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12/29 Big Ten Preview: Loaded Slate

Preview all of Friday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Jumpman Invitational-Florida at Michigan Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has a loaded slate on Friday, with a variety of games including a handful of intriguing matchups. Most eyes will be on Michigan and Illinois. The Wolverines have a legitimately challenging game and Illinois will play without Terrence Shannon after his shocking suspension earlier in the week.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-McNeese State Cowboys at Michigan Wolverines

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

It’s been a rough start to the season in Ann Arbor. While the team entered with middling expectations, the missteps have really started to add up. The latest came last week as Michigan blew a winnable game against Florida in Charlotte to drop to 6-6 on the season.

The Wolverines now hope to bounce back against McNeese State at home on Friday evening. The Cowboys aren’t an elite opponent, but arrive with a top 100 rating on KenPom and a 10-2 overall record. They’re coached by Will Wade, who led LSU to multiple NCAA Tournaments before he was pushed out from the program. McNeese State is also coming off a solid win over Louisiana last Sunday.

The player to watch is Shahada Wells in the backcourt. Michigan will have its hands full trying to slow him down. However, the Cowboys live and die with him. Wells is hitting 40.7 percent from three and does a good job of getting teammates involved as well. In many ways, these two teams are similar with plenty of offense and little defense.

Expect a wild game that will hinge on turnovers and mistakes. If Michigan can find a way to keep Wells under control, it should be a win.

  • Pick: Michigan

The Rest:

-Rider Broncs at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET (ESPN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Penn State by 12

The Nittany Lions are hoping to grab another win against weak competition on Friday after knocking off Le Moyne last week. The player to watch for Rider is Mervin James in the frontcourt. He’s a dynamic player that eats up a ton of possessions. It should be a big opportunity for Puff Johnson.

  • Pick: Penn State

-Kennesaw State Owls at Indiana Hoosiers

  • Time/TV: 6:00 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Indiana by 13

The Hoosiers are another team looking to take care of business against a weaker opponent at home and close out non-conference play. The only question is whether Indiana plays down to Kennesaw State like it did against teams like Florida Gulf Coast, Army, and Morehead State. The Hoosiers were lucky to escape those ones. Terrell Burden is the player to watch in the backcourt.

  • Pick: Indiana

-Eastern Kentucky Colonels at No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue by 30

There isn’t much to write about this one. Purdue enters as a massive favorite and should be in good shape to walk away with a win. Leland Walker is the player to watch for Eastern Kentucky. He should keep the Boilers busy in the backcourt. A win would set Purdue up with a massive opportunity against Maryland next month.

  • Pick: Purdue

-Northern Illinois Huskies at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Iowa by 15

The Hawkeyes will close out non-conference play on Friday in a fitting way — a home game against a vastly overmatched opponent. This marks Iowa’s seventh game against a team outside the top 170 on KenPom and sixth game against a top outside the top 200. Northern Illinois is a weak unit led by David Coit in the backcourt. It’s hard to see this one being close considering the Huskies are rated 295th in defensive efficiency. Simply stated, Iowa’s offense should tear through Northern Illinois.

  • Pick: Iowa

-Maine Black Bears at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (Peacock)
  • KenPom Spread: Minnesota by 13

The Gophers are looking to score the team’s fifth straight win over Friday night against an overmatched Maine squad. The Bears enter this one outside the top 200 on KenPom and hoping to prove spoiler. Peter Filipovity is a forward for Maine and the player to watch in this one. He’s relatively lengthy and does work on the boards. Still, Minnesota’s the better team and the Gophers should be able to score a win.

  • Pick: Minnesota

-South Carolina State Bulldogs at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET (BTN+)
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska by 24

This is another one with little interest. Nebraska enters as a sizable favorite and figures to be in good shape to cruise to a final win in 2023. South Carolina State is one of the nation’s weakest teams and boasts an absolutely horrendous defense. This should be an easy game for the Huskers.

  • Pick: Nebraska

-Jackson State Tigers at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 8:00 PM ET (Peacock)
  • KenPom Spread: Northwestern by 15

Northwestern’s had quite a month so far. Things began with a massive upset over Purdue on December 1st, but followed with a brutal loss to Chicago State just 12 days later. The team has rebounded since then, with two wins away from home. However, fans are hoping Northwestern can avoid another bad loss on Friday night at home.

Jackson State isn’t a great team, so the Wildcats should be able to take care of business. The key will be slowing down Ken Evans on the wing. He’s been doing a great job of scoring inside so far this season.

  • Pick: Northwestern

-Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at No. 11 Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 32

A day ago, this looked like a colossal mismatch and one of the least interesting games of the night. However, then news broke regarding star guard Terrence Shannon, likely sidelining him for the remainder of the season. Illinois now must figure out how to play with Shannon. It’s the key that will decide things for the rest of the season.

The good news is Fairleigh Dickinson is one of the nation’s weaker teams. As long as Marcus Domask and Ty Rodgers are alright in Shannon’s absence, this should be a win.

  • Pick: Illinois

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Picks Record This Season: 48-18