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12/8 Wednesday Big Ten Basketball Preview: Wisconsin Hosts Hoosiers

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NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

There are four games tonight, with a Big Ten conference doubleheader on BTN and another pair of Big Ten teams hosting mid-majors. Let’s take a look at the action.

Game of the Night

Indiana Hoosiers at #22 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • Line: Wisconsin -3.5

It wasn’t always pretty, but Indiana remained undefeated until a double overtime loss to Syracuse where they committed almost 30 turnovers. They bounced back nicely with a win against Nebraska to open conference play, but will face a much more difficult task tonight. The Hoosiers were showing similarities to their team last year, struggling at the line and from three, but Indiana has been shooting a bit better from the perimeter the last few games. That will be huge if they are going to make the improvement needed to get to the postseason in Mike Woodson’s first season. What’s still alarming, though, is the abundance of turnovers and missed free throws.

Tonight they’ll face a hot Wisconsin team that has won five in a row, including games against Houston, Saint Mary’s and Marquette. The Badgers are surprising people and sitting at 7-1, a strong non-conference start for Greg Gard that was much needed. If you’re loosely familiar with Wisconsin, which I expect that you are, you won’t be surprised to see that they’re winning behind a defense that is giving up only 59.1 points per game. Wisconsin, while not particularly flashy on offense, plays efficiently as they convert 79.5% of their free throws and commit only 9.1 turnovers per game. Guards Johnny Davis and Brad Davison have combined to score 36 points per game.

Trayce Jackson-Davis has been doing what he’s always done and if Indiana can continue to improve from outside they have more then enough to pick up a win against a plodding Wisconsin offense. At the same time, however, playing in Madison has always been difficult, especially against that Badgers defense. Mix that with an Indiana team that still struggles from the line and is turnover prone and Wisconsin should win based on the strength of their defense.

Pick: Wisconsin

The Rest

Wagner Seahawks at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET

Penn State is 1-3 their last three games, with close losses to LSU and Miami and a 12 point loss to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions offense hasn’t exactly been high flying, averaging 66.9 points and 13.3 turnovers per game. They got 23 points from Jalen Pickett against the Buckeyes, and will need him to step up alongside Seth Lundy and Sam Sessoms. The bench is thin outside of Myles Dread, with Penn State running a slim rotation throughout the first month of the season.

Wagner has only played four games this season, going 3-1 and picking up a win at VCU last month. Alex Morales is the main offensive weapon for the Seahawks, averaging 18 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while shooting 65.6% from the field. Wagner has been sloppy with the ball, though, committing 15 turnovers per game. Wagner’s defense has given up 59.3 points per game, meaning tonight should be a low scoring bruiser. The Seahawks have the defense to contend here, but Penn State should have enough in the tank for the W.

Pick: Penn State

#19 Michigan State Spartans at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • Line: Michigan State -5.5

Minnesota is somehow still undefeated after holding on in back to back road games against Mississippi State and Pitt. They also snuck one out against Western Kentucky and beat Princeton in double overtime. They’ll face their biggest test tonight against a Michigan State team that has only lost to Kansas and Baylor this season.

The Gophers have limited turnovers this season, but they don’t take advantage at the free throw line. Jamison Battle and Payton Willis are both averaging north of 17 points per game, while guards E.J. Stephens and Sean Sutherlin average 11.1 and 9.2 points per game. Like Penn State, Minnesota has a slim rotation that is only seven deep with only two additional players seeing consistent minutes past the starting five.

Michigan State has considerably more depth than Minnesota and they also have the more talented roster on top of that. No one is lighting up the charts for Michigan State, with Gabe Brown leading the Spartans with only 12.9 points per game. Michigan State is turnover prone, but they make up for it with a defense that gives up 63.6 points per game.

Minnesota has improbably remained undefeated this season, but it’ll be hard for a thin Gophers squad to hang for 40 against a much more balanced Spartans program. As long as Michigan State can avoid the turnover bug they should win tonight.

Pick: Michigan State

Towson Tigers at #21 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (ESPNU)
  • Line: Ohio State -15.5

Ohio State followed up their upset of top ranked Duke with a road win against Penn State to open conference play. Now they’ll host Towson in another winnable non-conference game. E.J. Liddell continues to be a force inside with 20.4 points and 7 rebounds per game, while Kyle Young had a big game against the Nittany Lions, scoring 16 points off the bench to lead the Buckeyes in scoring. Ohio State will need increased production around Liddell if they want to make a push to the top of the Big Ten this season.

Towson has won their last three to improve to 6-3. Guard Cameron Holder has been big all over for the Tigers, leading Towson in scoring, rebounds and steals, while also shooting 41.7% from three. Unfortunately for Towson they don’t have much perimeter shooting and not much of answer inside for Liddell.

Pick: Ohio State