The Big Ten has a loaded slate on Wednesday, with six teams in action and significant postseason implications on the line. The highlight of the night is a clash between Wisconsin and Maryland.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Maryland by 5
It’s been a bizarre ride for Badger and Terp fans so far this season. Both have experienced the highs and lows of the sports already. Unfortunately, many of those lows have been recent, especially for Wisconsin who has watched its once impressive resume dwindle to an underwhelming 12-6 overall record and 4-4 mark in Big Ten play. The Badgers are an even worse 1-4 over the team’s last five games. Maryland is just 2-4 over its last six games.
The good news for these struggling teams is that somebody has to win on Wednesday and it’ll go a long way toward the winner’s postseason hopes. That’s because, even with the recent missteps, both are still alive and well for the NCAA Tournament. Joe Lunardi had both well inside his latest bracket and he’s not an outlier. It’s the byproduct of successful non-conference performances.
The key to Wednesday night’s matchup will be how Wisconsin defends do-it-all guard Jahmir Young. The Terp guard has been really productive so far this season and was the best player for Maryland in both of the team’s wins this month. He also leads the Big Ten in usage during conference play, meaning the Terps live or die with his play. If Wisconsin can slow him down, the Badgers have a decent shot at winning.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s defense has underwhelmed a tad in recent weeks and the team’s offense has been downright putrid. In fact, KenPom slots the Badgers in at 111th nationally in offensive efficiency, which is easily one of the worst performers in the league. Wisconsin is going to need to force some turnovers and hope for easy scoring opportunities. Otherwise, it could be a long evening.
All told, these teams share a lot of similarities. They both rely on strong defense to make up for underwhelming offense and a few key contributors to carry things. However, the home court and Young’s recent productivity should be enough to cross the finish line.
- Pick: Maryland
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (FS2)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 1
Through the season to date, Northwestern quietly remains one of the best stories in the Big Ten. The Wildcats took underwhelming preseason expectations and have turned that into a 13-5 record through 18 games and a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament as we enter the final days of January. That’s a great turnaround.
The challenge for the Wildcats now is taking care of business moving forward and that starts with Nebraska on the road on Wednesday. It’s a tricky road game with a Husker team that’s hoping to build off last week’s upset win over Ohio State. The key here will be Boo Buie and Chase Audige’s production against a tough Husker defense. If they play up to their potential, this should be a Wildcat victory.
- Pick: Northwestern
-Indiana Hoosiers at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana by 11
Just two weeks ago, Hoosier fans were in shambles. The preseason Big Ten favorites had fallen on hard times, losing three straight and six of the team’s previous nine games. The season seemed to be heading off the rails. It wasn’t a good time to be in Bloomington.
However, Indiana has flipped things since then, winning three straight, including a monster road game at Illinois last Thursday and a game against Michigan State on Sunday by double-digits. The Hoosiers suddenly seem to be rolling again and find themselves heading west for a game against an underwhelming Gopher squad.
Overall, this is a game Indiana should win. There’s no getting around it. The Hoosiers are a better team. However, Minnesota is capable of pulling off the upset. To do so, fans are going to have to hope for production upfront from players like Jamison Battle and Dawson Garcia. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
- Pick: Indiana
Picks Record: 73-26-0