With the conference title race drawing to a close and the NCAA Tournament on the horizon, Saturday’s Big Ten slate is absolutely loaded with implications.
That being said, let’s take a look at the games:
Game of the Day
No. 17 Indiana Hoosiers at No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers
- Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue by 8
Saturday’s lone ranked Big Ten matchup is also, obviously its most significant. Indiana emerged victorious over its rival in Assembly Hall while Purdue’s road losses have made the Big Ten title race slightly more complicated.
With Northwestern’s loss on Thursday, Purdue can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a win. There’s plenty of reasons to feel good about that happening if you’re a Boilermakers fan too.
First, Purdue has lost a single conference matchup in Mackey this year, against a Rutgers team that has had the state of Indiana’s number for years now. The Boilers have learned plenty about themselves since that game and have an even more enthusiastic crowd at their backs for their rival.
Second, Indiana has struggled on the road. The Hoosiers have failed to find consistent offense from players not named Trayce Jackson-Davis or Jalen Hood-Schifino when they’re away from Assembly Hall, with the former looking especially fatigued during Tuesday’s road loss to Michigan State.
Purdue has every reason to win this one barring something extraordinary.
- Pick: Purdue
Michigan State Spartans at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: Noon ET (ESPN)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 2
This late in the season, both teams will enter Carver-Hawkeye Arena with the NCAA Tournament on the mind with neither the Spartans nor the Hawkeyes in reach of a Big Ten title.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Michigan State as a 7-seed in the Midwest and Iowa as an 8-seed in the West, though they’re at the Des Moines regional. So at least the Hawkeyes will briefly share an arena with former Iowa greats Luka Garza and Jordan Bohannon, right? Anyway.
The Hawkeyes are in a bit of jeopardy there, they’ve lost their past two thanks in no small part to lackluster shooting from the arc. Iowa got crushed by Northwestern on the road and suffered a similar fate against an otherwise unimpressive Wisconsin team not long after.
They’ll return home, but the energy might be lacking with a tip time in the A.M. locally. Then again, this is Iowa City we’re talking about so who knows?
Michigan State, on the other hand, has put together impressive wins over Maryland and Iowa with plenty of fight against rival Michigan on the road.
Iowa only has a chance in this one if the Hawkeyes snap their cold streak from the perimeter. Otherwise, I can easily see Tom Izzo finding a way to smother that offense.
- Pick: Michigan State
Minnesota Golden Gophers at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
- KenPom Spread: Nebraska by 12 (!!!)
At the risk of being incredibly blunt, there is absolutely no reason for Nebraska to drop this game.
The Cornhuskers are, without a shadow of a doubt, a superior basketball team to the Gophers. Minnesota is in the league’s basement and looking up at all two hundred and twenty two teams above them in the KenPom rankings.
Nebraska is on a three-game winning streak with key plays late lifting the Huskers past their competition. Minnesota has not won a men’s basketball game January 12. The Gophers sole conference win is, and likely will remain, the one they somehow pulled off on the road against Ohio State.
To reiterate, no reason for Nebraska to lose. Better record, better coaching, better at basketball. But stranger things have happened before.
- Pick: Believe it or not, Nebraska