Saturday’s slate is full of games that’ll impact both the conference standings (which, does it even matter at this point) and NCAA Tournament resumes.
Let’s not waste any time then:
Indiana Hoosiers at Purdue Boilermakers
- Game Time/TV: 8 p.m. ET on FOX
- KenPom Spread: Boilermakers by 19
Purdue, returning almost the entirety of its conference title roster, was out for revenge following last year’s sweep to rival Indiana. The result was an embarrassment in Assembly Hall, the Boilermakers’ largest margin of victory in the history of the building.
Now they welcome the Hoosiers to Mackey Arena, where Jalen Hood-Schifino scored 35 points almost exclusively off of midrange jumpers that exploited the Boilers’ drop coverage.
The last matchup was filled with fouls, largely by Indiana, that kept talent on the bench and put the Boilers on the charity stripe to fuel such a large victory. With such a young team sans Trey Galloway and Anthony Leal, it’s hard to see a realm where history doesn’t repeat itself.
Mike Woodson arrived in Bloomington and immediately made the league’s best hoops rivalry competitive again with a win in his first try then a sweep the following year. But Matt Painter is out to tip the scales back in his favor after four years of owning Archie Miller’s Hoosiers.
- Pick: Purdue
Wisconsin Badgers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Game Time/TV: 12 p.m. ET on BTN
- KenPom Spread: Badgers by 6(!!)
The Badgers all but kissed their Big Ten title hopes goodbye with a three-game losing streak they couldn’t afford to keep pace with Purdue in the conference standings.
A loss to Nebraska isn’t all that bad in the grand scheme, a better team has taken the L in Lincoln this year. One to Purdue definitely hurts the title chances but is overall forgivable. Losing to the current iteration of Michigan is inexcusable as one of the league’s supposed top teams.
This is where we take a look back at the nonconference. Wisconsin beat Marquette and has a Virginia win that’s aging like fine wine, but fell to Providence before getting blasted by Arizona on the road.
All of the top three teams in the league have played Tennessee, oddly enough. Only Purdue emerged with a win.
Losing to Rutgers would put a serious dent in the Badgers’ NCAA Tournament resume, which should now be the focus. They won’t miss the dance, don’t get me wrong, but their performance down the stretch will show in their seeding.
The Scarlet Knights are in a tremendous down year but the defense is almost always enough to give the sputtering offense enough elbow room to eke out a win. Wisconsin has to avoid this fate.
- Pick: Wisconsin
Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan State Spartans
- Game Time/TV: 2 p.m. ET on CBS
- KenPom Spread: Spartans by 1
Illinois has made it up to No. 9 overall in KenPom, mostly thanks to an efficient offense. The Illini lack a bad loss but there isn’t really a quality win on that resume either.
They’ve had close calls against Indiana, Nebraska and this very Michigan State team. That’s not the trend you’d like to have heading into the Breslin Center on a Saturday night with the shadow of March looming over Tom Izzo.
Michigan State has failed to live up to outside expectations and, while it certainly isn’t a great team, is probably a good enough one. There’s a bit too much reliance on Tyson Walker to go out and make a play, but he’s had his moments.
This is a textbook win for the Spartans. The Illini have been playing with fire and it’s only a matter of time before they finally get burned.
- Pick: Michigan State
Maryland Terrapins at Ohio State Buckeyes
- Game Time/TV: 4 p.m. ET on FS1
- KenPom Spread: Buckeyes by 3
Maryland looks questionable in year two of the Kevin Willard era, having returned enough production from a tournament team to be reasonably expected to make it back to the postseason.
Instead, the Terps slogged through a dreadful nonconference that put them a few steps back from the jump. This isn’t a tournament team right now no matter how many incredible plays Jahmir Young makes.
But they are a better team than Ohio State.
The wheels have completely fallen off in Columbus as Chris Holtmann has fallen out of favor with Buckeye faithful. This year’s edition of the January collapse was just way too much to bear, especially after last year.
Once again they’re in the Big Ten basement. Ohio State is too good of a program with too much access to talent in an environment where football is king to be losing like this. It’s just unacceptable.
The buyout is rather gaudy and they’re transitioning to a new athletic director, but it’s hard to see Holtmann back on the sidelines one year from now.
- Pick: Maryland
Michigan Wolverines at Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Game Time/TV: 6:30 p.m. on BTN
- KenPom Spread: Cornhuskers by 7
Discussed above, but Nebraska has turned into a legitimately difficult environment for teams to play in. Both Purdue and Wisconsin found this out the hard way.
They’re a fun group that performs especially well at home while the road... leaves something to be desired for Huskers fans. But for now, I’d imagine they’ll take these home wins and run with them.
Michigan is bad. Really bad. The Wolverines will be without their best player during his road-only suspension.
The Huskers should cook here.
- Pick: Nebraska