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1/5 Big Ten Preview: Spartans Host Nebraska

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Matthew Dae Smith / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tonight there is another pair of conference games, though this time we get a doubleheader on BTN instead of two games airing at the same time like last night.

Game of the Night

Nebraska Cornhuskers at #10 Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Michigan State -16.0

Nebraska held a five point lead over the 13th ranked Buckeyes earlier in the week with less than 30 seconds to go. They closed out regulation with a pair of missed free throws and two point blank misses at the rim, the second thanks to a timely block from Eugene Brown, before losing in overtime. A failed attempt for a much needed win for Fred Hoiberg and company, now Nebraska has to head on the road to face an even better Michigan State program.

The Cornhuskers offense hasn’t been efficient this season, that being once again evident when their two leading scorers shot 7 of 25 from the field against Ohio State. Nebraska also struggles from beyond the arc, though they limited turnovers against Ohio State and shot better from the free throw line besides when they could have closed out the game. For a team that can’t shoot from three, turns it over and doesn’t have many consistent weapons on the offensive side of the ball, they blew a major opportunity for a quality win against the Buckeyes.

Michigan State has won seven in a row, not losing since they dropped a game to Baylor. The win at Northwestern was closer then Tom Izzo would have preferred, but winning on the road in the Big Ten has been unnecessarily difficult. Now the Spartans have a more favorable matchup and they return to their homecourt.

One of the biggest issues that has plagued the Spartans this year is their 14.1 turnovers per game, an area that will need to be cleaned up if they want to stay atop the conference this year. Michigan State’s offense has looked pretty good almost everywhere else, currently placing in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings on KenPom. Michigan State spreads the wealth, with four players averaging 9.5-14.6 points per game.

Michigan State has the more talented roster, has played considerably better all season and this game is in East Lansing. There’s no reason to think Nebraska will pull an upset tonight.

Pick: Michigan State

The Rest

Penn State Nittany Lions at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Northwestern -5.0

Penn State picked up a big win last weekend against Indiana, showing just how hard it is to win on the road. The win, their first game in over three weeks, went much better than their 16 point loss at Michigan State. The Nittany Lions actually shot better from beyond the arc, hitting 50% of 22 threes, and Myles Dread’s 4 of 5 from deep was a huge spark in their upset bid. Now they’ll see if they can find a way to get a win on the road tonight against Northwestern.

The Wildcats couldn’t win on their home floor last time out, but it was against the tenth ranked Spartans. Even though they lost Northwestern looked pretty good, taking a seven point lead into the break and having a chance to win in the closing minutes of the game. Ultimately shooting an abysmal 32.3% from the field, 5 of 24 from three and only 20 of 30 from the free throw line proved to be costly.

Those numbers were a steady drop from the 45/76/35 stat line they’ve averaged so far this season on their way to 77.9 points per game. If Northwestern can shoot the ball more efficiently that will go a long way for picking up a W today, especially as the team has rebounded the ball nicely and limited turnovers all season. Facing off against a Penn State team that is only averaging 66.7 points per game and committing 13 turnovers per game, if the Wildcats can find their shot again they should be more than capable of bouncing back tonight.

Pick: Northwestern