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12/5 Big Ten Basketball Preview: Buckeyes Travel to Penn State

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Nicolas Galindo/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

There are three games scattered throughout the day, including a pair of conference matchups. Let’s take a look at the action set for today.

Game of the Day

Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET (BTN)
  • Line: Ohio State -4.5

The Buckeyes have had a weird start to the season far. Their 4-2 start was hit or miss, with a solid win over Seton Hall and a narrow loss to a good Florida program, but also included a loss at Xavier, a game they probably should have lost against Akron and a lackluster performance against Niagara. So naturally the Buckeyes came out and beat the new number one team in the country on Tuesday, knocking off Duke 71-66. The Duke win was actually the first game this season that forward E.J. Liddell did not lead the team in scoring, with Zed Key scoring 20 of their 71 points.

Liddell has gotten off to a massive start this year, averaging 21.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game. Zed Key is the only other Buckeye averaging at least 10 points, and no guard on the roster has more than seven points per game. Ohio State needs to find some more production from their backcourt and if they can’t get that figured out they’re going to have problems in conference play.

Their first conference game comes against a 4-3 Penn State program that has lost two of their last three games and has seen the offense start to slowdown. The Nittany Lions have a slim rotation, predominantly featuring seven players, and the team has been turnover prone. John Harrar has looked solid inside, averaging 10.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, while Seth Lundy and Sam Sessoms have proven to be capable scorers. No one on Penn State’s roster is that explosive, though, and the teams options on offense are pretty limited past their top two playmakers. Even Harrar has his limitations, as the 75% shooter cleans up inside but will likely have some issues today with Liddell holding his own down low.

This Penn State teams seems to keep up with the tradition of being another hard working Nittany Lion program that gives 100%. Like those past teams, though, they look overmatched from a talent perspective and lack the depth against a more balanced Buckeyes unit.

Pick: Ohio State

The Rest

Northwestern Wildcats at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • Line: Maryland -4.0

After a rough 5-3 start Mark Turgeon mutually stepped down as Maryland’s head coach, with Danny Manning set to take over for the remainder of the season. The news comes after back-to-back close losses to Virginia Tech and Louisville. It’s been tough sledding on the offensive side of the ball, with the Terps shooting a woeful 26.8% from three, only 73% from the line and almost 13 turnovers per game.

Luckily they face a not particularly great Northwestern team on their home court. The Wildcats have shot better than Maryland, and limit turnovers (8.9 per game), but outside of Peter Nance and and Boo Buie they don’t have many consistent weapons on offense. Big man Ryan Young has looked pretty good so far this year, averaging 11.9 points in only 17.9 minutes per game, but splits minutes in a rotation that is pretty balanced across nine players.

Maryland can’t shoot from three, so they’ll need to attack the rim. Their issues on offense should let the Wildcats hang around, but winning on the road is hard in the Big Ten and Maryland has enough talent to figure out a win in their first game without Turgeon.

Pick: Maryland

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET (ESPNU)
  • Line: Mississippi State -10.0

Minnesota picked up a much needed win at Pitt earlier in the week to improve to 6-0, but now they have a three game stretch that starts today with a road trip to Mississippi State and games against Michigan State and Michigan. To further complicate manners, the offense has stalled out for Minnesota as they have averaged only 54.5 points the last two games. Even with a win against Pitt last time out, the Gophers shot 37% from the field, 36% from three and only got to the line for five free throws.

Mississippi State is 6-1 this year, winning all of their games by double digits outside of a loss to Louisville on Thanksgiving. Guard Iverson Molinar is leading the Bulldogs with 16 points per game, while forward Tolu Smith is adding 15.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per outing. Mississippi State is shooting 48.5% from the field and has offensively fared much better than Minnesota has. That and the game taking place on their home court should be enough for the Bulldogs today against an inexperienced Minnesota squad.

Pick: Mississippi State