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12/1 Big Ten Preview: Conference Play Begins

Preview all of Friday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play begins for the league on Friday and it starts with a bang, as fans will get to enjoy two fantastic matchups. Maryland goes on the road to face Indiana in the early game and Northwestern hosts No. 1 ranked Purdue later on.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue by 8

It’s been quite a whirlwind for Purdue so far this season. Despite the rough loss to end last season, the Boilermakers have been red hot this fall. Purdue has jumped out to a 7-0 start and it’s been against a tough slate, including three top tier opponents in Maui last week. The early success has pushed Purdue all the way up to No. 1 in the weekly polls.

However, Purdue will now put that success on the line on Friday, as the team travels to Evanston to face a feisty Northwestern squad. The Wildcats don’t look like an elite opponent (at least on paper), but have shown some quality moments so far, particularly in a home win over Dayton in early November. The Wildcats also upset Purdue in a similar situation last season, in large part because of 26 points from Boo Buie, who’s still in Evanston.

In many ways, that will be what determines whether Northwestern can pull off the upset on Friday night. By any objective measure, Purdue is a better team. However, if Buie and Ty Berry can get hot in the backcourt, they have enough firepower to keep the Wildcats in the game. But if those two can’t get things going, there’s not a ton of hope. That’s because Purdue has such an advantage elsewhere, particularly upfront with Zach Edey. Matthew Nicholson has enough size to compete, but it’s hard to see him slowing down Edey in any significant way. That’s why it’s so vital for Northwestern’s backcourt to play well.

All told, this should be a win for Purdue, even on the road. The Boilers have too much firepower and Northwestern isn’t the same squad it was last year. However, playing on the road is tough and you never know what could happen.

  • Pick: Purdue

The Rest:

-Maryland Terrapins at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 7:00PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana by 2

Through the first month of the season, it’s been a grind for Hoosier and Terp fans. Despite both teams entering the year with solid (if not lofty) expectations, it’s been far from smooth sailing. Indiana has made it to 5-1 overall, but done so unimpressively, barely beating weak opponents. And Maryland has had several missteps already, dropping multiple games to teams outside the top 100 on KenPom.

That all sets the table for an intriguing meeting on Friday where both teams desperately need a quality win to add to their respective resumes. Neither has beaten an opponent worth much to date, but that will change for one of the teams and potentially start them on a path to success later on.

The matchup to watch will be in the backcourt between Jahmir Young and Xavier Johnson. A ton of Maryland’s production comes through Young, so it’s going to be huge for the Terps to slow him down. Kel’el Ware is also another important player to watch. Indiana has often went with Ware this season, so he will need a big night.

Overall, expect a tight one. These teams look pretty similar on paper. However, Maryland seems due for a win in a game like this and seems to be trending up. We’ll see if that continues on Friday.

  • Pick: Maryland

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Picks Record This Season: 39-12