Illinois (-23) vs. Hampton || 6pm, ESPNU
Fresh off a home* loss to Oregon, the Illini return to Rantoul or wherever the hell it is they play in downstate Illinois for a matchup with the mighty mighty Pirates. Hampton's been cleaning up the boards nicely and enters on a three-game winning streak, but the only other B1G competition Hampton faced, Iowa, throttled them back on November 14, 90-56.
This game should have some nice pace to it, as both teams like to push the ball, but shooting could be a problem if Illinois stagnates on offense again. The nice thing? Nnanna Egwu's got about 3" on his opposing center. I expect Illinois to feed him early and feed him often in a runaway win.
#12 Ohio State (-36) vs. North Carolina A&T || 6pm, BTN
Does Ohio State cover? Does Sam Thompson show off at least one new flashy dunk? Does anyone care? Probs, def, and doubt it.
In any regard, the 1-10 (0-2 MEAC) Aggies are #344 in Kenpom and have yet to beat a Division I team. So there's that. Find something better to do, I guess.
Northwestern (-6.5) vs. Central Michigan || 7pm, BTN2
Yeah, enjoy the 40-point OSU-NCA&T blowout on BTN. Meanwhile, this one could be competitive. Gulp. The Chippewas can score the hell out of the ball, coming in nationally at 13th with almost 83 ppg. Now, mind you, their best win is over Kenpom #196 Youngstown State, but their team clips of 48% from the field and 42% from deep may be a concern, especially considering that threes make up 44.8% of their FGM and 50.5% of their FGA. Northwestern's top-quartile-nationally defense is only allowing opponents to shoot 33.3% from deep, so we'll see if Northwestern's perimeter defense can get it done against the Chips' hot-shooting forward John Simons (12.6 PPG, 60.5% 3pt).
On offense, the 'Cats need to keep feeding the rock to Alex Olah (11.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg), who has come on as of late, though Central will be able to put 6'11" freshman Luke Meyer on him as at least a modicum of resistance. When Meyer is off the floor and Simons is the tallest Chip out there, though, it's imperative for the 'Cats to pound it inside. Northwestern's 101-point performance against Mississippi Valley State has 'Cats fans beginning to wonder if Chris Collins isn't looking to step up the tempo from the currently 307th-rated Kenpom clip they're running at. The answer is probably yes, at least marginally, though Northwestern needs to show a lot more offensive efficiency (paging Tre Demps to run something resembling a motion offense) in a half-court set if they're going to compete in the Big Ten. Look for the 'Cats to struggle if the Chippewas get hot early, but I think Northwestern pulls away and takes this by 10. I won't get to watch this, as I don't think the Uptown VFW gets BTN2 or is interested in watching this as I get my ass kicked at trivia. So I'll catch the first 20 minutes, at least. Gooooooo Roaming Herd of Cows--I mean, 'Cats!
#25 Michigan State (-14) vs. Eastern Michigan || 8pm, BTN
Eagles be trynna celebrate the hell outta the state, y'all. To be honest, looking at the Eagles' statistics, I'm not entirely sure what the Fightin' EMUs do all that well, save for clean up the glass. Watching senior forward Karrington Ward step out to guard Denzel Valentine on the perimeter could be fun--the forward from Lockport, IL, is on the court for his defense and leadership and could help slow Valentine's 52% clip from deep. When Valentine gets penetration, though, junior Matt Costello has a nose around the basket and the athleticism to face down taller defenders.
Eastern does roll a strong nine deep and has two center/fowards checking in at 6'11", which is likely a strong contributor to their early season successes. In fact, Eastern will likely be taller than the Spartans. If EMU tries to pack it in and clean up the glass, though, this is a Michigan State team which will torch them from downtown (45.6% on the year). If EMU tries to defend the Spartans on the wings, Michigan State's got the athletes to get into the paint and make some noise. Tom Izzo's a good enough coach that he'll recognize that, make adjustments, and help Sparty cruise to victory. Early scare for the Spartans as they settle in and EMU plays solid defense, then Michigan State hits another gear and cruises by 20.
Well, there you have it. Answer the poll, and feel free to use this as your basketball open thread for the night. Standard rules apply: No hate speech, no porn, don't be a jackwagon, and if you're going to tread on Ted's lawn, make sure someone's got your six.