The Big Ten is off to an interesting start to the season with a few teams falling to upset, others dominating inferior competition and still more surviving through a few scares.
This week could be the last we see of the Gavitt Games series between the Big Ten and Big East. The agreement between the two conferences was in limbo the last we checked and it looks like the Big Ten was dragging its feet.
Here’s to previewing some of that slate and the Game of the Day:
Game of the Day
No. 18 Michigan State Spartans v. No. 9 Duke Blue Devils
- Time/TV: 7 p.m. on ESPN
- KenPom Spread: Duke by 3
Yeah it’s a big Gavitt Games day. But the Game of the Day is undoubtedly the Champions Classic matchup between Duke and Michigan State.
There’s plenty of storylines here. The Spartans have been utterly inept from deep through two games including a season opening home loss to James Madison. It was followed by a sound defeat of Southern Indiana.
As for Duke? Year two of the Jon Scheyer Era began with a drubbing of Dartmouth followed by a 78-73 home loss to Arizona. Not the worst kind of loss to take, especially in November, but one you’d really rather have.
Both of these squads have title aspirations this season, so who emerges? I’m taking the guy who’s held a clipboard since the other was on the court.
- Pick: Michigan State
Wisconsin Badgers at Providence Friars
- Time/TV: FS1
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 2
Another storyline-filled matchup.
A Greg Gard team scored over 100 points in its season opener against Arkansas State. That’s... definitely something. The Badgers really only added St. John’s transfer AJ Storr to last year’s core.
You know, one of the worse Wisconsin team’s we’ve seen in years. That core. But the good news: everyone’s older and experience usually means something in college hoops.
As for Providence? They’ll have a fantastic home court advantage as usual only without Ed Cooley on the bench for the first time in a while. The hometown hero is gone for the greener pastures he evidently saw at Georgetown.
In steps Kim English, a name rising in the ranks of college hoops after a short stint at George Mason. He has much of Cooley’s roster too, so the Friars are built to win in year one.
I think the road environment proves too much this early.
- Pick: Providence
Saint Francis Red Flash at Penn State Nittany Lions
- Time/TV: 7:00 p.m. on BTN
- KenPom spread: Penn State by 24
Yeah so Penn State should win this one comfortably.
New coach. New squad. Ace Baldwin already being one of the best guards in the Big Ten. It’s a bigger story if the Red Flash hang around
- Pick: Penn State
No. 4 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. No. 23 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 8 p.m. on FS1
- KenPom spread: Illinois by 1
Illinois went through a bit of a scare against Oakland (MI) over the weekend, letting the Grizzlies hang around for a bit before ultimately winning by something of a comfortable margin.
The team is looking to leave last season’s volatility in the past. Terrence Shannon Jr will again be among the Big Ten’s best players. They’ll need more from guys like Coleman Hawkins and Dain Dainja.
Their opponent, Marquette won the Big East double last season before getting dispatched in the second round by Michigan State. They’re looking to defend that title and go deeper in March this time around.
Tyler Kolek is a candidate for National Player of the Year as well as that of the Big East, he’ll be tough to contain.
I think the early season woes continue here and Marquette capitalizes on an Illini team still somewhat finding its way.
- Pick: Marquette
- Time/TV: 8 p.m. on Big Ten plus
- KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 21
Ah, a MAC vs. Big Ten matchup. This usually results in at least one upset in football. Not so much in basketball.
The Broncos are a sub-300 KenPom squad. Not a ton going on over there, they’ve lost to North Dakota State and Georgia State.
Northwestern owns two narrow wins over Binghamton and Dayton, with the latter being more valuable than the former as the best program in the Atlantic-10. They should handle this team.
- Pick: Northwestern
Iowa Hawkeyes at No. 8 Creighton Blue Jays
- Time/TV: 10 p.m. on FS1
- KenPom Spread: Creighton by 9
Despite losing the Murray brothers Iowa looks... like Fran McCaffery’s Iowa. The offense is as efficient as ever as the Hawkeyes own two blowout wins to open the season.
Payton Sandfort is beginning to emerge in the Hawkeye offense while Valpo transfer Ben Krikke provides a reliable presence down low. This game is the toughest of their nonconference slate.
Creighton is every bit a top ten team after advancing to the Elite Eight last year with much of its current core, including Ryan Kalkbrenner. He, like Kolek, is a candidate for Big East Player of the Year and is on the radar for National Player of the Year.
They look impressive, and Kalkbrenner will be an... interesting matchup for Krikke. Iowa’s going to need to be firing on all cylinders to make this happen. A tall ask this early in the year.
- Pick: Creighton