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1/4 Big Ten Basketball Preview: Michigan State Set to Host Penn State

NCAA Basketball: Indiana State at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a doubleheader set for tonight on Peacock with both Michigan State and Michigan playing at home. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.

Game of the Night

Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET Peacock

In the first game tonight Michigan State looks to win their first game in conference play. Michigan State dropped their first two games in December, falling to Wisconsin and unexpectedly to Nebraska, but has won four in a row since. Those four wins include blowing out a sixth ranked Baylor and beating a good Indiana State program by double figures.

Their opponent is a Penn State squad with a surprise win over Ohio State being their only win of note so far this season. They have won their last two games, but outside of the Buckeyes they fell to every quality opponent they’ve played. Mike Rhoades more or less built this team on the fly through the transfer portal and while there have been some promising pieces, most notably holdover Kanye Clary, there hasn’t been enough success consistently across the roster for Penn State to piece things together.

If Michigan State wants to turn things around and try to compete at the top of the conference like they projected to heading into the season they cannot afford to lose to Penn State here, especially at home. Things have seemingly been coming together, especially with Tyson Walker popping off, so expect more of the same as Michigan State picks up their first Big Ten win of the season.

Pick: Michigan State

The Rest

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET Peacock

Michigan enters 2024 on a down note after a double overtime loss to Florida followed by a lifeless loss to McNeese State to close out conference play. Now sitting at 6-7 and 1-1 in league play, there’s some serious questions heading forward on if Juwan Howard is going to be the guy past this season as the Wolverines continue to struggle. A loss tonight at home to Minnesota would only make Howard’s seat even hotter.

Luckily the Gophers are probably the best draw for a reeling Wolverine squad. The Gophers have been better so far this season, but the team still has a notable talent deficit when it comes to Big Ten play. The injury to Dawson Garcia was probably beneficial as it forced the Gophers to find some other options offensively, but it’s safe to say most opponents won’t fear a backcourt duo of Mike Mitchell Jr. and Cam Christie. Probably one of the better stories so far has been Elijah Hawkins, who has averaged just under 8 assists per game.

Of course Michigan’s roster hasn’t exactly gelled so far this season. Between Dug McDaniel, Oliver Nkamhoua and Terrence Williams II it’s safe to say Michigan can score, but the defense has been dreadful. As of Tuesday night the KenPom efficiency ratings have Michigan in the top 25 offensively...but just inside the top 150 defensively. In a defensive minded Big Ten their inability to stop opponents is going to be a problem, especially if the shots stop falling.

Minnesota’s defense hasn’t been particularly great either, and the offense is also in the back half of the league. Michigan has plenty of problems but it’s hard to see Minnesota doing enough on the offensive side of the ball to keep pace with a Wolverine team that should have no issue scoring tonight.

Pick: Michigan