After only one game the past two nights the Big Ten is back with six different teams taking to the court tonight. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.
Game of the Night
Omaha Mavericks at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET
- Line: Nebraska -17.5
Sometimes early in the season the best game of the night isn’t the one with the most entertaining team or the most watchable player. Sometimes the best game on any given night is the one that is most likely to be an upset, or at the very least competitive. Last year Nebraska lost to Western Illinois in the opening week and also struggled with Sam Houston State. If there’s any chance of a game being close tonight this is the most likely bet.
In their opening win against Maine the Cornhuskers let their opponent claw back to just a one point deficit in the second half. An impressive feat from their opponent when you realize Maine shot 20% from the free throw line, committed 15 turnovers and were outrebounded 27-44. The Cornhuskers were led by newcomer Sam Griesel’s 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting, while Juwan Gary added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Omaha struggled offensively but didn’t immediately get ran off the court by the fifth ranked Kansas Jayhawks. They’ll need to shoot better than 38.6% from the field, but the game was 43-50 in the second half at one point before Kansas pulled away. Nebraska may be better than they’ve been in years past, but they’re not the Jayhawks.
While Nebraska has struggled repeatedly in non-conference play under Fred Hoiberg it’s hard to predict an upset here. Don’t be surprised if Omaha hangs around, but Nebraska should improve to 2-0 on the season.
Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET BTN
The first game tonight on BTN’s double header is between Ohio State and Charleston Southern. In their season opener Ohio State knocked off Robert Morris 91-53, led by Justice Sueing’s 20 points. Zed Key also had a solid day, recording 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Brice Sensabaugh added 17 from the bench. Ohio State shot 55.7% from the field and 47.6% from three, only struggling with free throws (61.9%) and turnovers (14). Defensively they held Robert Morris to 31.7% shooting and 16.7% from three.
Charleston Southern won easily in their opener, though that was against Toccoa Falls. Starting guard Tahlik Chavez had a rough night, going 1 of 12 from three. Luckily for the Buccaneers Claudell Harris Jr. added 26 points from the bench. They didn’t shoot particularly well, but 16 offensive rebounds and forcing 19 turnovers helped them earn a 17 shot and 11 free throw advantage. That is unlikely to happen tonight on the road.
Charleston Southern went 6-25 last year and shot only 40.7% from the field and 30.8% from deep. They’re too offensively challenged to provide much of a threat to the Buckeyes.
Pick: Ohio State
Sacred Heart Pioneers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET
One of the more consistent elements of Rutgers during Steve Pikiell’s tenure is that the Scarlet Knights have an impressive defense and a so-so offense. Their opener against Columbia was a pretty good example of this, with a lethargic first half performance on offense allowing Columbia to hang around before their defense held them to 14 points in the second half. When everything was said and done Columbia shot 23.4% from the field and 1 of 21 from three.
Offensively Rutgers had a few moments but hit only 43.1% from the field. They actually shot better from three (40%) then they did from the free throw line (35.7%). There’s plenty of familiar faces across the roster, but the next few weeks will be pivotal for Rutgers to work on finding an offensive identity to go alongside their stout defense.
Rutgers might let some of their non-conference slate hang around, but their defense should be good enough for the win.
Loyola Maryland Greyhounds at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET
In Penn State’s opener the Nittany Lions put up an atypical 93 points while hitting 18 three pointers. If Penn State can shoot like that they could surprise people throughout the year, though one has to wonder if the game plan was to shoot 63% of their shots from beyond the arc. On the defensive side of the ball they gave up 11 three pointers to Winthrop but they also forced 17 turnovers.
Their opponent tonight lost their opener to DePaul by only six points. Of course Loyola Maryland could have landed the upset if they didn’t shoot 47.1% from the free throw line on 17 attempts while also committing 14 turnovers. The Greyhounds have some offensive pieces in the backcourt but Penn State has a good enough defense that the Nittany Lions should fare a bit better than DePaul did earlier this week.
Pick: Penn State
Western Carolina Catamounts at Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET
- Line: Maryland -21.5
Maryland didn’t immediately get off to a hot start in Kevin Willard’s debut as head coach, entering the break up only seven at home against Niagara. They eventually took care of business and cruised on a 32-14 run to close out the game.
Tonight they’ll hose the Catamounts of Western Carolina. WCU lost in their season opener at Georgia 55-68. 35 of those 55 points were split between Tyzhaun Claude inside and Tre Jackson on the perimeter (5 of 10 from three). They’ll need more production elsewhere after the remaining roster added 20 points across 135 minutes.
The Terps shot the ball well from the field, limited turnovers and kept a slower pace in their opener. If they can repeat that performance they should be fine against Western Carolina.
Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at #13 Indiana Hoosiers
- Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET BTN
In the second game of a doubleheader on BTN the Hoosiers are set to host Bethune-Cookman. In their season opener the Hoosiers cruised past Morehead State 88-53, led by Trayce Jackson-Davis’s 15 points and 7 rebounds. Indiana didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from range, hitting 36.4% from three and 57.1% from the free throw line, but cleaned up well inside.
Bethune-Cookman lost by 31 in their season opener to Iowa while shooting 34.8% from the field and 31.3% from three. The SWAC school has a KenPom rating outside of the top 300 and struggled heavily on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
This should be another tune-up game where Indiana empties the bench early and cruises.