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2/26 Big Ten Preview: Northwestern at Maryland

Preview all of Sunday’s Big Ten action.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten has a loaded slate on Sunday, highlighted by a few games with significant postseason implications. The two games receiving the most attention are Northwestern’s trip to Maryland and Michigan’s matchup with Wisconsin.

Let’s take a look at the schedule.

Game of the Day:

-No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats at Maryland Terrapins

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET (BTN)
  • KenPom Spread: Maryland by 6

If you had told someone this would be one of the most significant Big Ten games of the final week of the season a few months ago, most would have questioned, if not laughed, at the notion. Maryland had changed its coaching staff and Northwestern was coming off multiple underwhelming seasons.

However, with just a week left of the regular season, that’s where we find ourselves. Both teams enter this game with the Big Ten title technically still on the line, though it will take a horrific finish from Purdue for the Terps to get there. Still, that’s a wild statement considering where these programs were even a few months ago.

For Northwestern, the key in this one is going to be the defensive approach to Jahmir Young. The Wildcats have done well against most of the Big Ten’s best guards so far, so it seems like a decent matchup. The pressure will be on Boo Buie and Ty Berry to get the job done because Maryland’s offensive production rides with Young. If Northwestern slows him down, the Wildcats have a real chance to grab the road win.

On the other side, Maryland’s key here needs to be defense and bringing pressure on a vulnerable Northwestern frontcourt. The Wildcats don’t have much depth there and routinely have to alternate between small and big lineups. If Young and the other guards can get downhill and get Matthew Nicholson in foul trouble, they could put a ton of pressure on Northwestern to keep pace.

All told, these teams seem really close and Northwestern matches up relatively well with Maryland from a stylistic perspective. However, home court and the frontcourt battle should favor the Terps enough to win.

  • Pick: Maryland

The Rest:

-Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Illinois by 1

Unlike the game above, this is one that has aged horribly over the last few weeks. While Illinois enters the game with momentum and a postseason bid in tow, Ohio State is in a free fall. The Buckeyes are just 11-17 overall and have lost 14 of the team’s last 15 games. A loss on Sunday would leave Ohio State winless in the month of February. A wild statement considering the success of the Buckeyes in recent seasons.

If Ohio State is going to keep things close, it’s going to take a sensation performance from Brice Sensabaugh and Ohio State from deep. Otherwise, this looks like an easy Illinois win.

  • Pick: Illinois

-Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 2:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan by 5

Just under two weeks ago, these teams met in Madison for a competitive matchup that the Badgers pulled out in the closing minutes. It was a physical game with limited scoring, as both sides finished below a point a possession and Wisconsin did virtually nothing in the final 10 minutes but was able to pull out the win thanks to some late free throws. The game had plenty of emotions following last year’s altercation on the court after the game and Juwan Howard’s suspension.

This time around, Michigan is hoping for revenge. Both teams have momentum. The Wolverines are coming off wins over Michigan State and Rutgers and Wisconsin just knocked off Iowa at home. Both also have significant postseason implications on the line, as most sites have them both in the first few teams outside the bracket.

In short, it’s going to be a battle.

The key in this one will be how Michigan’s backcourt performs. Dug McDaniel has been great the last few games, but only has seven points in the first meeting with the Badgers. Wisconsin’s defense should be good enough to limit Hunter Dickinson, so it should come down to McDaniel. Expect a game decided in the final few minutes, which is where Wisconsin performs best.

  • Pick: Wisconsin

-Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Penn State Nittany Lions

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

A few weeks ago, Penn State and Rutgers were rolling. Both teams looked poised to not only make the NCAA Tournament, but do it comfortably. Unfortunately, both have since fallen on hard times and are hoping to score a win in this one to build toward March.

This one should be decided by how well Rutgers defends Jalen Pickett. He controls Penn State’s offense and figures to do the same in this one. If the Scarlet Knights can slow him down, there’s a good chance Rutgers can grab the win. Rutgers also needs to get its offense back on track after a few horrific outings. All told, it feels like a Penn State win.

  • Pick: Penn State


Picks Record: 88-34-0