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1/7 Big Ten Basketball Preview: Michigan State Travels to Evanston

Syndication: Lansing State Journal Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

There are three games throughout the day on BTN. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.

Game of the Day

Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats

In the late game tonight Michigan State looks to make it six in a row. Following a pair of losses to Wisconsin and Nebraska the Spartans seemingly have gotten things on track after a 24 point win over Baylor. In their most recent outing Michigan State ran past Penn State by 31 points, winning 92-61.

Following a win over Purdue Northwestern hasn’t looked particularly great, losing to Chicago State and Illinois while struggling with DePaul and Jackson State. The inconsistency brings in to question if the win over Purdue was an outlier, only further backed by their 30 point loss to an in-state Illini squad without Terrence Shannon Jr.

The KenPom numbers are also somewhat middling, with a so-so adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 75th in the country matched with a defense just inside the top 70. Boo Buie has been pretty good but the backcourt heavy Wildcats squad is heavily limited in the frontcourt and that should prove problematic against a Michigan State program with a top 10 defense and solid top 35 offense.

Northwestern can rally around their fan base when they show up at home, clearly evident in games like the home upset of Purdue. But they don’t always get that energy and without it’s going to be hard to knock off the Spartans. Even if they get a lively home atmosphere Michigan State is starting to roll and has enough balance on both sides of the ball so it’s hard to pick against Izzo and company.

Pick: Michigan State

The Rest

Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Time/TV: 12:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Michigan -4.5

The first game today sees two Big Ten teams that desperately need a win. Michigan has lost their past three games, including home losses to McNeese State and a Minnesota team projected to finish towards the bottom of the conference. Penn State has also underwhelmed, most recently in a 31 point loss at Michigan State. Today’s game will take place at the Palestra in Philly instead of at Penn State.

Michigan has been fine on the offensive side of the ball, but a sub-150 defense has been their undoing most nights. Facing a Penn State offense ranked just inside the top 130 should provide some relief, as long as they can stop Kanye Clary.

The Wolverines will score today, so if they can slow down Clary just enough they should be capable of getting back in the win column.

Pick: Michigan

Maryland Terrapins at Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Time/TV: 5:30 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Minnesota -1.5

There’s some interest here with Minnesota looking to make it seven in a row if they can win at home against Maryland. The schedule out of conference was largely terrible, but a win on the road against Michigan was one of the bigger wins so far in Ben Johnson’s tenure here. Of course that could speak more for the struggles the Wolverines have had this season, but Maryland isn’t exactly at the top of the league either.

This Maryland team is a bit all over and a lot of that stems from a dreadful offense. In their two Big Ten losses to Indiana and Purdue they scored 53 points both games, while also being held to 40 in a loss to Villanova and barely getting past 60 in losses to Davidson and UAB. An offense ranked by KenPom at 159th in the nation and shooting around 27% from three, outside of Jahmir Young the production on offense has been pretty awful so far this season.

Minnesota hasn’t been that much better offensively but an early season injury to Dawson Garcia has seemingly allowed the Gophers to make their offense a little bit less one dimensional as they’ve gotten better production across the board from the entire lineup since Garcia has returned to the lineup. Mike Mitchell Jr. has started to make some waves, averaging almost 19 points per game the last three games.

The only way the Terps land a win here is if they get another big day from Jahmir Young...and I think they will. Minnesota’s win over Michigan was nice but likely a byproduct of the Wolverines numerous issues. Maryland gets back in the win column this evening.

Pick: Maryland