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Big Ten Basketball Tournament Week Previews

Can Purdue and Wisconsin bring home a pair of titles? Meanwhile, Michigan State looks to advance in the Bahamas and Michigan takes on a tough South Carolina club. Talk about 'em here!

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s all the college basketball previews you never asked for!

In more seriousness, thanks to those of you who have emailed me with suggestions and thoughts on your teams (a non-zero number, stunningly, for the tripe I put out). Nice to know people are actually reading these things!

Let’s hop to it, as it’s Thanksgiving Tournament Week and that means your favorite squads head to exotic locales like Maui, the Bahamas, and Fullerton.


#9 wisconsin (-14) vs. Tennessee

Maui Jim Invitational || Maui, HI

1:30pm || ESPN2

The Vols (1-1, KP 119) are...actually a pretty bad basketball team right now. After a convincing opening-season loss to Chattanooga, Rick Barnes’ (I forgot that’s where he landed!) club recovered with a high-scoring win over Appalachian State...but that’s been their problem: they play fast (KP 29) and undisciplined (AdjO 91st, AdjD 166th), averaging 15 turnovers per game and shooting 9/35 (26%) from deep.

Jordan Bone will score some for the Vols, but they don’t have the height to keep up with the badgers on the inside--Ethan Happ will have himself a day against a Tennessee club with just one player over 6’7" (F Kyle Alexander is 6’10"). It helps that Andy Katz reported yesterday that Greg Gard was very critical of his club for not going inside more against Creighton--today will be a nice chance to do that.

I was initially surprised when I saw the 14-point line in favor of wisconsin, but keeping slasher and good-name-haver Robert Hubbs III from getting inside should salt it away for the badgers. Expect a patient, disciplined performance out of Bronson Koenig up top, and look for Alex Illikainen and Happ to clean up inside.

Ohio State (-26.5) vs. Western Carolina

Global Sports Invitational Campus Game

6:00pm || BTN

The Catamounts (!) are a bad, bad basketball team (KP 319). Ohio State is quietly climbing up the rankings behind three wins--if they weren’t by the most convincing margins.

Jae’Sean Tate (15 ppg, 6 rpg) has been doing the work for the Buckeyes, and the only intriguing thing about Western is Haboubacar Mutombo, a 6’5" guard from Ontario almost averaging a double-double (9.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and notably Dikembe’s nephew. Buckeyes roll.

Illinois vs. Winthrop

NIT Season Tip-Off Campus Game

7:00pm || ESPN3

Just like it starts and ends with Malcolm Hill (22.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) for the Illini, so it does with Xavier Cooks (16.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) for the Screamin’ Eagles. [Fine, I made up the "Screamin’" part, but you try finding something fascinating about this team.]

Winthrop (KP 111) took Florida State deep a few nights back and can score in sprees, but they aren’t actually that efficient shooting the ball (43.6% FG%, 27.1% from deep). Illini should cruise here.

Northwestern vs. #23 Texas (-2)

Legends Classic || Brooklyn, NY

8:30pm || LHN/ESPN3

The preseason of my discontent continues as somehow Northwestern has managed to go to a neutral site tournament (in Brooklyn!) and still wind up on Longhorn fucking Network. Go team!

Every Northwestern fan of the last 10 years, seeing a team coached by Shaka Smart, is curled up in the fetal position waiting to see the adventures that come with breaking Havoc over and over and over again tonight.

Except...we don’t know that much about the Longhorns (KP 46). They escaped Incarnate Word to open the season, eased past Louisiana-Monroe, then blew out Eastern Washington, who Northwestern toyed with for 40 minutes. Smart’s club is only averaging 5 steals per game and has only forced an average of 12 turnovers per game.

No, what will give the ‘Cats trouble is Texas’ size and length: two freshman, F Jarrett Allen (6’11") and C James Banks (6’10"), both get significant clock for the Longhorns and average 8.0 and 6.3 rebounds per game, respectively. With six players averaging double-digit points per game, I have a hard time seeing how Northwestern has the weapons to stop them all. If Bryant McIntosh can break the Texas press consistently and Vic Law continues his hot shooting, maybe the ‘Cats can keep it interesting by the under-8


Northwestern vs. Notre Dame (-4.5)

Legends Classic Championship || Brooklyn, NY

5pm || ESPN2

Well...the 'Cats did it. Not only did they beat #22 Texas, they dominated the Longhorns, overcoming Havoc with a really effective spread press-break and getting energetic play from the youth movement of Isiah Brown, Gavin Skelly, and Dererk Pardon to win going away, 77-58. We'll have a greater recap coming on this later. (Note: A little bloom is off the Yellow Rose, as the Longhorns fell to Colorado by 14 this afternoon.)

Today the 'Cats get Notre Dame in the finals of the Legends Championship Classic. The Fighting Irish (4-0, KP 32) dispatched Colorado 89-83, their closest game of the year, behind 22 points from Bonzie Colson. The 6'5" forward has led the Irish with 20 ppg and 9 rpg this season, though 6'8" F V.J. Beachem hasn't been far behind with 19 ppg. It's an intriguing matchup, as those two and the scrappy, lunch-pail front court of Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell have averaged a combined 8.1 apg on an impressive 25.8% of Notre Dame baskets.

