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1/16 Big Ten Preview: Ohio State Hosts Penn State

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Once again there’s a doubleheader early on in the day, with a pair of games tipping off on BTN starting at noon. While it makes sense to try to avoid the playoffs, with NFL games taking place all day it certainly feels unnecessary for the Big Ten to repeatedly schedule all their games in the early afternoon on the weekend. Anyway, let’s take a look at the games for today.

Game of the Day

Penn State Nittany Lions at #16 Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Ohio State -8.5

The Nittany Lions have looked pretty good since a COVID related delay, knocking off Indiana, Northwestern and blowing out Rutgers, with a lone loss against top ten Purdue. They’ll face another big test today on the road against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are looking to bounce back after a loss at Wisconsin on Thursday.

Ohio State has been painstakingly inconsistent this year, commonly playing down to their competition. From a buzzer beater to beat Akron, getting blown out by Indiana, needing overtime to beat Nebraska and struggling against Northwestern, Ohio State has had plenty of ugly games. They’ve also beat a ranked Seton Hall, knocked off top ranked Duke and have an 18 point win against Wisconsin. So what Ohio State team comes out today?

Against Wisconsin the Buckeyes cleaned up inside, hitting 27 of their 41 two pointers. They could only hit 3 of 19 from three and 50% from the free throw line, though, considerably lower than their 37.8% and 75.6% season averages. Ohio State still is trying to figure out who their second option is past E.J. Liddell, with guys like Malaki Branham, Zed Key and Kyle Young all vying for that honor, but no one consistently taking over. Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler looked like a viable perimeter threat earlier in the season, but has hit only 1 of 12 from three over the last three games.

Penn State has things a bit more figured out on offense when it comes to their roles, with pretty much all of their offense running through four guys. Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett pace the team with 14.1 and 13.4 points per game, while Sam Sessoms can be explosive and hits just under 46% from three. John Harrar is once again a glue guy for Penn State, averaging 11.1 points and 10 rebounds per game. Past that, however, it’s slim pickings with only Myles Dread (5.6 ppg) being occasionally in the mix. Penn State isn’t scoring that many points, averaging just over 67 points per game.

It’ll be interesting to see how Harrar fares against Liddell. While Harrar isn’t the most talented big in the conference, he has consistently produced results for Penn State. He also does a good job converting at the rim when given the opportunity. Lundy and Sessoms will have to do a lot today if they want to carry Penn State to a win, but a 17 point win over Rutgers last time out should give them some confidence. When Penn State starts to heat up from beyond the arc they can be sneakily dangerous, and they’ll likely need to replicate that to find success in Columbus.

Penn State is a hardworking team that has shown the ability to overachieve. Ohio State is a skilled but flawed team that consistently plays down (or up) to their opposition, leading to a situation where it will be no surprise if today’s game is close. Ohio State’s home court advantage should be enough for them to avoid the upset, but don’t be surprised if Penn State hangs around until the very end.

Pick: Ohio State

The Rest

Iowa Hawkeyes at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Iowa -6.0

Minnesota is riding a three game losing streak and things won’t get any easier today as they host Iowa. Last time out they almost upset Michigan State on the road before losing on a shot at the end of regulation by Joey Hauser. Even more problematic, forward Eric Curry suffered an ankle injury after setting a career high in scoring. With Minnesota running a rotation that is basically only seven players, the potential of playing without Curry (as of Saturday night his status was still uncertain after Ben Johnson said he was day-to-day earlier in the week) leaves a thin Gophers quad even thinner.

The lack of size and depth will be a major problem today as they face off against an offensively minded Iowa. The Hawkeyes bounced back from a loss at Wisconsin by roaring back against Indiana for a nine point win at home. It was actually Keegan Murray’s brother, Kris, who led the team in scoring with 29 points off the bench. That was big considering no one in the starting lineup scored more than 12 and Jordan Bohannon went 2 of 11 from the field. The Iowa defense, normally a major weakness, forced a whopping 23 turnovers.

Kris Murray has exploded on the scene this year, averaging 23.9 points and 8 rebounds per game. Jordan Bohannon adds a ton of experience and Fran McCaffery once again utilizes a strength in numbers approach with a wide variety of offensive weapons. While today’s game is on the road, the offensive prowess of the Hawkeyes should have enough firepower to get past the Gophers.

Pick: Iowa