The Big Ten’s nonconference slate is over. The new year, and conference play, is here at last.
A good amount of teams around the conference will need a great amount of wins to feel good on Selection Sunday. The nonconference wasn’t kind to most, so league play will make more resumes than it breaks.
Let’s get into it.
Game of the Day
Purdue Boilermakers at Maryland Terrapins
- Time/TV: 7 p.m. on Peacock
- KenPom Spread: Boilers by 9
The team with the most successful nonconference meets one of the lesser successful teams.
Maryland went through losses to two mid-majors down in Asheville to open the 2023-24 season, which felt like it ended before having a chance to begin. A resounding win over UCLA on the road could quell some of those fears.
Meanwhile, Purdue carried the Big Ten banner in Maui, Indianapolis and Toronto. The Boilers were again perfect against teams outside the league, just as they have been for years now. Their resume has been made. The Terps need a win like this to have one worth looking at.
Will Jahmir Young be enough to power past Purdue? Will Julian Reese get anything going in the post against Zach Edey?
In a season that’ll be defined by its differences from last one, Purdue gets its revenge.
- Pick; Purdue
Iowa Hawkeyes at Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 7 p.m. on Big Ten Network
- KenPom Spread: Badgers by 24
Greg Gard is probably the early frontrunner for the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year nod after last year’s disappointing finish and the promise on display this Winter. The Badgers have some good wins and an argument as the second best team in the league.
AJ Storr has been a breath of fresh air in the lineup while John Blackwell is putting together a Freshman of the Year caliber season in Madison.
Iowa has stumbled. There aren’t unforgivable losses, but the Hawkeyes just lack the juice of previous years. The days of top-ten offenses are in the past, but Iowa still ranks a more than respectable 22nd overall in KenPom’s efficency rankings on that end of the court.
The defense is porous, but Fran McCaffery has won in spite of that before. I’m not sure that’ll happen tonight though.
- Pick: Wisconsin
Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini
- Time/TV: 9 p.m. on Big Ten Network
- KenPom Spread: Illini by 10
Northwestern went from one end of the spectrum to the other by following up another resounding win against No. 1 Purdue with maybe the worst loss of the college basketball season against Chicago State.
It’s still the Boo Buie Show in Evanston and he’s playing like the First Team All-Big Ten guard he is. The rest of the lineup contributes, but the Wildcats lack a second star.
Illinois lost Terrence Shannon Jr. following a rape charge filed in Lawrence, Kansas. The athletic department suspended Shannon Jr. this past Wednesday when a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The Illini have played one game during the suspension, against Fairleigh Dickinson, but it remains to be seen how the season goes from here.
- Pick: Northwestern