The Big Ten has another loaded day of action on Friday, with six teams in action and five of them facing off against marquee competition. It’s a chance for the Big Ten to grab some vital wins in the Gavitt Games and improve its national standing.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers at Xavier Musketeers
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana by 2
There were a few games we could have chosen for the Game of the Day, but this one stood out for a few reasons. To start, it features the league’s preseason favorite in its first notable game of the season. While Indiana has looked good in its first two games, this is the first time the Hoosiers have faced a quality opponent. Add on that it comes against a really tough Xavier team on the road and it looks even better.
For the most part, this projects as a relatively sloppy game. There’s going to be a lot of defense and battles in the paint. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jack Nunge are going to be two players to keep an eye on. Former Hoosier Jerome Hunter should also make an appearance. Whoever wins down low and on the boards will probably come out on top.
The backcourt battle is also relatively interesting, as both sides rely on some young players. Tamar Bates and Jalen Hood-Schifino will see action for the Hoosiers and freshman Desmond Claude will play for the Musketeers. Perhaps that’s a place where Indiana can take advantage of a relative weak spot for Xavier.
All told, this feels like a back-and-forth came that’s going to be frustratingly close for Hoosier fans. However, Indiana’s the better team and should be able to find a way to win.
- Pick: Indiana
-Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Virginia Tech by 1
The Nittany Lions have arguably been the league’s best surprise so far this season, taking relatively underwhelming preseason expectations and jumping out to a fast 4-0 start with two wins over top 105 KenPom opponents. However, that start will now meet its toughest test to date with Virginia Tech on Friday. The game looks relatively even on paper and should be an interesting one, as both sides boast top 20 offenses.
The matchup of the game will be in the backcourt between Sean Pedulla and Jalen Pickett. Both have been fantastic for their respective teams so far this season and will be hoping to take another step forward on Friday afternoon.
- Pick: Penn State
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Temple Owls
- Time/TV: 5:00PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: Rutgers by 6
This game will get overlooked nationally, but is a quitely important one for the Big Ten, as Rutgers looks to get its best win of the season to date. While the Scarlet Knights enter at a perfect 3-0, the team has shown a few hiccups and needs to prove itself against tougher competition. Finding an offensive identity remains Rutgers’ top objective.
For this one, the key will be playing well inside. Jamille Reynolds has played really well for the Owls so far this season and is a nationally dominant rebounder on the defensive glass. Cliff Omoruyi will need to do work if the Scarlet Knights are going to win.
- Pick: Rutgers
-Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 13
This is the only “buy” game of the day, though it provides the Wildcats with a nice opportunity to build off Tuesday’s road win over Georgetown. Look for the bench to get some run, particularly younger players like Luke Hunger.
- Pick: Northwestern
-Villanova Wildcats at Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan State by 6
It’s hard to believe a matchup between Michigan State and Villanova would be overshadowed, but that’s just the reality of Friday’s slate and where the Wildcats are heading into tip. Villanova has underachieved significantly so far this season, falling short against Temple last week and underwhelming against weaker opponents as well.
This should be a comfortable win for the Spartans on Friday night, as long as the team’s defense shows up. Nova continues to play undersized, so it should be an opportunity for Mady Sissoko to make an impact.
- Pick: Michigan State
-No. 19 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 8 UCLA Bruins
- Time/TV: 9:30PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: UCLA by 4
This one is an absolute whopper of a game. You get two nationally relevant, undefeated teams facing off on Friday night in Vegas. Both sides have reason for hope and pause in this one. It’s one of those rare early season games where you want to buckle up and grab some popcorn for the show. Simply put, it’s just a great game that projects really evenly.
On the court, things look really interesting. While UCLA looks similar to its squad last year, Illinois looks drastically different. Tyger Campbell will lead things for the Bruins in the backcourt, while Illinois will rely on newcomers Skyy Clark, Terrence Shannon, and Matthew Mayer to carry things. It projects as a major test to see how well Illinois has matured and grown so far this season. They’re going to need to be on their A game on Friday night.
One area where Illinois might be able to take advantage is in the lane. UCLA isn’t a particularly physical team down low and don’t force a lot of fouls. If the team can play physical enough, perhaps they can get UCLA out of sync and rushing into shots. Still, it seems like a tough challenge for a group that’s still trying to come together.
- Pick: UCLA
Picks Record: 27-1-0