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2/11 Big Ten Basketball Preview: Northwestern Set to Face Penn State

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Minnesota Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

There are two games this afternoon in the Big Ten set to take place before the Super Bowl kicks off this evening. Let’s take a look at the upcoming action.

Game of the Day

Penn State Nittany Lions at Northwestern Wildcats

  • Time/TV: 1:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Northwestern -8.5

With everything that transpired yesterday involving Illinois and Wisconsin, a win would put Northwestern a half game out of second place. While Purdue is starting to pull away the Wildcats have a legitimate shot at possibly finishing second in the league. With most of the conference so close together right now even Penn State is only a game out of a double bye for the Big Ten Tournament.

The Wildcats bounced back from back-to-back overtime losses at Purdue and Minnesota with a 12 point win over Nebraska. Northwestern hasn’t lost at home since they dropped one unexpectedly to Chicago State. Their opponent is a Penn State team coming in on a three game winning streak.

Penn State finally got Kanye Clary back in a reserve role in their win over Iowa. The teams leading scorer going down is usually problematic, but his absence seemingly forced the rest of Penn State’s players to step up. If they can keep playing at a similar level and Clary can fully bounce back it might position Penn State to be a more difficult out down the stretch.

Unfortunately for Penn State the Wildcats are a tough out in Evanston. Penn State seems to be making some improvement, but winning on the road is difficult and it’s unlikely Penn State wins a third road game in a row today.

Pick: Northwestern

The Rest

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Time/TV: 3:00 PM ET BTN
  • Line: Iowa -6.5

The middle of the Big Ten is incredibly tight right now and that means that both Iowa and Minnesota aren’t out of the race for a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Entering today’s game the Gophers are a half game out of fourth place while the Hawkeyes are only two games out with eight to go.

Minnesota has been trending up and enters today on a three game winning streak that includes wins over Michigan State, Northwestern and Penn State. At 15-7 they could make a push for the postseason, but with a NET ranking of 85 and only one Quad 1 win there’s work to do. Today would be a good start as a road win at Iowa would currently be penciled in as a Quad 1 win. Minnesota has four more Quad 1 games remaining after today, though all of them come on the road.

A 2-4 stretch for Iowa that includes losses to Maryland, Indiana and Penn State largely killed any possible chance the Hawkeyes could turn things around. Giving up almost 90 points to a Penn State team where it’s leading scorer played less than 20 minutes (and attempted 4 shots) is more or less Iowa’s defense in a nutshell under Fran McCaffery. For all their abilities to score and light up the box score on the offensive side of the ball they still can’t stop anyone with a pulse.

Their opponent today is a Minnesota squad that struggles from three (175th in 3P%) and the line (308th in FT%) but converts almost 57% of their two pointers. Iowa’s defense will need to find a way to keep Minnesota out of the paint and take jumpers and if they can do that they should be capable of picking up a much needed home win today.

Pick: Iowa