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12/29 Big Ten Preview: Iowa Heads to Nebraska

The Hawkeyes head to Nebraska with the return of forward Kris Murray.

NCAA Basketball: Jimmy V Classic-Iowa at Duke Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There are eight games scattered throughout the day, including a quadruple header on BTN tipping off at 1 PM eastern time. The highlight of the day is in the evening, with Iowa traveling to Nebraska in the day’s only conference game.

Game of the Day

Iowa Hawkeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Iowa -4.0

Tonight’s game between Iowa and Nebraska is the highlight of the day. Not only is it the lone conference game, but it’s the only game that should be competitive. It’ll also be interesting to see as both teams try to prepare themselves for the conference season after an up-and-down start to the season.

For Iowa, they desperately need a win after posting one of the biggest spread losses of all time when they lost by nine to Eastern Illinois at home. Sitting at 8-4 with their best win being against rival Iowa State, Iowa can’t afford to start conference play with an 0-2 record. Of course there’s some good news as they’ll have Kris Murray and Connor McCaffery back in the mix, with the former being the teams best player and the later playing about 25 minutes a night.

Nebraska is 7-6 and 0-2 in Big Ten play so a loss would likely start another Big Ten downward spiral, especially with four of the following six games on the road (and the two home games being Illinois and Ohio State). On one hand Nebraska has looked decent at times, beating a seventh ranked Creighton on the road and almost beating Purdue. On the other hand they got beat by 20 by St. Johns, have five double digit losses and still haven’t turned things around under Fred Hoiberg.

The Cornhuskers have one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten, shooting 44.4% from the field, 65.2% from the line and 29.7% from three. They are, however, facing one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. If Iowa can get lit up by an awful Eastern Illinois offense then there has to be some hope for Nebraska, especially as the Hawkeyes simply do not play defense under Fran McCaffery.

Iowa has one of the better offensive units in the country and the return of Kris Murray should help stabilize the Hawkeyes on that side of the ball. They’ll be able to score, like usual, they just need their defense to have at least somewhat of a pulse. This game taking place on the road makes things a bit more complicated, as Nebraska has shown the ability to be a tough out on their home court.

The way things have gone for both programs it wouldn’t be a surprise if either team won. The difference today likely stems from an Iowa team that should bounce back from likely the worst loss any Big Ten team will suffer this season. With Murray back in the mix Iowa should find a way to get back in the win column.

Pick: Iowa

The Rest

Brown Bears at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Northwestern -14.5

In the first game of the day the Brown Bears will head west to Northwestern. Brown is 7-5, though they’ve won six of their last seven games with the lone loss being an 18 point defeat at Michigan State. With an adjusted offensive ranking outside of the top 300, 13.5 turnovers per game and only shooting 57% from the free throw line...the Bears will have their hands full against a Northwestern defense currently ranked in the top 10. The Wildcats have won four in a row, including a seven point win at Michigan State, and should close non-conference play with a W.

Pick: Northwestern

Delaware State Hornets at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET

Penn State looks to pick up their tenth win today against Delaware State. The Nittany Lions are currently on a three game winning streak, including a 15 point win at Illinois. Penn State has excelled early this season offensively and will look to do the same today, with Jalen Pickett looking to lead the team in scoring for the fourth game in a row. Their opponent has yet to beat a Division I level program and is ranked 361st (out of 363 teams) in the KenPom rankings. There’s little reason to see Penn State losing today.

Pick: Penn State

Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 3:00 PM ET BTN

Like Delaware State, Alabama A&M is another mid-major program outside of the top 300 in the KenPom rankings. With one of the worst offenses in the country, that doesn’t fare well for the Bulldogs as they head to Columbus. Ohio State has been uneven early this year, but they’ve handled their own versus their weaker opposition. That continues today.

Pick: Ohio State

Florida A&M Rattlers at #1 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET BTN

Purdue gets one last tune up before conference play today. Florida A&M is one of the worst teams in the country and now they have to face the top ranked team in the nation. Purdue has struggled shooting from the perimeter and were a bit underwhelming versus New Orleans without their star center. Of course Purdue is sound enough defensively that none of their shooting woes matter in a game like today and they will have Zach Edey back. Purdue wins easy.

Pick: Purdue

Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET
  • Line: Michigan -21.0

Michigan will look to bounce back and close non-conference play with a win. Their opponent is one of the worst MAC schools, but that might not matter as Michigan struggled to pull out wins against Eastern Michigan, Ohio (overtime), Jackson State and Lipscomb. The Wolverines still played a handful of tough teams close (Virginia, Kentucky), but there are some serious questions heading forward. Luckily for Juwan Howard and company, they should be perfectly fine against their in-state opponent.

Pick: Michigan

UMBC Retrievers at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET ESPNU

Maryland ended a three game skid by beating Saint Peter’s by 30 points. They’ll look to build from that win against UMBC tonight. The Terps started 8-0 but their three game skid didn’t look good at all. UMBC is alright and still likely associated with the win over Virginia a number of years back, but they have a dreadful defense and have struggled with a decent number of mid-major programs. They’re an average team that could likely end up back in the NCAA Tournament, but Maryland is clearly the more talented of the schools and should be capable of taking care of business.

Pick: Maryland

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET FS1

The late game tonight pits a Bethune-Cookman school ranked 345th in the KenPom rankings with a sub 330 offense and defense against a top 50 Illini offense and defense. The Illini have stumbled recently, going 2-3 with double digit losses to Penn State and Missouri. Luckily for Illinois fans, tonight should help the team turn things around before they start conference play on the road next week.

Pick: Illinois