We recapped the first half of the week in Big Ten basketball earlier today. Facing a 2-1 deficit in the Gavitt Games, can the Big Ten right the ship as matchups swing back to home courts?
Northwestern at Butler (-7.5)
Gavitt Tip-Off Games || 6pm || FS1
With the Big Ten sitting at 1-2 in the Gavitt Games, Northwestern travels to Hinkle Fieldhouse tonight to right the conference ship against a solid Bulldogs club (#19 KP) led by Kelan Martin (21 pts and 9 boards against Northern Colorado).
Butler is a matchup I don’t like for the ‘Cats: They essentially do everything Northwestern does, but a little better on offense, much stouter on defense, and a little faster in tempo. If Hinkle gets rocking and Northwestern gets behind early, this one gets ugly. Sanjay Lumpkin will need to have a heckuva defensive showing against Martin and Dererk Pardon will require a strong offensive game to keep the Bulldogs at bay. I’d take them to cover.
#6 Indiana (-29.5) vs. UMass-Lowell
Indiana Classic || 6pm || BTN
The undersized River Hawks (KP #271) like to run, but they shouldn’t be much of a test for the high-flying Hoosiers.
Minnesota vs. Mount St. Mary’s
Golden Gopher Showcase || 7pm || BTN+
A balanced Gophers attack (no player is averaging over 14 ppg but five average double-digits) should be enough to dispatch the KP-287 Mountaineers in short order at home. Lot of games in short order for the Gophers these days, though, as they turn around Friday to face St. John’s.
Ohio State vs. Providence
Gavitt Games || 6pm || BTN
The stifling Buckeyes defense hosts the Friars in what I expect to be a Thursday night slugfest. Neither team plays particularly quickly, but both have top-40 Kenpom defenses, and Ed Cooley’s Providence teams are a disciplined bunch.
Ohio State needs better offensive production out of Marc Loving, but Kam Williams has shown a willingness to carry the load if need be. The junior is 6/9 from deep to open the year and can wrest the Buckeyes out of offensive slumps—as long as they can avoid turning the ball over first (15 TOs/gm).
Maryland vs. St. Mary’s (MD)
6pm || ESPN3
This is a D-III school that’s one of two public honors colleges in America. That’s kinda cool. But not really basketball game fodder when you’re in-season, even if it’s a tradition, Maryland.
#9 wisconsin vs. Chicago State
7pm || ESPN3
I’m sorry, but how is Chicago State’s program still solvent? At all? The Cougars run all over the place but are a bad, bad, bad basketball team with an inspiring level of gumption and stick-with-it-ness. badgers roll.
Rutgers at DePaul
Gavitt Games || 7:30pm || FS1
I’m not gonna lie, I’m going to watch the hell out of this game because you know it’s going to be a delightfully-awful trainwreck and every second will be just gloriously derpy.
The Blue Demons do have some excellent scoring prowess in Eli Cain, but they struggled in their opening win over Robert Morris and still turn the ball over way too much. I think the Scarlet Knights can use their size to dictate this matchup, but DePaul is athletic on the wings and could cause problems for Rutgers.
Iowa vs. Seton Hall
Gavitt Games || 8pm || BTN
Fran McCaffery’s bunch are runnin’, chuckin’, and scorin’, turning in the 21st-fastest pace in all of college basketball and averaging over 100 ppg through two games. Seton Hall likes to play a more measured pace but has as efficient an offense as Iowa (48th in AdjO to Iowa’s 42nd) with a more efficient defense (30th to Iowa’s 70th). Can the Hawks get out and run on the Pirates?
Tune in to this one if just to watch Peter Jok (20 ppg) and Khadeem Carrington (22.5 ppg) go at it in a matchup of two of the better guards in the country. Give me the Hawks at home in a nail-biter.
Michigan vs. Marquette
2K Classic, Madison Square Garden || 8:30pm || ESPN2
Let’s ring out a goddamn Wolverine in NYC, Golden Eagles, huh?
In all seriousness, I can’t wait to watch this one. Marquette has finally found its balanced attack, rolling Vanderbilt and Howard behind Jajuan Johnson’s shooting touch (17.5 ppg on 61% shooting), Haanif Cheatham’s all-around strong play, and Luke Fischer’s dominance inside. Five Golden Eagles score over 11 ppg, and if they can dominate the paint against the Wolverines and push the tempo on the edges, this could spell trouble for Michigan. Watch out for Sam Hauser from deep (7/11 on the year).
But let’s not overlook Michigan. While the Wolverines have put up quiet victories against Howard and IUPUI, John Beilein’s club is currently the 19th-rated offense in the country, per Kenpom, and Derrick Walton Jr. continues to be unworldly (7/14 from deep, 16.5 ppg). Perhaps the newest development in Ann Arbor is a big man who can actually rebound the ball, as D.J. Wilson is pulling down 11 per game. If he can challenge Fischer inside and the Wolverines can use their length and athleticism to get to the basket, they leave NYC winners.
Welcome! Grab a beer, take a load off, and enjoy your Open Thread for all the shootyhoops mid-week action. We’ll add Friday previews as we’re able, but in the meantime don’t be a jackwagon and have fun talking Big Ten basketball.
-MNW and the Gang