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12/16 Big Ten basketball preview: Kansas at Indiana

It’s an absolutely loaded league slate.

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NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a fan of the Big Ten, cancel any of your Saturday plans and get in front of a television because it’s an absolutely loaded slate.

The conference has had a bit of a rough go of it as a whole in the nonconference. A few teams have a chance to get major resume defining wins today. Others would do well to avoid a bad loss.


Game of the Day

Kansas Jayhawks at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 12:30 p.m. on CBS
  • KenPom spread: Jayhawks by 6

I have this as the Game of the Day over the matchup in Indianapolis for a few reasons:

  • Purdue already has a 1 or 2 seed resume and a loss won’t break it. Indiana needs something in the nonconference schedule to hang its hat on.
  • This one is on actual TV.

Like most schools, Indiana turns bits arena into a presentation for Big Games and that’s very much the case here. The crowd will have the Hoosiers’ cream and crimson candystripes separated section by section with a ton of recruits in town for the environment.

The two programs have had a few run-ins on the recruiting trail in the past two years. Indiana landed five-star Mackenzie Mgbako seemingly out of nowhere over the Jayhawks this offseason and signed another five-star, Liam McNeeley (2024), to beat out a late push from Kansas.

Hunter Dickinson makes his return to Big Ten country after departing Michigan last offseason. His matchup with versatile Indiana center Kel’el Ware will be worth keeping an eye on as the former builds a case for National Player of the Year and the latter rises up on NBA Draft boards. Neither team takes too many shots from deep but the Jayhawks make more of theirs than the Hoosiers.

Indiana will likely be without Xavier Johnson, who suffered a foot injury late against Wright State before trying to play through it until halftime of the win over Harvard. If he’s still out, freshman Gabe Cupps will start in his place. Indiana’s already one of the younger teams nationally and Johnson is its most experience player by far

There should be a raucous crowd in Assembly Hall for the game, which has powered the Hoosiers past highly-ranked opponents before. Not sure there will be enough juice to make it all work though.

  • Pick: Kansas

The Rest

Arizona Wildcats vs. Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 4:30 p.m. on Peacock
  • KenPom spread: Boilers by 1

Consider this game 1B to the prior’s 1A.

It’ll be something of a home environment for Purdue on Saturday in Indianapolis at a newer “Indy Classic” event meant to replace the defunct Crossroads Classic of years past.

That being said, this is the toughest game on Purdue’s schedule and one that could give them legitimate trouble. The Wildcats are athletic and dynamic on both sides of the ball with a top-5 offense and defense in KenPom.

They don’t really have a weakness either. A road environment won’t get to them after felling Duke in Cameron Indoor earlier this year. Every game aside from that one and the matchup with Michigan State has been an absolute blowout.

Sophomore Filip Borovicanin hails from Belgrade in Serbia, one of the best basketball cities on the planet. He’s the latest in a growing line of skilled international big men playing for Tommy Lloyd.

There’s also former Tar Heel hero Caleb Love, who’s settled more into his role in Tucson with an even better team than the one he helped carry to the 2022 national title game. He’s going to be an extremely tough assignment for Purdue’s backcourt.

The Boilers have just one loss on the season on the road at Northwestern, one that fell apart in overtime after Zach Edey willed a tie into being late in regulation. Braden Smith looks like one of the best point guards in the country and Lance Jones gives the Boilers an edge they didn’t have last season.

This could be one of the best games of the season. Both teams have Final Four ambitions and look like 1-seeds so far. That being said, Arizona is exactly the kind of team Purdue struggles with.

A win and they exorcise those demons. A loss? Can’t feel too bad about it.

  • Pick: Arizona, narrowly

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: Noon on BTN
  • KenPom spread: Nittany Lions by 1

Penn State has had a weird first season under new head coach Mike Rhoades.

On one hand, a win over Ohio State! On the other, a five-game losing streak before that including losses to VCU and Bucknell. The Lions also hung tough with Maryland and were a single post away from pulling off the win on the road.

Georgia Tech is also weird. The Yellow Jackets can boast wins over Mississippi State and Duke... but have a loss to UMass Lowell.

The Lions have just needed... more out of the roster, particularly lead guard Ace Baldwin. He nearly got them over the finish line against Maryland but has been inconsistent. Penn State looks weak and the win over Ohio State feels more like a blip than anything to have a substantial takeaway on.

