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12/20 Big Ten Preview: Northwestern vs Arizona State

Preview all of Wednesday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at DePaul Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has three games on Wednesday night, highlighted by a “neutral” site matchup between Northwestern and Arizona. Fans will also get to see Iowa and Nebraska host mid-major opponents.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-Northwestern Wildcats vs. Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Time/TV: 8:30 PM ET (ESPN2)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 3

It’s hard to describe Northwestern’s season as any way other than inconsistent. The Wildcats have swung between great and terrible. It’s how a team beat No. 1 Purdue and lost at home to a horrid Chicago State team just 12 days later. There’s simply no telling what version of the Wildcats you’re getting on any given night.

With that said, Northwestern’s overall resume looks decent and it gets a vital opportunity to build that with a quality win on Wednesday night. The Wildcats will head west to face a decent but flawed Arizona State squad in Phoenix. A win figures to be pretty valuable on Selection Sunday, especially with the Big Ten’s recent decline.

The matchup itself is likely going to be decided in the backcourt. Arizona State’s offense flows through guard Frankie Collins, who Wildcat fans may remember from his brief stint at Michigan. He’s not a great shooter, but is a solid passer that can push the pace. If Boo Buie can play well and disrupt Collins, Northwestern should be in good shape for a win. Matthew Nicholson also needs to do a good job of defending the paint, as Arizona State relies extensively on its interior scoring.

Overall, this should be a win for Northwestern. The Wildcats are a better unit and seem to be a good fit stylistically for this game. Buie will be the key.

  • Pick: Northwestern

The Rest:

-North Dakota Fighting Hawks at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska by 18

The Cornhuskers enter this one as significant favorites and rightfully so. North Dakota is one of the nation’s weaker teams and should enter a pretty tough environment in Lincoln. Perhaps the only serious concern here is whether Nebraska gets caught on a letdown after scoring the massive win at Kansas State on Sunday. The Huskers have done a good job of avoiding that so far this season, but it’s always a concern.

The player to watch for North Dakota is BJ Omot on the wing. If Nebraska gets solid games from Brice Williams and Juwan Gary, it’s hard to see the Hawks winning.

  • Pick: Nebraska

-UMBC Retrievers at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa by 24

This one looks even more lopsided than the Nebraska game. UMBC is one of the nation’s weakest teams, entering this game at 327th on KenPom. The Retrievers are just 5-8 overall and already have seven losses to teams outside the top 150 on KenPom. As long as Iowa shows up and plays decently, this figures to be an easy win.

  • Pick: Iowa

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Picks Record This Season: 43-17