The Big Ten has an absolutely epic slate of games on Saturday, highlighted by a ranked showdown between No. 1 Purdue and No. 21 Indiana in Bloomington. It’s expected to be an absolutely electric environment.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers at No. 21 Indiana Hoosiers
- Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET (ESPN)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue by 2
While Indiana-Purdue is often considered the Big Ten’s best rivalry matchup, it really hasn’t been for much of the best 20 or so years. Yes, both teams have enjoyed success and we’ve had some great games, but it’s generally been a one-sided affair. One program gets the advanced and rolls, until it flips and the other program dominates. It’s been ships passing in the night, with one side routinely winning for three, four, or more games in a row.
But that seemed to change last season.
For the first time since 2006-’07, the programs split the series, with Indiana winning in Bloomington and Purdue winning in Mackey. It was a long time coming, but Mike Woodson put his early stamp on the rivalry.
The question now is whether he can keep it going.
For Indiana, the challenge is immense. Purdue enters the game ranked No. 1 nationally and boasting the nation’s fourth longest winning streak. The Boilers are 22-1 overall and haven’t even been challenged in most of their games. Zach Edey has been dominant down low and the young backcourt has come together, led by freshman star Fletcher Loyer. The team’s a machine that projects to be the top seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
If the Hoosiers are going to make things interesting, or somehow pull off the upset, the key is going to be doing something with Edey. The big man has been utterly unstoppable for much of the season, but can Trayce Jackson-Davis give him some problems down low? Jackson-Davis was unusually quiet in last year’s win over Purdue due to foul trouble, so it’s unclear if he has what it takes to play Edey well for 40 minutes.
The backcourt matchup is also really intriguing here, as both sides rely almost exclusively on freshmen to get the job done. Indiana will hope for a big night from Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trey Galloway, as Purdue looks to Braden Smith and Loyer. The Hoosiers have the talent to hang, but do they have enough defensive consistency to do it against Purdue’s elite offense? It’s a huge question heading into Saturday night.
All told, there’s little denying this is going to be an absolute battle. Edey has the advantage down low, but Indiana has more than enough to hang elsewhere, if the team commits on the defensive side of the floor. Still, Purdue seems like it’s just a bad matchup for this Hoosier squad.
- Pick: Purdue
-Michigan State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Time/TV: 12:00PM ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Rutgers by 5
This is one of the more unusual games of the weekend, as Michigan State and Rutgers will face off in Madison Square Garden on Saturday afternoon. It’s been slated as a “home game” for the Scarlet Knights, but the crowd will almost certainly be split. Given Rutgers’ success this season, it’s a bit of a bummer to see a game of this magnitude played in a “neutral” court setting. Still, we’ll have to wait and see as it could be a fun environment.
On the court, Rutgers clear enters with the advantage. The Scarlet Knights are 15-7 overall and have one of the nation’s toughest defenses. Michigan State has shown plenty of fight and a balanced attack, but the team’s offense ranks 63rd nationally, which doesn’t seem good enough to overcome Rutgers’ defense. The key will be AJ Hoggard and Tyson Walker. They need big performances. Otherwise, this looks like a comfortable Rutgers win.
- Pick: Rutgers
-Illinois Fighting Illini at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 2:30PM ET (FOX)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 2
A few days ago, the main storyline of this game was how well the teams were playing, and the potential to see who would gain ground in the quest for seeding in March. Instead, the matchup has turned into a bizarre battle over 200 tickets originally sold to Illinois’ Orange Krush before being cancelled by Iowa’s athletic department. It’s been both an entertaining and sad display about the stupidity of college rivalries.
Despite all the off court nonsense, there will be a game played on Saturday and it should be a good one. Illinois enters having won three straight and seven of the team’s last eight games and Iowa boasts a five-game home winning streak, which includes wins over Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, and Rutgers. Something’s gotta give on Saturday, either Illinois’ momentum or Iowa’s play at home. It should be a fun one.
The matchup to watch will be on the wing as Matthew Mayer and Coleman Hawkins try and slow down Connor McCaffery, Payton Sandfort, and Kris Murray. It’s a battle of what should be referred to as the “below the radar” stars. All five players are fantastic, just a half or full step behind the level of truly elite college basketball players, negating a lot of attention. Whoever wins there likely wins the game.
Overall, this still feels like an Iowa win. The Hawkeyes have been exceptional at home over the last month and Illinois is probably due for a letdown.
- Pick: Iowa
-Maryland Terrapins at Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Time/TV: 9:00PM ET (BTN)
- KenPom Spread: Maryland by 9
This is probably the only game that looks lopsided heading into Saturday, but it’s still a relatively intriguing game as the Terps hope to avoid a rough upset that would impact the team’s postseason hopes. Minnesota has been without Dawson Garcia, so things could be a bit easier for the Terps in this one. Still, Jamison Battle is a monster on the wing and the Gophers have gotten up for some games this season. We’ll see if they can again here.
- Pick: Maryland
Picks Record: 80-28-0