The Big Ten Tournament continues today with four games set to air throughout the day on BTN. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs Michigan Wolverines
- Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET BTN
- Line: Michigan -3.0
The opening game on Thursday should have big implications for both teams involved. On one side is a Michigan team that is on the outside looking in and likely will need at least a couple Big Ten Tournament wins to make it to the postseason. As for Rutgers, a 2-6 stretch has them firmly on the bubble and another loss to Michigan could officially end their shot at an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The rough close to the season for Rutgers is based pretty heavily around their inability to consistently score the ball. That was highlighted the last time these two teams played when Rutgers scored 45 points. Interestingly enough Rutgers lost their last three home games and didn’t look much better on the road.
Michigan’s inability to close out games is the reason they’re currently on the wrong side of the bubble. In the past month they’ve blown opportunities to pick up wins against Indiana twice, Illinois and Wisconsin. Splitting those games would likely have Michigan just inside the bubble, but now they need to win today and likely at least one more win on Friday against Purdue. Even then they might have work remaining to do later in the weekend.
Rutgers may be dreadful offensively but they’re one of the best defensive units in the league. Even when Michigan won by 13 in their first outing they still couldn’t get past 60 points. Expect another plodding Big Ten slugfest where whoever breaks 60 first is likely set to win. Michigan’s inability to close out games looms large and Rutgers does just enough to save their season and end Michigan's.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs Iowa Hawkeyes
- Time/TV: 2:30 PM ET BTN
- Line: Iowa -2.0
Entering the second game one has to wonder if we’re going to get the Ohio State team that opened up a 27 point lead against Wisconsin in the opening round or if we’ll get the team that almost blew said 27 point second half lead. A 3-1 stretch over the last four has Ohio State looking about as good as they have all season but do they have enough gas to carry on? A quick turn around into one of today’s early games against a fast paced Iowa offense is not the best matchup for a Buckeyes team that does not play consistently great defense.
Iowa’s been a bit all over the place to close, going 2-3 over their last five games. The offense has rebounded nicely the past three games, but outside of a 22 point win at Indiana the defense is still a sore spot. That typically requires Iowa to rely exclusively on their offense and against an Ohio State team that isn’t great defensively, that should favor the Hawkeyes. The last time these two teams played Iowa dropped 92 points on Ohio State on their way to a 17 point victory.
Iowa is a flawed team but gets the benefit of not having to play yesterday. A well rested Iowa gets the offense up and running against an Ohio State team that will play their second game in less than 24 hours and moves on to the quarterfinals.
Penn State Nittany Lions vs Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 6:30 PM ET BTN
- Line: Illinois -2.5
Penn State has started to creep back into the NCAA Tournament picture and with Wisconsin losing and Michigan/Rutgers likely working as a knock out game, Penn State would benefit nicely from a win today. Of course their fringe spot in the tourney could likely be gone with a loss this evening against Illinois.
A 5-1 run by Penn State helped them reenter the bubble, closed out by an overtime win at Northwestern and a come from behind win against Maryland. Interestingly enough, the two times these teams played Penn State won both by double figures. Jalen Pickett had a career night in the second of those games, dropping 41 points on Illinois. Between Pickett, Seth Lundy, Camren Wynter and Myles Dread, Penn State has crafted a highly entertaining and talented offensive unit.
The one flaw with Penn State is that they tend to live and die by the three. Their backcourt can produce, but it has had some off nights and that typically proves problematic for the Nittany Lions. The Illini have the better frontcourt, but Terrence Shannon Jr. has been all over the place down the stretch and the Illini offense has looked a bit lacking at times.
Ultimately the deciding factor tonight will be if Penn State can find their stroke from beyond the arc. When you live and die by the three sometimes it comes back to bite you. Winning three times against the same team is no easy task, this time Illinois defends the perimeter and takes control in the paint on their way to a close win.
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET BTN
In the final game tonight Maryland is set to square off against Minnesota. The Terps made a run in the Big Ten before a 2-3 close, including back-to-back road losses, ended things with a thud. They’ll get bottom dwelling Minnesota for a chance to give them a win heading into Friday.
Last night Minnesota found a way to edge Nebraska for a three point victory. Tonight they’ll play a Maryland squad that has beat them by 35 and 18 points in their two games this season. The Gophers picked up a big win last night but they’ve been overmatched almost all season in the Big Ten and that won’t change tonight.