The Big Ten at large is off to an... interesting start to the 2023-24 men’s college basketball season.
Michigan State lost to a mid-major at home in its season opener, Michigan has unexpectedly lit the world on fire with Dug McDaniel, Purdue has rolled over its competition and the rest of the pack has produced some less than inspiring results.
All that being said, the conference is set for a sleepy Saturday slate ahead of a few MTEs/Feast Week. Let’s dig in.
Game of the Day
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Oregon State Beavers
- Time/TV: 4 p.m. on Peacock
- KenPom spread: Huskers by 9
This is an interesting one, neutral site in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Huskers vs. Beavers in the Sanford Sports Pentagon, capacity 3,250.
The two are separated by over a hundred spots in KenPom, with Oregon State all the way down at 170. Things have been rough for Wayne Tinkle’s group after a magical run to the Pac-12 tournament title and Elite Eight in 2021.
What followed were 3-28 and 11-21 seasons. Tinkle’s job has been in question, but the conference instability doesn’t exactly make things easy on the Beavers.
That could have a hand in Saturday’s matchup, to reach a bit. Nebraska is a member school of the conference that effectively ended the Pac-12 by adding USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. The Beavers could want to prove themselves against Big Ten competition.
On Nebraska’s side, injures haven’t kept it from a 3-0 start at home to a few mid-majors. Keisei Tominaga is back and as fun as ever. This is one the Huskers are gonna want if they want to play any postseason games.
- Pick: Nebraska
South Carolina Upstate Spartans at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 2 p.m. on Peacock
- KenPom spread: Gophers by 12
Minnesota welcomes USC Upstate to the Barn on Saturday afternoon after blowing a substantial lead to Missouri in the closing seconds on Thursday.
The Tigers were the sole Power Six noncon foe on the Gophers roster. It makes an already uphill climb for Ben Johnson to feel good about his job status even steeper. Minnesota can probably roll through the rest of its noncon.
Broadly, Johnson’s seat as as hot as it gets. Minnesota has gotten worse, not better, under his watch and prized recruits have somehow seen greener grass at Kenny Payne’s Louisville. Every noncon is a must-win from here on out.
- Pick: Minnesota
Rhode Island Rams at Northwestern Wildcats
- Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. on ESPN+
- KenPom spread: Wildcats by 7
Writing as an Indiana alum here, heads up. Archie Miller makes his return to the Big Ten conference on Saturday, having landed back in the Atlantic-10 with Rhode Island a year after his dismissal from Indiana.
The Rams are better this year than they were in the last, having taken leaps in quite a few statistical categories and climbing up the ranks of KenPom. They’ve handled inferior competition in three games.
Miller understands the Big Ten better than most coaches, having been in it for four years at one of its most visible programs. He’s coached against Chris Collins before. That 7-point spread in KenPom is telling.
Meanwhile, Northwestern has improved in each of its three games and already handled the A-10’s best program and Miller’s old stomping grounds of Dayton. Cats in a close one.
- Pick: Northwestern
Howard Bison at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 6 p.m. on Big Ten Plus
- KenPom spread: Scarlet Knights by 13
Rutgers has mostly rebounded from a season opening loss to Princeton, beating Boston, Bryant and a rebuilding Georgetown.
Howard offers the Knights their lowest ranked opponent of the season so far. Should be something of a tune-up game for Steve Pikiell to look for lineups and get minutes for younger players on the roster.
- Pick: Rutgers