  • Pick: Georgia Tech

Long Island Sharks at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Time/TV: 1 p.m. on Big Ten plus
  • KenPom spread: Scarlet Knights by 23

This one shouldn’t be interesting.

Rutgers is as stingy on defense as ever and could get even better on that end of the court as the year goes on while the offense... leaves much to be desired. The Scarlet Knights have an incredible recruiting class on the way, which’ll likely dominate the headlines.

This shouldn’t be a game. The Sharks are a sub-300 KenPom team that shouldn’t be able to score.

  • Pick: Rutgers

Baylor Bears vs. Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 2 p.m. on FOX
  • KenPom spread: Bears by 4

Michigan State is in dire, dire need of some sort of get right win if it wants to have anywhere close to the season many, including yours truly, thought they’d have.

The answer could come from a very good Baylor team in Detroit. The Spartans have competed with teams like Duke and Arizona while soundly defeating Butler in the nonconference slate.

Can they get up for this one and finally close out a signature win? It’ll be tough.

Baylor is undefeated but has maybe one true quality win, Auburn, currently on the resume. Others include year two of Todd Golden at Florida and Shaheen Holloway at Seton Hall. Michigan State presents a big, big test.

The Bears are a machine on offense, boasting the second most efficient scoring unit in the country per KenPom. But through it all, Michigan State has remained stingy on defense.

Gonna be bold with this one.

  • Pick: Michigan State

Eastern Michigan Eagles at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 2:30 p.m. on BTN
  • KenPom spread: Wolverines by 20

The headlines have been off the court for Michigan more than on it.

Juwan Howard, still in an interim role as an assistant, reportedly had a non-physical altercation with the program’s strength coach, who has since reportedly filed a complaint with Michigan’s human resources department.

That, if seen out, could mean the end of Howard’s time in Ann Arbor. He’s reportedly on a zero tolerance policy after striking a Wisconsin assistant coach during a postgame skirmish a few years ago.

On the court, the Wolverines have soured somewhat after a hot start with losses in the Battle 4 Atlantis and at home to Indiana and Long Beach State, which has since knocked off future Big Ten member USC.

Eastern Michigan presents something of a get right opportunity at a potentially good time. Aforementioned off-court matters could be a factor but this one should be a win on paper.

  • Pick: Michigan

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. UCLA Bruins

  • Time/TV: 3 p.m. on CBS
  • KenPom spread: Buckeyes by 3

Ohio State is yet another Big Ten team having a weird one. UCLA is a future Big Ten team having a weird one. Welcome to the league, I guess.

The Buckeyes have a great win over Alabama on the roster and a potential resume killer of a loss to Penn State. The Bruins lack a good win and lost to a pretty bad Villanova team. Today they face off in Atlanta, for some reason.

Anything could happen here. Ohio State is better than the horrifically unlucky bottom feeder it was last year and UCLA is starving for any kind of win that looks good on a tournament resume.

Ohio State actually has some of those, so..

  • Pick: Bucks

Florida A&M Rattlers at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 4:30 p.m. on BTN
  • KenPom spread: Hawkeyes by 18

It’s difficult to call it a rebuilding year because the Hawkeyes have a considerable amount of experience. It just hasn’t led them to a good resume so far.

Iowa is on a three-game losing streak to Purdue, Iowa State and Michigan. Not the worst set of losses but you’d prefer to have at least one of the latter two in the win column to build any momentum.

Lucky for the Hawkeyes, they have a three-game slate of winnable games on deck starting with Florida A&M. The Rattlers are a sub-300 KenPom team. Iowa should get it done and score A Great Many points doing so.

  • Pick: Hawkeyes

Northwestern Wildcats at DePaul Blue Demons

  • Time/TV: 5:30 p.m. on FS1
  • KenPom spread: Wildcats by 6

what.

I say again, WHAT.

Northwestern got what at the time was probably the biggest win of the year when they knocked off No. 1 Purdue in Welsh-Ryan. It even got them into the top-25!

... and then they lost, at home, to Chicago State. The Chicago State Cougars. An independent NCAA division-I team. Pretty much the last program any other wants to have a loss to on the ol’ resume.

OOF.

That’ll do a bit more than knock them down a seedline in the tournament, to say the least. On tap? The DePaul Blue Demons. Another Chicago team! Another BAD Chicago team!

Northwestern can’t do it two times in a row... can it?

  • Pick: Northwestern... but it’d be like really funny wouldn’t it?