The Big Ten has a nice slate of games on Tuesday night, highlighted by a meeting between Indiana and Maryland. Fans will also get to enjoy two potential NCAA Tournament teams battling it out between Iowa and Northwestern.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers at Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Maryland by 2
Despite substantially different preseason expectations, things have been pretty similar for Indiana and Maryland this season. The teams got off to fast starts (7-0 and 8-0, respectively), nosedived after (3-6 and 2-5 records), and then recovered with solid play over the last few weeks. Indiana enters Tuesday having won five straight and Maryland has won two in a row, three of the team’s last four, and four of its last six games.
The question now is what gives on Tuesday night?
Who’s newfound renaissance continues through at least another game?
Well, on paper, it’s hard to tell. Both teams are really even, which is why KenPom has the game as nearly a tossup. As such, it’s going to come down to matchups and mistakes, like it always does in close games. Maryland’s home crowd is also an important factor.
On the court, Indiana certainly has the matchup upfront. Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the best players in the country and has been exceptional over the last few weeks. Meanwhile, Maryland lacks a dominant center, relying instead on small ball and frequent rotations down low. Julian Reese and Donta Scott will have their hands full with Jackson-Davis. Add in Race Thompson for the Hoosiers and this looks like a major mismatch.
However, Maryland has the advantage in the backcourt. Jahmir Young has been one of the league’s most productive guards this season and figures to have another big night against an Indiana backcourt that relies on youth and inexperience. Jalen Hood-Schifino has been great the last few weeks, but he’s still a freshman and will be playing on the road against an All-Big Ten caliber player. It’s not going to be an easy task for him.
The key player to watch is going to be Young, who absolutely dominates Maryland’s offensive usage. He ranks second in the league in percentage of team possessions when he’s on the floor and third in percentage of shots taken. Likewise, he’s ninth in assist rate in the Big Ten. In short, the offense rides or dies with Young. Thus, Indiana’s defense needs to focus on slowing down the do-it-all guard.
All told, Indiana’s frontcourt advantage feels like too much for the Terps to overcome, even if the game is at home. As long as Indiana is able to feed the ball into the post, this should be a productive night offensively for the Hoosiers.
- Pick: Indiana
-Nebraska Cornhuskers at Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Illinois by 12
This one looks like a complete mismatch, at least on paper. Illinois is clearly a better team than Nebraska and rolled the Huskers in the first meeting between the teams in early January on the road. Now, this game is in Champaign and Illinois is playing even better than it was then, coming off two marquee wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The key for Illinois will be avoiding turnovers against a quality Husker defense. It’s a big night for Jayden Epps and Terrence Shannon. As long as they play up to their abilities, this should be an easy win for the Illini.
- Pick: Illinois
-Northwestern Wildcats at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 4
Both of these teams have been severely doubted over the course of this season. Few (including myself) thought the Wildcats could put a good product on the floor before the season began and Iowa’s horrific start made many skeptics about the Hawkeyes. However, the teams have proven the doubters wrong and enter Tuesday’s matchup with serious NCAA Tournament hopes on the line on both sides.
Like Iowa’s game against Rutgers on Sunday, this is going to be a clash of styles. While Iowa relies on a high-powered offense and perimeter shooters, Northwestern has found success with defense and an offense that simply avoids mistakes. It should make this a really interesting game, especially considering Iowa just played another elite defense in Rutgers over the weekend. Can the Wildcats learn from Rutgers’ mistakes? We’ll see.
The matchup to watch here will be on the wing. Can Chase Audige and Robbie Beran hold their own against Payton Sandfort and Kris Murray? The two Hawkeyes have been borderline unstoppable at times over the last month, so the Wildcats will have their hands full. And if they go off, it’s hard to imagine Northwestern getting the win.
All told, this one feels like an Iowa win. While Northwestern has more than enough to keep things close, this is probably just a bit too much to ask for from the squad.
- Pick: Iowa
Picks Record: 78-27-0