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1/1 Big Ten Preview: OSU at Northwestern

Preview all of Sunday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: CBS Sports Classic-North Carolina at Ohio State Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has three games on the slate on Sunday as fans roll into the new year and all three should be fantastic. Michigan hosts Maryland early on, Penn State hopes to knock off a reeling Iowa squad after that, and things conclude with Ohio State traveling to face Northwestern in what figures to be the best game of the day.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Ohio State Buckeyes at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 7:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Ohio State by 2

Heading into Sunday’s matchup, it’s been a pretty good season for both Ohio State and Northwestern. The teams are a combined 19-5 with four of those losses coming against top 25 KenPom opponents. Outside of a misstep by Northwestern against Pittsburgh in November, there really isn’t much to complain about for these two. They’ve had solid seasons and each has scored some quality wins.

However, both teams (and particularly Ohio State) are hoping to have more than solid campaigns this season and that begins on Sunday. This projects as a toss up game between two teams playing really well, which means a few buckets in it could drastically sway each team’s season. Win or lose this one and Big Ten and postseason hopes change significantly.

On the court, the key is going to be on the wing where Northwestern hopes to slow down Buckeye forward Brice Sensabaugh. The true freshman is having a remarkable season and easily has been the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year so far. The question is whether Chase Audige and Robbie Beran can slow him down enough to keep the game interesting.

The game also figures to be a clash of styles, as Ohio State takes one of the nation’s best offenses on the road to face one of the nation’s best defenses. KenPom rates Ohio State’s offense third nationally and Northwestern’s defense seventh nationally. It should be fantastic to watch and will tell us a lot about who will win this one.

All told, this is going to be a hard fought game with several back-and-forths. However, it does feel like Ohio State has a bit too much firepower for Northwestern to stop. As such, the Buckeyes should have enough to win this one.

  • Pick: Ohio State

The Rest:

-Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 4:30PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland by 1

These teams enter Sunday’s matchup in entirely different positions. While Maryland is hoping to build off a fast start and two straight wins, Michigan is reeling after an embarrassing loss to Central Michigan on Tuesday. That makes this one intriguing, especially with the game coming in Ann Arbor.

Maryland should win.

The question is simply whether the Terps can avoid the upset.

Of course, the biggest challenge for Maryland will be slowing down Michigan’s dynamic duo of Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard. Both are fantastic scorers and can carry the Wolverines for lengthy segments. Dickinson figures to be one of Julian Reese’s biggest tests yet this season. Hakim Hart and Donta Scott will likely guard Jett Howard. It should be an interesting battle. Fortunately for Maryland, the challenge on the other side of the court should be significantly easier, as Michigan’s defense remains porous.

  • Pick: Maryland

-Iowa Hawkeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 5:30PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State by 4

Like the Maryland-Michigan game described above, this is another one where the team enter heading in vastly different directions. While Penn State enters with 10-3 record and having won four straight, Iowa appears to be imploding after dropping successive games to Eastern Illinois and rival Nebraska over the last two weeks. Both losses were absolutely terrible, leading to a 26-spot drop in KenPom in just two games. An incredible drop this deep into a season.

The reality here, just like the game above, is that Penn State should win. The Nittany Lions are the better team, are playing better right now, and the game comes at home. That’s clearly a recipe for success. However, upsets certainly happen and that’s what Penn State will be hoping to avoid in this one. The team simply needs to play to its potential.

On the other side, Iowa’s path to victory here will require an explosive offensive night. The Hawks have achieved success this season when the offense was rolling, so they’ll need that again on Sunday if the team is going to pull off the upset. Fortunately, Penn State’s defense is relatively underwhelming, ranking just 59th on KenPom. It’s going to be a big night for Ahron Ulis, who needs to get things going and also has the challenge of facing off against Jalen Pickett, who’s playing at an All-American level this season.

All told, this should be a Penn State win. Unfortunately for Hawkeye fans, a loss here would be devastating and really put the team behind the ball for making the NCAA Tournament.

  • Pick: Penn State


Picks Record: 61-18-0