The Big Ten wrapped up the opening week of the season on Sunday, but things will really get cooking this week, as the league begins the Gavitt Games with the Big East. Minnesota and Penn State both get marquee opportunities. Illinois is also in action.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-DePaul Blue Demons at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Minnesota by 1
The Gophers had one of the more interesting opening weeks of any Big Ten team, needing some late play to get past Western Michigan on Monday night. The team likewise continues to struggle with its health and depth chart, as Ben Johnson tries to figure out his lineup with availability issues involving Jamison Battle and Braeden Carrington.
All of that remains fresh on the table as Minnesota prepares for its first marquee opportunity of the season at home against DePaul on Monday night. Like Minnesota, DePaul has had to work to stay unbeaten this season, narrowly beating Loyola (Maryland) on opening night and letting Western Illinois hang around on Friday. It makes this game look relatively even, at least on paper, heading into tip.
The two players fans should watch for DePaul are Umoja Gibson and Javan Johnson. Gibson is the team’s lead guard and has been really hot from deep so far this season, hitting 54.5 percent from three-point range. Johnson carries things on the wing and has been fantastic on the boards, leading the team is defensive rebounding rate. If Minnesota is going to win the game, it’s going to come down to how it defends those two.
All told, this really feels like a game that’s going to hinge on the availability of Battle. We’ve seen other players step up, but it’s going to be a lot to expect Dawson Garcia and a few freshmen to carry the backcourt.
- Pick: DePaul
-Butler Bulldogs at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Penn State by 12
Penn State has been impressive to open the season. The Nittany Lions beat down what figured to be a respectable Winthrop team on opening night and scored a similarly dominant win over Loyola (Maryland) on Thursday as well. The wins were enough to push Penn State up 13 spots on KenPom already. An incredible rise in a single week.
However, the team will face a tougher test on Monday with Butler at home. While the Bulldogs are recovering from a coaching transition and some bumps on the road, their new coach Thad Matta will be a familiar one for Nittany Lion fans. He coached Ohio State for over a decade and led the Buckeyes to significant success, including multiple Big Ten titles.
Expect a low-scoring affair between these teams. Butler has shown some defensive chops over the last few years and should hold their own against the Nittany Lions. One thing to watch will be how Penn State rotates its frontcourt. Can Kebba Njie make an impact against what’s regarded as an underwhelming Butler frontcourt? We’ll have to wait and see.
- Pick: Penn State
-Monmouth Hawks at No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Illinois by 22
This is the lone “buy” game of the night, as Illinois hopes to grab an easy win over a clearly overmatched Hawk squad. Monmouth is winless on the season so far and it’s difficult to see Illinois getting pushed here, as the Hawkeyes have lost both of their opening games by at least 27 points apiece. Keep an eye on the frontcourt in this one as Illinois works to continue to find its rotation there.
- Pick: Illinois
Picks Record: 22-0-0