COVID-19 related cancellations have been running rampant the past week, with today’s action seeing a laundry list of games already cancelled. First was Delaware State and Penn State, which was cancelled earlier this week due to COVID protocols related to Delaware State. Then Florida A&M and Illinois was cancelled, followed by the Indiana game cancelled Tuesday night. The reality is between the time I write this and the time you read it there very well may be another cancellation or two. As of now, though, there are still five games set for the day...none of which are that enticing.
Game of the Day
Nicholls State Colonels at #3 Purdue Boilermakers
- Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET BTN
This probably won’t be a terrible exciting game, but Purdue is the highest ranked Big Ten team playing today and Nicholls State almost beat Wisconsin two weeks ago before losing by three on the road. Outside of a loss to Rutgers on a desperation halfcourt heave Purdue has been perfect and will look to close 2021 with another win.
They’ll need to slow down Ty Gordon, who leads Nicholls State in scoring with 20.4 points per game. The guard scored 26 points against Wisconsin in a failed upset bid, and has scored at least 22 points in each of the last six games.
While Purdue will have to slow down Gordon, the Colonels will have serious size issues inside as they’re considerably ill prepared to deal with Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. The easiest way to describe Purdue this season is strength in numbers, with the team featuring weapons all over the court and an absolutely loaded bench consisting of players that would likely start for Purdue most seasons. The amount of weapons they have should be enough to handle Nicholls State as long as they don’t look past the Colonels. Considering their near upset of Wisconsin, it’s safe to say Matt Painter should have his team ready for today.
High Point Panthers at #10 Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 3:00 PM ET BTN
The Spartans close out their non-conference slate looking for their 11th win before heading into a soft open to conference play with Northwestern and Nebraska on deck. So far the Spartans, ranked tenth currently, have only lost to Kansas and Baylor, while picking up wins against Connecticut, Loyola Chicago and Louisville. They also gave Minnesota their only loss so far this season.
Michigan State typically gets better towards the back end of the season and Tom Izzo is likely hoping for that to be the case again this year. Michigan State hasn’t looked bad this year, but their 14.6 turnovers per game need to be cleaned up by March. They could also use someone to step forward a bit more offensively, with only two players averaging double figures, and Gabe Brown leading the team with 13.3 points per game.
Facing off against a 6-6 High Point shouldn’t be much of an issue, though the Spartans will need to slow down John Michael Wright. Wright is leading the Panthers in scoring with 20.8 points per game while also shooting 42.3% from three. He is coming off of a poor performance last time out, though, scoring 9 points in a 52-55 loss to Florida Atlantic.
Michigan State should have no issue closing 2021 with a win.
Pick: Michigan State
Illinois State Redbirds at #24 Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN+)
- Line: Wisconsin -16.0
Wisconsin is probably looking forward to getting back on the court, not playing a game since the 15th against Nicholls State. If you missed that game, the Badgers trailed into the second half and almost lost to the Colonels. They managed to sneak out a one possession win and will likely look to rebuild some momentum after the two week pause, especially with a road trip to Purdue to kick off 2022. They face an Illinois State program that has won four in a row, but hasn’t faced much opposition throughout the winning streak. The Redbirds are scoring just north of 80 points per game and are shooting 38.7% from three, but commit 14.6 turnovers per game and will likely have issues against a stout Wisconsin defense on the road. The Badgers should look better than the last few times they took the court, so look for them to bounce back nicely.
Alcorn State Braves at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN+)
The 10-1 Minnesota Golden Gophers, a surprise in the Big Ten over the first two months, closes their non-conference slate against 1-11 Alcorn State. The Braves are 315th in the KenPom ratings and have lost six in a row by at least 19 points. Committing 14.6 turnovers per game, shooting 29.9% from three and averaging only 58.9 points per game, it’s been tough sledding so far this season. That’s not a huge surprise, however, considering Alcorn State is a member of the SWAC, a conference that is known for it’s teams filling the first two months with buy games.
The Gophers run a thin rotation but have played clean, limiting turnovers and doing enough on both sides of the ball to take care of business. Jamison Battle leads the tram with 18.9 points, while Payton Willis adds another 16.3 while shooting 46% from three. There’s no reason Minnesota has anything to fear tonight.
Western Illinois Leathernecks at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN+)
- Line: Iowa -18.0
Iowa has returned to form after a three game skid with a pair of double digit wins. Iowa is averaging 87.6 points per game, led by Keegan Murray’s 23.2 points per game, and are shooting 47.3% from the field. Honestly the only glaring issue that’s shown so far is their poor defense, ranked 228th in the nation, and that’s more or less been a trademark for Fran McCaffery’s Iowa teams as of late. That could lead to some fireworks tonight, as the Leathernecks are averaging just under 82 points per game so far this season. Of course Western Illinois also has a poor defense, so it’s hard to see them doing enough to slow down Iowa tonight.