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1/20 Big Ten basketball preview: Purdue at Iowa

Purdue has a chance to challenge Widsonsin for the Big Ten lead.

NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin may be the surprise story of the Big Ten season.

The Badgers weren’t expected to be here, at the top of the standings, after last year ended with them on the outside looking in come March. They also weren’t expected to lose at Penn State.

It’s to Purdue’s benefit, giving the Boilermakers a chance to climb the league following road losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin. On tap is a trip to Iowa City to face a team that, if things click could (keyword: could) give them trouble.

Purdue Boilermakers at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 2 p.m. on FS1
  • KenPom Spread: Boilers by 9

A win and Purdue gets closer to a repeat title. A loss gives Wisconsin some wiggle room.

The reason to think about this is the way Iowa likes to play on offense. Fran McCaffery’s teams love to spread the ball around the arc and, though they’re not taking many this year, shoot from deep.

They could borrow the Nebraska gameplan and just hope they go in off of good looks to keep pace with the Boilermakers while hoping Purdue falls to unforced errors. Aside from that, there’s not much of a path forward here.

This version of Purdue has had Iowa’s number for a while now. That probably continues.

  • Pick: Purdue

Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Time/TV: 12 p.m. noon on BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Buckeyes by 11

Penn State beat this Ohio State team at home earlier this season and a noon tip at The Schott isn’t likely to provide a rousing environment.

Will the Nittany Lions be able to capitalize on that win over Wisconsin for some momentum or will that work against them? Ohio State needs a win pretty badly in the middle of a three-game losing streak that’s put their NCAA Tournament resume in question.

Ohio State didn’t just lose its last game, it fell to a spiraling Michigan team as Buckeye fans are starved for any victory over that team to the north. Not great for Chris Holtmann entering a true Prove It year.

Bucks get it in a must win... probably.

  • Pick: Ohio State... right?

Northwestern Wildcats at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Time/TV: 2:15 p.m. on BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Cornhuskers by 4

Speaking of teams that need a win...

Nebraska has back-to-back disappointments after felling Purdue at home, losing to Iowa and Rutgers on the road. Iowa has come into form but Rutgers is a loss that could weigh down an NCAA resume.

Ironically, ask the Scarlet Knights how much a win over Purdue mattered last year.

Northwestern’s own win over Purdue was immediately all but cancelled out by a loss to Chicago State. This is a win they’d also like to have for back-to-back March Madness bids and it’ll all come down to if Boo Buie can will the Cats to another victory as he did against Maryland.

Cornhuskers have gotta win this one.

  • Pick: Nebraska