There are five games today, including a triple header on BTN tipping off at four. The highlight of the day is Indiana and Connecticut meeting in Madison Square Garden early this afternoon. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.
Game of the Day
#5 UConn Huskies vs Indiana Hoosiers
- Saatva Empire Classic (Madison Square Garden)
- Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET ESPN
- Line: UConn -11
Indiana faces their first major test today and it probably couldn’t have came at a worse time for the Hoosiers. Through three games Indiana has struggled with Florida Gulf Coast, Army and Wright State...not exactly creating much hope for a win against the defending champs on a neutral court. The Huskies have also played three mid-majors to start the season, winning all games by at least 34 points.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before...but the Hoosiers are struggling shooting the ball. Through three games they’re an icy 27.5% from three and forced to attack inside to get past their opponents. The bench has also been relatively non-existent so far, with depth looking like a potential issue. Center Kelel Ware has looked great with 18.3 points and 10 rebounds per game, but the team needs to find some range from their backcourt desperately.
The Huskies have been able to empty the bench in three blowouts but Alex Karaban has still impressed with 17 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while guards Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer have been threats offensively. Even center Donovan Clingan has put up 15 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in only around 18 minutes each night.
Connecticut isn’t a lights out three point team so far, but it doesn’t help that the starters haven’t had to play a full 40 yet. Connecticut has more talent both in the frontcourt and backcourt, has limited mistakes and shot better overall than the Hoosiers. Maybe if this game happened a bit later in the season Indiana would be in better shape, but the Hoosiers have done absolutely nothing so far this season to suggest they have the firepower to knock off the Huskies. It might be closer than what their first three games would suggest, but Connecticut should take care of business in New York.
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs Northwestern Wildcats
- Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off
- Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET ESPN2
Northwestern will face Mississippi State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off championship game today after beating Rhode Island yesterday thanks to a 22-2 start over the first 12 minutes. Northwestern is 4-0 but has faced tests in all four games, including a 11 point win in the opener against Binghamton and a 4 point win against Western Michigan. Boo Buie has excelled and guards Brooks Barnhizer and Ryan Langborg have looked pretty good so far. A dreadful 27.6% clip from three and little production from the frontcourt, however, have proven problematic.
Their opponent is a Mississippi State team that is also 4-0 with all four wins coming by at least 12 points. They got to the championship game today by beating Washington State 76-64 on Saturday. Jimmy Bell Jr. could be an issue for a limited Northwestern frontcourt, with the 6’10” forward averaging 11 points and 11 rebounds per game so far this year.
The Wildcats have the benefit of Boo Buie but if Mississippi State can slow the Northwestern backcourt today there’s little reason to think Northwestern will do enough inside to pick up the W. Mississippi State will attack inside and get to the line just enough to find a way to edge Northwestern.
Pick: Mississippi State
Western Michigan Broncos at Ohio State Buckeyes
- Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET BTN
- Line: Ohio State -22
Ohio State will look to knock off some of the early season rust this afternoon against Western Michigan. In their season opener they survived against Oakland 79-73 before losing to a top 20 Texas A&M in their second game. They beat Merrimack by 24 last time out, but it took until the second half before they were able to pull away.
Western Michigan is outside of the top 300 in the KenPom rankings though all three of their losses have came by seven or less points. They recently came up just a bit short against Northwestern, losing 59-63. The Broncos have been turnover prone, with their 16 turnovers per game proving costly with their three losses coming by a combined 15 points.
Through three games the Buckeyes need more production from their bench but like most early season matchups, have a considerable talent advantage and should be fine today.
Pick: Ohio State
Alcorn State Braves at #18 Michigan State Spartans
- Time/TV: 6:00 PM ET BTN
- Line: Michigan State -23.5
Michigan State opened the season with a surprising loss to James Madison and then lost by 9 to Duke earlier in the week. While it wasn’t a particularly great start they got a much needed big win against Butler on Friday. Tonight they face Alcorn State.
The Braves lost their season opener by 34 to Arkansas and since then have knocked off a lower division Xavier (LA) and lost on the road to a pair of mid-majors. They’ve had four different leading scorers in each game, while forward Jeremiah Kendall’s 21 points per game leads the roster. They’ve shot poorly from the field at a 42/68/27 clip and will face arguably their most difficult test so far at Michigan State.
Izzo is still trying to figure things out after two early season losses but the Braves shouldn’t prove much of a threat.
Pick: Michigan State
Southern Jaguars at #24 Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET BTN
- Line: Illinois -25
In the late game tonight the Illini will look to improve to 4-1. Through the first three games the Illini have beat three mid-majors by double figures while losing to a top five Marquette program earlier in the week. Their opponent is a Southern team ranked just inside the top 300 via the KenPom rankings.
Through four games the Illini are led by Terrence Shannon Jr., who is averaging 18.5 points per game. No other Illini is in double figures, though four players are averaging 8-9.5 points per game. Illinois hasn’t shot particularly well from three, but they’ve rebounded well and done enough to get by offensively.
Their opponent is a Southern team that has gotten blown out by both power conference opponents they’ve faced this year. Taireon Joseph is averaging 20.5 points per game and leading the Jaguars on the offensive front.
Illinois needs to improve their perimeter game but they still clearly overmatch Southern tonight.