessions.
Still, I think Penn State finds some things and comes out with a victory and the five-seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
- Pick against the spread: Penn State