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1/12 Big Ten Preview: Spartans Host Gophers

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight there are a pair of games on BTN, with tenth ranked Michigan State hosting Minnesota kicking off the night.

Game of the Night

Minnesota Golden Gophers at #10 Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Michigan State -12.5

A surprising 10-1 start for Minnesota is starting to look like a distant memory after double digit losses against Illinois and Indiana. Ben Johnson had his work cut out for him with the roster he pieced together and while they had a promising start, it looks like things are starting to balance out. Things won’t get any easier tonight with a road trip to Michigan State.

It’s been a week since Michigan State has played after their game against Michigan was postponed and while the Spartans have been really good this year, they didn’t exactly wow anyone in wins against Northwestern and Nebraska. Michigan State playing down to their competition, something they also did in their last non-conference game against High Point, should at least provide some hope for the Gophers.

Michigan State is scoring, hitting shots and has a top 25 defensive unit per KenPom. The problem is they keep turning the ball over, averaging almost 15 per game. They’ve managed to sidestep turnovers thanks to their shooting and defensive prowess, but if they continue to do so it will catch to them in conference play. Is Minnesota good enough to be the team to do that?

Jamison Battle and Payton Willis provide a solid core for the Gophers, but the roster is thin on playmakers past that and with a rotation heavily reliant primarily on six players (and a bit of Charlie Daniels) it leaves Minnesota thin and without the depth against a Spartans team loaded with stars and highly touted recruits.

The Spartans have let teams hang around and Minnesota has certainly overachieved, but they simply lack the depth for a road upset here. Michigan State wins once again.

Pick: Michigan State

The Rest

Maryland Terrapins at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Northwestern -3.5

In the late game tonight Maryland will look for their first conference game on a road trip to Evanston, also looking to avenge their conference opening loss to Northwestern back in December. In that outing Maryland turned it over 14 times and went 7 of 36 from inside the arc, even worse when you realize they hit 10 of 23 three pointers. While the Terps haven’t fared that much better since (at least results wise), they have kept it close on the road against Iowa and Illinois and almost knocked off Wisconsin last time out.

So far this year the only conference win for Northwestern came against Maryland, while they currently ride a three game losing streak after coming close against Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State. Can the Wildcats win at home? They’ve played good enough down the stretch to beat several better teams so in theory they should, but the Wildcats keep dropping winnable games as all five losses this year have came by single digits.

Maryland has had issues with turnovers and perimeter shooting, but it’s slowly been getting a bit better as the season wears on. Eric Ayala and Fatts Russell make a formidable duo in the backcourt and regardless of their issues, this team was considered a fringe tourney team heading into the season. Northwestern has hung around with everyone they’ve played, but for whatever reason can’t close out winnable games. Pete Nance and company have played well, but there isn’t really anyone that can take control of a game for the Wildcats.

Northwestern should probably win today, but Maryland is due for a win and have been looking better then when they bottomed out after parting ways with Mark Turgeon. Maryland with the upset.

Pick: Maryland