The 2021 Gavitt Games tipped off earlier this week and it’s been a rough go for the Big Ten so far. However, the league will have two more chances to right the ship on Thursday night with Ohio State and Rutgers.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 19 Ohio State Buckeyes at Xavier Musketeers
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Xavier by 1
This not only looks like the best game of the night, but one of the best for the week and the entire non-conference slate. The Buckeyes will face in-state foe Xavier for the first time since the 2007 NCAA Tournament and will go on the road against an in-state opponent for the first time in what seems like forever. Folks around Ohio have been begging for matchups like this and fans will finally get to see it.
On the court, both teams have simply been alright. Each is undefeated, but hasn’t looked particularly impressive in doing so. Ohio State needed a buzzer beater to avoid a loss against Akron and Xavier only beat a pretty weak Niagara team by three points. This should be a great opportunity to see which of these teams is for real.
Xavier is primarily led by guard Paul Scruggs. It’s going to be a big challenge for players like Jamari Wheeler and Malaki Branham to slow him down. The team also boasts a handful of former Big Ten transfers like Jerome Hunter and Jack Nunge, so fans should be pretty familiar with the roster.
This feels like a game that will come down to the final minutes. How the teams shoot from deep feels like the determining factor. EJ Liddell will also need a big night.
- Pick Against The Spread: Ohio State
-Alabama State Hornets at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 31
Iowa enters this one with plenty of momentum. The Hawkeyes are 3-0 and have rolled through an easy schedule so far. Keegan Murray looks like a star and the team’s offense is now ranked eighth nationally by KenPom. Unfortunately (?), we will learn little more on Thursday as Iowa gets another body bag game against a terrible opponent. Expect another blowout victory.
- Pick Against The Spread: Iowa
-St. Francis (NY) Terriers at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN+)
- KenPom Spread: Penn State by 22
After falling on the road by 25 points to UMass, Penn State fans will be hoping for a rebound performance on Thursday against a terrible St. Francis squad. By all measures, this should be a Penn State victory. Look for the bench to play a lot in this one. We will learn little about either side.
- Pick Against The Spread: Penn State
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at DePaul Blue Demons
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Rutgers by 1
It’s been a rough start to the season for Rutgers so far. While the Scarlet Knights are 3-0 and two of those wins have come by double-digits, things have felt pretty shaky. Rutgers needed overtime to beat Lehigh in the opener and were in a dogfight against NJIT in the team’s most recent outing. The team has also dropped all the way to 73rd on KenPom during the stretch.
Not exactly what you like to see to start a season.
However, Rutgers will get a chance to rebound on Thursday against a decent DePaul squad. The team is led by David Jones and Nick Ongenda in the frontcourt and has one of the better rebounding units Rutgers will see this season. Expect a sloppy game where both teams battle on the boards. However, I think Rutgers guts out the win.
- Pick Against The Spread: Rutgers
-Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 25
The Wildcats are another team playing a team ranked outside the top 300 on Thursday night. Northwestern enters the game at 3-0 and should have no trouble improving to 4-0 before a key matchup against Providence next Monday. Look to see whether Pete Nance can continue his stellar play. He had 18 points in his last outing.
- Pick Against The Spread: Fairleigh Dickinson
Record Against The Spread: 8-10-0