The Big Ten will have a few teams looking to expand on well-established NCAA Tournament resumes while others seek to strengthen their case for a big in the first place during Saturday’s slate of games.
Let’s take a look at the schedule:
Game of the Day
No. 18 Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan Wolverines
- Time/TV: 6:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana by 1
On paper, Indiana has a ton of reasons to walk out of the Crisler Center with a win on Saturday night. The Hoosiers have a superior record to the Wolverines, whose losses include Arizona State, a lackluster Kentucky team, the same North Carolina squad that lost to Indiana in Assembly Hall and, worst of all, Western Michigan.
However, this has been a weird matchup for Indiana under Mike Woodson. The first game between these two last season was a dominant win for the Wolverines in Bloomington. The latter, in the Big Ten Tournament, looked to be heading the same way before the Hoosiers stormed back for the win.
That Michigan team had its share of questionable losses, but that list is considerably longer this year. However, the Wolverines emerged victorious in their previous three matchups against Northwestern, Ohio State and Northwestern. Not exactly murderer’s row, but wins are wins and Michigan will have a home court advantage against an Indiana team that’s struggled on the road.
Despite this, Michigan will still have to contend with Trayce Jackson-Davis, who’s in the midst of the best season of his four-year career with a particularly impressive list of performances since his recovery from back issues in January. He’ll have a difficult matchup against Wolverines star center Hunter Dickinson, however.
- Pick: Indiana
- Time/TV: Noon ET (Big Ten Network)
- KenPom Spread: Maryland by 7
Penn State has suffered a few blows to its NCAA Tournament resume as of late with three consecutive losses to Purdue, Nebraska and Wisconsin. It doesn’t help the Nittany Lions that all but two of those came on the road, with the loss to the Badgers featuring overtime heartbreak.
Jalen Pickett remains one of the best players in the league, but the supporting cast around him hasn’t provided him with enough help to lift Penn State past its competition. They’ll face a tougher test on the road at Maryland.
The Terrapins have maintained their unbeaten home Big Ten record, and will be in a prime position to continue doing so when they welcome Maryland. The XFINITY Center has given opponents the business all season.
Jahmir Young has been excellent for Maryland throughout the season and is capable of going toe-to-toe with Pickett, especially at home.
With Penn State’s losing streak and Maryland’s home court dominance, I have trouble seeing a scenario in which the Nittany Lions emerge with a victory Saturday.
- Pick: Maryland
- Time/TV: 2:00 p.m. ET/1:00 p.m. CT
- KenPom Spread: Illinois by 2
Rutgers is one of just three teams ranked through this week’s AP ballot, and the Scarlet Knights will face a test when they head to Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini.
The Scarlet Knights are coming off of a loss to Indiana, their first in years, and are taking on an Illinois team facing a disappointing season after much offseason hype thanks to recruiting and transfer portal additions.
Illinois sits at 16-7 overall with a 7-5 record against the Big Ten. The Illini looked to have righted the ship with three straight conference wins prior to a road loss to Iowa. The Illini are led in scoring by Terrence Shannon Jr.’s 17 points per game.
Rutgers is lead in scoring by center Clifford Omoruyi with Paul Mulcahy at point guard working from the outside at guard to get the ball into the paint for Omoruyi to get to work. Look for Mulcahy and the formidable Scarlet Knights defense to hone in on Shannon Jr.
With Illinois holding home court advantage, especially with the Orange Krush likely feeling especially worked up, I can see the Illini finding enough offense to overcome the Scarlet Knights at home.
- Pick: Illinois
- Time/TV: 4:00 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 1
Nebraska snapped a previous four-game losing streak with a win over Penn State, though it was immediately follow by a loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Huskers are dwelling around the league’s basement at 4-10 in conference play, but have had impressive performances against the likes of No. 1 Purdue and earned a double-digit victory over Iowa in December.
The Huskers are led in scoring by forward Derrick Walker’s 13.3 points per game, though they need impressive, standout performances down the lineup if they want any wins in the league, such as what occurred in their overtime loss to Purdue.
Wisconsin is in the midst of a down season at 6-7 in the Big Ten with an NCAA Tournament bid seeming further from reality than not. The Badgers lack firepower on offense, with leading scorer Chucky Hepburn shouldering the load with 13.3 points per game.
That may not be enough to overcome the Huskers in Lincoln, where a few teams up and down the conference standings have had trouble this season.
- Pick: Nebraska