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1/6 Big Ten Preview: Indiana Hosts Ohio State

Preview all of Thursday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Kentucky at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten only has a loaded slate on Thursday, featuring three games with Big Ten title implications. Ohio State goes on the road to face Indiana, Illinois hosts Maryland, and Wisconsin is set to battle Iowa in the late game.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana by 1

It’s been quite a calendar year for both of these squads. Ohio State entered the offseason after one of the program’s worst losses in recent memory, but recovered nicely so far this year, jumping out to a 9-2 start with a win over Duke. However, Ohio State recently had a COVID-19 pause and is still trying to regroup from that incident. On the other side, Indiana fired Archie Miller after another season and brought in Mike Woodson to led the ship. However, despite some early promise, Indiana lost its most recent outing to Penn State.

The teams now enter a game that looks pivotal on both sides.

For Indiana, this is a chance to finally score a marquee win and show things are different with Woodson at the helm. The Hoosiers have shown potential, it just hasn’t come together for a big win yet. And, for Ohio State, this is a chance to show the team has overcome its COVID-19 issues and will be a factor for the Big Ten title.

On the court, the matchup is loaded with talent. Trayce Jackson-Davis will lead things for the Hoosiers while EJ Liddell will carry the Buckeyes. The question for both sides is whether you sell out against the star, or let the star go off and slow down everyone alongside them. Indiana’s defense is sounder, so it seems like they should have the advantage, especially at home. However, can Indiana make enough perimeter shots to hang?

Expect a raucous crowd in Bloomington and a star-filled game. The game may likely come down to the role players in the backcourt. If Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart play well for the Hoosiers, perhaps Indiana can pull off the upset.

  • Pick: Indiana

The Rest:

-Maryland Terrapins at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 11

Both of these teams were in action earlier this week and performed relatively well. Illinois blew the doors off Minnesota on the road while Maryland fought valiantly against Iowa before falling short on the road. The question is now about who will be able to bounce back for this one after a quick turnaround. Illinois seems like an easy pick, but can the team possibly play as well as it did against Minnesota on Tuesday? It’s a major question.

On the court, these two teams are miles apart. Illinois relies on a dominant big man in Kofi Cockburn while Maryland uses its backcourt and wing groups to carry the day. Maryland’s best hope will be to spread out the floor, get Cockburn moving, and hope you can get him into foul trouble. Because, otherwise, Maryland doesn’t really have anyone who can matchup with the All-American center. It will take quite an effort for the Terps to win this one.

  • Pick: Maryland

-Iowa Hawkeyes at Wisconsin Badgers

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 2

While Iowa and Wisconsin are stylistically two of the more distinct teams in the league, they share some significant similarities this year. In particular, both have been wildly inconsistent, oozing potential at some moments and falling flat at others. For example, there’s little explaining how Wisconsin beat elite opponents like Houston and Purdue away from home and also needed heroic efforts to avoid losses to Nicholls State and Illinois State at home. A lot of this game will simply be about which Iowa and Wisconsin teams show up.

Additionally, Iowa and Wisconsin also share a key similarity on the floor as well. Both teams rely extensively on one player to carry them offensively. Iowa relies on Keegan Murray and the Badgers look to Johnny Davis. Other players certainly contribute, but these are the guys carrying the day.

As always when Iowa plays, the question here will be whether the Hawkeyes can get enough stops to win the game. The team’s defense is still a mess, ranking 141st nationally on KenPom. Wisconsin’s Chucky Hepburn also looks like an x-factor. If he can get going, watch out.

  • Pick: Wisconsin