While the Big Ten season may have started earlier this week, Friday projects to be the first “real” gameday so far, as the league faces its first set of marquee opponents. It’s expected to be a loaded day of action, including a massive showdown between Wisconsin and Tennessee.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers at Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (Peacock)
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 2
This is easily the Big Ten’s Game of the Day and maybe the game of the weekend nationally, as Wisconsin hosts a top 10 ranked Tennessee squad in what figures to be an epic matchup in Madison. Tennessee is coming off a tremendous 2022-’23 season, where the Volunteers finished 25-11 and made the Sweet 16 after knocking off Duke. And while Wisconsin fell short of last year’s NCAA Tournament, the Badgers brought back the core of last year’s group and project as a top 25 team right now.
Generally speaking, this is going to be a low-scoring affair. Tennessee had arguably the nation’s best defense last season and look just as good so far. Likewise, Wisconsin was a top 20 defensive unit last year and have the same group this time around, meaning fans can expect similar results this season. Points are going to be at a premium, so all the little things like free throws and transition opportunities are going to be crucial.
The battle to watch will likely be upfront with Jonas Aidoo and Steven Crowl. Both teams rely on their big men to keep things afloat. Aidoo is probably more utilized offensively than Crowl, but the Badger big man has been incredibly efficient during his career. If either of the two can slow down the other, it would go a long way toward a victory.
All told, this looks like an even matchup that will be decided by one team’s mistakes. It’s going to be crucial for Chucky Hepburn and AJ Storr to avoid turnovers or wasted possessions. Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to keep pace with the Vols.
- Pick: Tennessee
-Youngstown State Penguins at Michigan Wolverines
- Time/TV: 6:30PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan by 17
The Wolverines had a fantastic opener on Tuesday night, blowing what projected as a decent UNC Asheville team off the court. Michigan will return to action on Friday, hoping to extend that momentum. Youngstown State figures to be a significantly easier opponent, who enters the game coming off a rough loss to Louisiana. The team’s offense only scored 0.85 points per possession. It should be an opportunity for Michigan to work on its defense.
- Pick: Michigan
-Davidson Wildcats at Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: Maryland by 12
Maryland gets its first real game of the season on Friday night in Asheville against the Wildcats. Davidson has taken a step back in recent years, but is still around 150th on KenPom, which is decent for a mid-major opponent. The Wildcats also had a nice opening night win thanks to 13 points and eight rebounds from big man David Skogman.
The key to this one will be upfront. Maryland used a few options in the team’s opener, but expect things to settle in a bit more this time around. The Terps will need big nights from Julian Reese and Caelum Swanton-Rodger.
- Pick: Maryland
-No. 15 Texas A&M Aggies at Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (Peacock)
- KenPom Spread: Ohio State by 1
This is another marquee matchup for the Big Ten on Friday night as the Buckeyes hope to knock off a ranked Aggie squad at home. And the game itself looks fairly even, with KenPom projecting it as a tossup. The key will be how Ohio State defends Wade Taylor in the backcourt. He put impressive numbers last season and is back for another go at it. The pressure will be on Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle to play better on the defensive end of the court to get the job done.
If Ohio State is going to pull off the wing, it’s going to take an improved defensive effort as well as a big night from Felix Okpara and Zed Key upfront. They’ve been inconsistent over the last few years and the team often lives or dies with their performances. Expect this one to come down to the closing minutes.
- Pick: Texas A&M
-Morehead State Eagles at No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN+)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue by 26
Don’t expect much entertainment from this one. Purdue enters as a sizable favorite and should run the Eagles off the floor. The only questions will have to do with the bench and how much action they see on Friday night. Expect an easy win.
- Pick: Purdue
-Boston University Terriers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN+)
- KenPom Spread: Rutgers by 18
The Scarlet Knights opened the season with a loss to Princeton on Monday night and will try to bounce back in this one against Boston University. Fortunately for fans, this one should be far easier as the Terriers enter the game ranked 307th on KenPom. If this game ends up being close, it should be a major red flag. Keep an eye on the backcourt in this one. Rutgers needs to start getting more from Derek Simpson, specifically. This is a good opportunity for a great right game.
- Pick: Rutgers
-UTSA Roadrunners at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 7:30PM ET (Peacock)
- KenPom Spread: Minnesota by 10
The Gophers opened the season with a 20-point win on Monday night and will hope to keep things moving on Friday with a matchup against UTSA. Once again, Minnesota looks far better than its opponent, at least on paper. The Gophers enter the game more than a 100 spots higher on KenPom and look far more balanced. However, UTSA is also better than Minnesota’s previous opponent, so the team is going to have to be ready to play.
The key matchup will be in the backcourt, where Eliah Hawkins and Braeden Carrington try and slow down Christian Tucker. He had 18 points in the opener for UTSA and carries the Roadrunners offensively. If Minnesota holds up there, this should be a win.
- Pick: Minnesota
-Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 7:30PM ET (BTN+)
- KenPom Spread: Penn State by 15
Penn State grabbed a nice win over Delaware State on Monday night and the team will hope to add another on Friday against a similarly underwhelming opponent. Lehigh enters the matchup with a KenPom rating of 270th and fans should expect another lopsided affair.
- Pick: Penn State
-Oakland Grizzlies at No. 25 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (BTN+)
- KenPom Spread: Illinois by 22
Illinois opened its season on Monday night with a lopsided win over a flawed Eastern Illinois team. Fans will hope Brad Underwood and his team can keep things going on Friday night against a significantly better Oakland squad. While the Grizzlies are still only 239th on KenPom, they played Ohio State tough on Monday night and have a tricky offense.
The key here will be Illinois’ frontcourt defense against Trey Townsend, who had a great performance against the Buckeyes. Dain Dainja will have his hands full. However, if he can hold his own, Illinois should grab the win.
- Pick: Illinois
-Alabama State Hornets at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 8:00PM ET (Peacock)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 28
The Hawkeyes will continue their recent non-conference tradition under Fran McCaffery on Friday night, which is playing painfully terrible opponents to open the season. Iowa enters this game as a 28-point favorite and it’s hard to disagree. Alabama State is 348th on KenPom. It’s no wonder fans aren’t showing up to Iowa’s home games right now with opponents like this. Expect to see plenty of the bench.
- Pick: Iowa
-Dayton Flyers at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 8:30PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 6
This projects as one of the better games on Friday night and rightfully so. Northwestern hopes to build off Monday night’s win over Binghamton and Dayton enters with an upset in mind. The game is expected to be pretty competitive and though the Wildcats won on Monday, it was far closer than fans would have liked. Northwestern will need to play significantly better to avoid a loss here.
The key battle here will be upfront where Northwestern tries and slows down DaRon Holmes. The Flyer big man had a great opening night with 19 points and eight rebounds. The pressure will be on Matthew Nicholson to slow him down. Boo Buie will also need a big performance to come out on top. This one could easily swing either way.
- Pick: Dayton
Picks Record This Season: 8-2