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11/7 Big Ten Preview: MSU Faces Gonzaga

Preview all of Friday’s Big Ten action.

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

The season may have tipped off on Monday night, but Friday feels like when it officially begins, as we finally get to see some marquee matchups. Michigan State faces off against Gonzaga and both Michigan and Wisconsin face interesting opponents in neutral venues, among others.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs

  • Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (ESPN)
  • KenPom Spread: Gonzaga by 8

This is not only the biggest game in the Big Ten on Friday, but is arguably the biggest game of the college basketball season to date. Michigan State will go toe-to-toe with a loaded Gonzaga squad in the Peraton Armed Forces Classic. The game is being played in honor of Veteran’s Day and will be aboard an aircraft carrier. It figures to be an amazing spectacle.

The game itself projects as relatively one-sided. Gonzaga is ranked second nationally and for good reason. The Bulldogs were a powerhouse last year and return several key contributors from that squad, including superstar center Drew Timme. Rasir Bolton also returns in the backcourt after a really productive 2021-’22 season. Fans might remember him from previous stops at Penn State and Iowa State. He’s great with the ball and keeps it out of dangerous situations.

There are no obvious weaknesses with this Gonzaga squad. If Michigan State is going to pull out the win, it’s going to take a team effort. Everyone will need to play their best game and Spartan fans will have to hope for Gonzaga to be off for a night. It can happen. One key player to watch here will be Joey Hauser. He opened the season well, but will have a far more significant challenge on Friday night. Mady Sissoko is going to be challenged as well. Those two need to hold up against Timme if the team is going to have a chance.

One aspect of the game that could bode well for Michigan State is Gonzaga’s defense. While the Bulldogs boast a nationally ranked defense, it doesn’t force a ton of turnovers, which has been an Achilles heel for the Spartans in recent years. And when Michigan State hasn’t turned over, the team has been able to play with just about anyone. That will be the hope here.

Still, it’s hard to pick against Gonzaga in this matchup. The team has a clear advantage in the frontcourt and looks like one of the better squads nationally. Meanwhile, Michigan State is still trying to get healthy and figure out its lineup. Keep an eye on Jaden Akins and how much he can contribute in this one. That could be an important aspect for the Spartans.

  • Pick: Gonzaga

The Rest:

-St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota by 18

The Gophers had to sweat things out on opening night against Western Michigan, but should get a far easier opponent in this one. St. Francis is ranked as one of the worst teams nationally by KenPom. This should be a win, even with Jamison Battle out and Braeden Carrigton questionable.

All eyes will be on Dawson Garcia. He’s going to need another big performance if the Gophers are going to survive the upset bid.

  • Pick: Minnesota

-Austin Peay Governors at Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue by 21

Purdue cruised to a 31-point win on opening night and this one projects to finish similarly. The Boilers will enter as substantial favorites and should be able to ride the loaded frontcourt and Zach Edey to relatively easy win. Austin Peay enters the game after a blowout loss against North Carolina State on Monday. The Governors have a bit more size upfront than you’d normally see out a team this caliber, so keep an eye on Elijah Hutchins-Everett. However, Edey should still be able to score over him..

  • Pick: Purdue

-Wisconsin Badgers vs. Stanford Cardinal

  • Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET (FS1)
  • KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 4

This is easily the Big Ten’s second-best game of the night. As you can see from the KenPom spread, this projects as a relatively even matchup. The game will be played in Milwaukee as part of the Brew City Battle, so it should be a heavy Badger crowd. It’s a chance for Wisconsin to get its first marquee win of the season and put last year’s postseason struggles behind it.

The most intriguing matchup will be on the wing. Spencer Jones and Harrison Ingram led the Cardinal there and should pose some serious challenges for Jordan Davis and Tyler Wahl, particularly given Wahl’s involvement on opening night. The question is whether Jones will play after missing opening night with a lower body injury. If he does, Wisconsin will have its hands full.

  • Pick: Wisconsin

-North Carolina A&T Aggies at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa by 24

There isn’t much to see with this one. Iowa will face off against another abysmal opponent at home on Friday night. It figures to be a lopsided game. The only real thing to watch here will be how some of the young players perform. Keep an eye on Josh Dix and Dasonte Bowen.

  • Pick: Iowa

-Northern Illinois Huskies at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 17

The Wildcats had a nice opening night on Monday, cruising to an easy win over Chicago State at home. Northwestern will hope to keep that going on Friday against another overmatched in-state foe. Keep an eye on Luke Hunger and how he plays off the bench. He did well in the opener and is looking to emerge as one of the team’s primary reserve options.

  • Pick: Northwestern

-Kansas City Roos at No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 23

Like Iowa above, there really isn’t much to break down here. Illinois opened the season with a dreadful Eastern Illinois team and will face off against another dreadful opponent in UMKC at home on Friday night. This should not be a competitive game, though it will give the team a chance to break in some of its newcomers a bit more. Keep an eye on Ty Rodgers who played significantly on Monday night. Fans are hoping he continues to emerge.

  • Pick: Illinois

-No. 22 Michigan Wolverines vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (ESPNU)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan by 22

This is one of those matchups that is quietly intriguing. Michigan opened the season against a decent mid-major opponent in Purdue Fort Wayne on Monday night and will now head an hour down I-94 to face off against in-state foe Eastern Michigan in Detroit. It’s a chance for Michigan to move to 2-0 on the season.

The game looks relatively lopsided on paper, but could be more competitive than some believe, as Eastern opened the season without transfer forward Emoni Bates. At one time, Bates was one of the nation’s biggest prospects and a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Obviously, that didn’t pan out after things went sideways in high school and Memphis (his previous stop), but there is still talent there. It should be interesting to see Bates face off against Jett Howard and Terrance Williams, who both have shown their potential for Michigan so far. Ultimately, it’s hard to see Eastern having enough to keep up with the Wolverines.

  • Pick: Michigan


Picks Record: 13-0-0