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11/12 Big Ten Preview: Minnesota-Western Kentucky

Preview all of Friday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Media Days Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has a loaded slate on Friday, highlighted by an intriguing neutral site game between Minnesota and Western Kentucky. All told, 10 teams are in action.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (ESPNU)
  • KenPom Spread: Western Kentucky by 1

Minnesota will be heading east for this one as the Gophers will face off against the Hilltoppers in North Carolina. Both teams enter at 1-0 and look relatively even on paper. Jairus Hamilton, Dayvion McKnight, and Jamarion Sharp lead the way for a top 100 Western Kentucky squad. Notably, the Hilltoppers went 21-8 overall last season.

This is going to be a real test for the Gophers and Ben Johnson as head coach. Western Kentucky has a solid defense and will make Minnesota work for every point. Expect a sloppy and low scoring game. The key for the Gophers will be figuring out a way to score in the paint and cleaning up the glass. If the team can do that, it should have a shot.

  • Pick: Western Kentucky

The Rest:

-Western Michigan Broncos at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan State by 26

After falling short against Kansas on Tuesday night, Michigan State will return home for what figures to be an easier game against Western Michigan. While the Broncos enter the game at 1-0 after beating Hope on Wednesday, they are a flawed squad ranking 315th on KenPom. Spartan fans will hope for an easy win, led by the team’s backcourt, which had an underwhelming showing against Kansas.

  • Pick: Michigan State

-Niagara Purple Eagles at No. 17 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State by 21

After Tuesday’s near loss to Akron, Buckeye fans have to be hoping Ohio State comes out better on Friday night. Fortunately, Niagara is a weaker team than Akron and enters the game sitting at 0-1 overall. Still, like Akron, Niagara nearly pulled off an upset earlier this week, only falling 63-60 at Xavier on Tuesday night. That’s certainly not going to be welcome news for Buckeye fans.

Ohio State desperatley needs to see more from its backcourt in this one. If Jamari Wheeler and company improve their play, this should be an easy win.

  • Pick: Ohio State

-Northern Illinois Huskies at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana by 24

The Hoosiers underwhelmed in the team’s opener earlier this week, narrowly avoiding an upset against Eastern Michigan at home on Tuesday. Unfortunately, many of the program’s recent issues surfaced in that one, including some underwhelming three-point shooting. Indiana will hope to rebound on Friday, but expect it to be more competitive than fans would like to see.

  • Pick: Northern Illinois

-Green Bay Phoenix at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 22

The Badgers had an easy win on Tuesday and should have another one on Friday night. Green Bay enters the game ranked 308th on KenPom and with few reasons for optimism. Keep an eye on Steven Crowl, who is trying to develop as Wisconsin’s big man down low.

  • Pick: Wisconsin

-High Point Panthers at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 20

Northwestern quietly opened its season on Tuesday night, cruising to an 80-56 win over Eastern Illinois. Boo Buie played great in that one. However, things will be a little tougher here as High Point is nearly 70 spots higher on KenPom than Eastern Illinois. Wildcat fans will hope Casey Simmons can have another solid showing. However, this feels like a game that will be sloppy and closer than fans would prefer.

  • Pick: High Point

-UMKC Kangaroos at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa by 21

There isn’t much to preview regarding this one. Iowa is a better team than UMKC and should be able to score an easy win. Keep and eye on Filip Rebraca in this one. He had an underwhelming game for the Hawkeyes on Tuesday and will be looking for a better performance here.

  • Pick: Iowa

-Indiana State Sycamores at No. 7 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue by 22

The Boilermakers opened up with a dominant win on Tuesday night and expect that to continue in this one on Friday. Indiana State will be thoroughly overmatched and the Boilers should cruise to an easy win. Purdue should have a substantial advantage upfront. Keep an eye on Cameron Henry for the Sycamores. He’s played pretty well so far this season, though it’s still early.

  • Pick: Purdue

-Sam Houston State Bearkats at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska by 12

Tuesday night was a brutal one for Husker fans. Despite getting off to a great start and seeing some quality play from the backcourt, Nebraska collapsed in the second half and ended up going down to Western Illinois at home. It marked the third straight season Nebraska has failed to reach 2-0 under Fred Hoiberg’s leadership and the fifth loss to a team ranked 161st or lower on KenPom in non-conference play in his tenure.

Yeah, so it wasn’t a great look.

Fortunately, Nebraska can get back on the right track on Friday night with Sam Houston State at home. The key will be the frontcourt. The Huskers got little from the team’s big men against Western Illinois on Tuesday night and need to see some improvement in this one. Derrick Walker and Willhelm Breidenbach will be the players to watch.

  • Pick: Sam Houston State

-Arkansas State Red Wolves at No. 11 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 22

Illinois will still be without Kofi Cockburn on Friday night, but this should still be a pretty easy win for Illinois. The Red Wolves are significantly better than the Jackson State squad Illinois beat earlier this week, but are far from a great squad. There really isn’t a ton here to think this will be a close game. Keep an eye on Norchard Omier for Arkansas State.

  • Pick: Illinois


Record Against The Spread: 1-3-0