The Big Ten doesn’t have a deep schedule on Friday, but there are at least multiple games with some intrigue. The most notable of those will take place in the 2023 Emerald Coast Classic between Ohio State and Alabama.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 17 Alabama Crimson Tide
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (CBSSN)
- KenPom Spread: Alabama by 8
It’s been a mixed start for the Buckeyes so far. The team struggled against Oakland and Texas A&M to open the season, but started to look better last week, besting underwhelming Merrimack and Western Michigan squads by sizable margins. The question is now whether that improved play will translate against tougher opponents and Alabama on Friday night.
On paper, this one looks pretty lopsided. Alabama is a nationally elite opponent and has been a powerhouse basically ever since Nate Oats showed up. His teams rely on elite offensive production and perimeter shooting. This year, Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada are the leaders in the backcourt. Both are hitting above 50 percent from three so far this season and are known as productive passers. If Ohio State is going to slow down the Tide, it’s going to take quite an effort against those two.
Any chance at a victory for Ohio State on Friday is going to take some fortunate bounces. Alabama is a better team. However, there are a few paths to pulling off the upset. Perhaps the most reasonable lies in turnovers and mistakes. While Alabama’s numbers are generally jaw dropping, the team is just 86th in offensive turnover rate and 221st at forcing turnovers. If the Buckeyes take care of the ball and force the Tide into some mistakes, perhaps there can gain an extra five or six possessions. Much of that will be on Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle. It’s probably not a likely scenario, but it’s possible.
All told, expect plenty of offensive fireworks. Both sides pack a punch. However, the Buckeyes will likely lose pace somewhere in the second half if this becomes a shootout.
- Pick: Alabama
-Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Butler Bulldogs
- Time/TV: 1:30PM ET (ESPN+)
- KenPom Spread: Butler by 1
The Nittany Lions opened the season at 4-0, but fell short in the team’s first game against quality competition on Thanksgiving against Texas A&M. Penn State’s offense held up pretty well, finishing with 1.18 points per possession. Unfortunately, the defense was a mess and gave up 89 points to the Aggies.
Fans are now hoping for a better outing against a decent, but flawed Butler squad. The key for Penn State will be slowing down Jahmyl Telfort on the wing. He’s easily the most used Bulldog while on the floor, so getting him off balance will be key. It’s a chance for Zach Hicks to prove himself after a quiet evening on Thursday. Expect a competitive game.
- Pick: Penn State
-Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Seton Hall Pirates
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 1
Through five games, we still don’t have a great picture of how good Iowa is this season. That might sound odd to say, but the Hawkeyes have only played lackluster opponents and elite competition. Iowa beat the former and lost to the latter. Thus, we know the team isn’t elite or terrible, but not much in between. Friday presents a great opportunity for Iowa to prove itself against a team in the middle-tier.
Seton Hall is generally the inverse of Iowa, led by defense and with mediocre offense. The battle in the frontcourt will be interesting to watch as Kadary Richmond and Jaden Bediako face off against Payton Sandfort and Ben Krikke. Iowa looks better on paper. It’s just about putting it all together against a competent opponent.
- Pick: Iowa
-Michigan Wolverines vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: Michigan by 2
This figures to be another clash of styles on Friday night, as Michigan enters with a dynamic offense and Texas Tech relies on quality defense. The two otherwise look relatively similar and a flawed but solid units. Each also narrowly avoided losses on Thursday and will be eagerly searching for a quality win on Friday.
In many ways, the key to this one is going to be outside the arc. Texas Tech has been one of the nation’s least prolific teams from deep so far this year, hitting 28 percent from deep. The team ranks 157th nationally in percentage of team points off three-pointers. Conversely, Michigan is shooting 38.5 percent from deep, so it’s an area where the Wolverines have a chance to pick up a lot of points. It’s just about converting when given the opportunity.
The battle of the point guards should also be great between Dug McDaniel and Pop Isaacs. Both have been really productive so far this season. If McDaniel can win the battle, Michigan has a decent shot to come away with the win.
- Pick: Michigan
-Western Illinois Leathernecks at Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Illinois by 25
Illinois will get its third straight matchup against an underwhelming opponent on Friday, battling an underwhelming Western Illinois team at home. The key to watch will be how much the bench plays. Illinois should want to get its younger players plenty of time in this one before the team jumps into more difficult games starting next weekend.
- Pick: Illinois
Picks Record This Season: 32-9