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11/17 Big Ten Preview: Gavitt Tipoff Games Carry On

Preview all of Wednesday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois At Indiana Indiana Athletics-USA TODAY NETWORK

Tonight is the third night of the Gavitt Tipoff Games with a doubleheader set to tip on FS1 while Maryland hosts George Mason over on BTN.

Game of the Night

St. John’s Red Storm at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (FS1)
  • Line: IU -6.5

The start of the Mike Woodson era was eerily familiar for Indiana fans, with the Hoosiers being carried to another win by Trayce Jackson-Davis. The forward led the team with 21 points while only one other player reached double figures and the team went on to shoot 4 of 24 from three while making only 60% of their free throws. Indiana fared better in their second outing against Northern Illinois, but the team still struggled heavily from the perimeter, making 34.8% of their 23 three pointers.

St. John’s has rolled so far against Mississippi Valley State and Saint Peter’s, averaging 105 points per game. Things will get a bit harder tonight as they head west to Bloomington to square off against the Hoosiers.

While tonight’s game might be a bit less notable compared to Michigan State and Butler, there’s a lot of interest in Indiana thanks to Mike Woodson taking over as coach. So far the juries out on if the team has enough pieces in place to make a considerable improvement this season, so a tough test against a solid St. John’s team could be more indicative of where Indiana is right now. Of course the Red Storm have only gone 35-26 since Mike Anderson took over for Chris Mullin, so it’s still a game Indiana needs to win.

Indiana needs more from just Trayce Jackson-Davis and while they have a handful of options that have shown they might be ready to step up, no one has solidified that role yet. The big thing the Hoosiers need to find is some shooting and until they do so it’s hard to see them making much of an improvement this year. Indiana gets the edge only because the game is at Assembly Hall in what will likely be an ugly, plodding slugfest.

Pick: Indiana

The Rest

George Mason Patriots at #20 Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • Line: MD -12.0

Maryland has won all three games but hasn’t exactly wowed the world, beating Quinnipiac, George Washington and Vermont by 14, 7 and 11 respectively. The Terps also trailed at the break in their last two games. Maryland is led by a pair of guards in Fatts Russell and Eric Ayala, who are averaging 16.3 points and 15.3 points per game. Like Indiana, the Terps need to improve from the perimeter, hitting only 23.4% of their three pointers.

Their opponent tonight is George Mason, who have steamrolled three mid-majors. The Patriots are led by Josh Oduro, who is averaging 19.3 points per game and hitting 37.5% from beyond the arc. George Washington is shooting 40.5% from deep, but have been turnover prone (almost 15 per game) and have struggled a bit from the line.

George Mason has the better overall shooting, but Maryland has the athleticism to get inside and more than enough talent to move on to 4-0.

Pick: Maryland

Michigan State Spartans at Butler Bulldogs

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • Line: MSU -2.5

Michigan State is a young team and typically Tom Izzo tends to have slower starts in East Lansing due to the nature of relying on underclassmen while also scheduling a tough non-conference slate. The Spartans looked decent in a 13 point loss to the third rank Kansas Jayhawks and bounced back nicely with a 44 point win over Western Michigan. With four players averaging double figures, Michigan State has been spreading the ball around. They’ve also cleaned up nicely on the glass, out rebounding Kansas by 7 and Western Michigan by 30 rebounds.

Butler is 3-0 with narrow wins over IUPUI and Troy and a blowout over Central Arkansas. The team is highlighted by trio of guards in Chuck Harris, Jair Bolden and Jayden Taylor, who all average at least 13 points per game. Forward Bryce Nze has done a passable job inside with 8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs have fared better from three than the Spartans, but are also committing 15 turnovers per game.

The Spartans will likely be the better team by the end of the season, but right now they have a lot of pieces that haven’t quite came together yet. They’ve also struggled from the line and three. That’s a problem against a Butler team reliant on a trio of explosive guards and a team that has shown the ability to shoot from three. Mix that with the game taking place at Butler and the Spartans will be at a disadvantage unless they can take over the game at the rim.

It should be competitive but Butler should have enough long range firepower for the win.

Pick: Butler