On the opening day of the NCAA Tournament the Big Ten went 3-2. Today there are three more games involving Big Ten schools, with the conference being favored in all three games. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.
#7 Michigan State Spartans vs #10 USC Spartans
- Time/TV: 12:15 PM ET CBS
- Line: Michigan State -2
Of the three games today involving the Big Ten this should be the most competitive. Michigan State seemingly turned a corner offensively late in the season only to get held to 58 and lose in their opening game of the Big Ten Tournament against an Ohio State team they beat the very game before. USC is familiar with that scenario, losing their opening game in the PAC-12 Tournament to an Arizona State team they beat to close the regular season.
The Spartans will need to find a way to slow down Boogie Ellis, who is leading the Trojans with 18 points per game while shooting just under 40% from three. He finished the regular season on fire and if he gets going that will put pressure on Michigan State to keep their recent offensive surge going or they’ll find themselves on their way home this afternoon.
In their last game Michigan State shot 18.8% from three. If they do that again they’re going to be in rough shape. If Michigan State can get the backcourt up and running they should be able to win here, but their inconsistency inches this game towards toss-up territory. Playing in a decisively stronger conference (with a difficult non-conference schedule also factored in) should give State a slight edge.
Pick: Michigan State
#1 Purdue Boilermakers vs #16 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
- Time/TV: 6:50 PM ET TNT
- Line: Purdue -23
The evening tips off with Purdue hosting Fairleigh Dickinson. The team with 7’4” star Zach Edey is set to face the shortest team in the NCAA Tournament, with their tallest starter in the play-in game measuring in at 6’6”. That doesn’t fare well for the Knights.
Usually a 1 versus 16 seed isn’t going to be competitive, but Northern Kentucky hung around with Houston and even Howard spent a half close with Kansas. The Knights are at a major size disadvantage, however, and there’s no definitive answer as to how they’ll slow down Edey. The weak spot for Purdue is when their guards struggle from the perimeter, so look for the Boilermakers to try to get the freshmen backcourt up and running. If David Jenkins Jr. continues his run from the Big Ten Tournament it could lead Matt Painter to increasing the seniors minutes down the stretch, with the recent inclusion of Brandon Newman in the starting lineup showing Painter is willing to switch it up.
If the backcourt struggles this game might not reach blowout territory, but Purdue has more than enough talent and with Edey inside the Boilermakers should comfortably get to the round of 32.
#4 Indiana Hoosiers vs #13 Kent State Golden Eagles
- Time/TV: 9:55 PM ET TBS
- Line: Indiana -4.5
This game is interesting because some of the betting odds make it seem like Vegas and company feel like this game will be closer than it should be. And to some extent that kind of makes sense.
On one hand Indiana is the better team by a considerable margin, especially with Trayce Jackson-Davis in the frontcourt. On the other hand Indiana occasionally comes out flat and plays like they rather be anywhere else. That was evident recently in their blowout home loss to Iowa and their Big Ten Tournament game against Penn State that they no showed for the first 38 minutes. If that Indiana shows up tonight they could definitely find a way to go home early, especially against a Kent State team that can score.
Like most games the past few years it’s going to be the Jackson-Davis show. If Indiana can get Jalen Hood-Schifino up and running that would go a long way to making a deep run in the tournament. As long as the Indiana team from the Penn State and Iowa games doesn’t show up tonight they should be fine and avoid the upset.