On the whole, it's an intriguing matchup -- both teams like a 4-out, 1-in style, with athletic wings like Colson and Vic Law getting to the basket and taking over games. Dererk Pardon and Gavin Skelly will need another impressive showing against Lithuanian basket-guarder Martinas Geben (7.3 rpg), who's an affensive liability but a defensive stalwart. The 'Cats match up well with the Irish, but for this to be The Year (hint: it's not) they'll need to cut down on the fouls and find a way to slip past Notre Dame.

Maryland (-18) vs. Stony Brook

Barclays Center Classic Campus Game

6pm || BTN

You’re actually gonna make me talk about this game? The Seawolves post-Steve Pikiell (more on Rutgers later) are the definition of a Kenpom 250 team: below-average offense, some hard-nosed defense, but rarely stand a chance. It starts and ends with Tyrell Sturdivant (how’s that for a good New York last name) for Stony Brook: the junior forward averages 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

Our own DJ Carver talked about his concerns with Maryland earlier today...the Terrapins need a blowout of a D-I program as soon as goddamn possible, and the Seawolves present the same opportunity that American and Towson did.

Minnesota (-3) vs. Arkansas

Golden Gopher Classic

7pm || ESPN3

A matchup between two Power-5 schools that gets flexed out to ESPN3 in favor of Maryland-Stony Brook on BTN is a testament to just how under-the-radar the Gophers were this season, huh?

Dusty Hannahs has been solid (17.7 ppg on 42% 3pt shooting) for the Hogs, who similarly struggled with UT-Arlington before putting the Mavericks away. They should be a good game for the Gophers, who have been led by…

Amir Coffey.

/Gophers fans stop, ears prick

Amir Coffey!

/smile crosses face


/hesitant, expectant pause, hanging on speaker’s every word


#16 Wisconsin (-5.5) vs. Georgetown

Maui Jim Maui Invitation || Maui, HI

7:00pm || ESPN2

The badgers opened up a big lead on Tennessee then pissed it all away, finally pulling away from the Volunteers late to advance to the semifinals of the loaded Maui Jim Invitational.

Truth be told, I watched all of this game but remember very little, because Bill Walton is so goddamn insane that I couldn't help but spend most of my time listening to him. He is a national treasure.

Today the badgers take on Georgetown, the most up-and-down team in college hoops to date. After blowing a late lead against Maryland, the Hoyas (2-2, KP 40) bottomed out with a home loss to Arkansas State but rebounded with a big win last night over #13 Oregon. Rodney Pryor has been big for the Hoyas, averaging nearly 20 ppg for John Robinson III's club, while L.J. Peak and Jessie Goven make most of the rest of the Georgetown scoring.

Robinson runs a deep lineup as always, with 10 players getting double-digit minutes, but the talent hasn't made itself manifest yet for the Hoyas. If anything, wisconsin will have to contend with some athletic opponents on the inside, and that's been the badgers' bugaboo -- they go long stretches of clock without pounding the ball inside to Happ, and both Govan (6'10") and F Isaac Copeland (6'9", 5.8 rpg) have the talent to make this a long day.

In all, this seems like a game the badgers are eminently capable of losing, but one that Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are made to keep them in by slowing the pace of the game and forcing the Hoyas into mistakes on the offensive end. Tune in; it'll be a good one.

#17 Purdue vs. Utah State

Cancun Challenge

7:30pm || CBSSN

Stop what you’re doing right now and go watch Utah State’s basketball fans perform "The Scotsman."

That’s what college basketball is all about right goddamn there.

On the court, the Aggies (KP 96) should offer the Boilermakers some stout resistance, with 6’11" C and wonderful name-haver Norbert Janicek and leading scorer Jalen Moore (18 ppg) having the length and size to battle with out with Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan (20.7 ppg). The Boilers have the overall talent to beat Utah State, but their concerning display of letting teams hang around late in games is going to come back to bite them at some point.

#3 Indiana at IP-Fort Wayne

Indiana Classic || Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, IN

8pm || BTN

Lest we laugh at the Hoosiers for playing a contrived in-state tournament like the Gophers and Scarlet Knights, they are at least headed on the road for an "away game" against the MASTODONS.

Problem is, the MASTODONS (KP 131) are not actually going to provide that much resistance for the Hoosiers unless G Mo Evans (23.2 ppg) can have a game. The 6’1" senior from Indy is shooting 60% from the field and 57% percent from deep, so if he has a game, this one could end up a 95-85 barn-burner. James Blackmon Jr is having a hot start to the year, though, and the Hoosiers have the size inside to dominate the MASTODONS.


#25 Michigan (-3) at South Carolina

4:00pm || ESPNU

Another "this might be a good opponent but we’re not actually sure" game for the Wolverines, as the KP #57 Gamecocks play host to the Wolverines. South Carolina actually has played a similar style to Michigan, with Sindarius Thornwell (there’s another quality name) dropping 20.8 points per game to go with 6.5 rebounds. Frank Martin’s squad brings a hard-nosed attitude to the court and, depending on the enforcement of the rules, this could either be a wide-open, good-shooting game, or Michigan could shoot another billion free throws and slowly suffocate us all.

#24 Michigan State (-7) vs. St. John’s

Battle 4 Atlantis || Nassau, Bahamas

6:00pm ||

Anyone who watched any bit of the Red Storm’s Gavitt Games showdown with Marcus LoVett can tell you that the guard can scoooooore (24.3 ppg). He’ll challenge the Spartans’ backcourt, as will the height and length of Yankuba Sima and Kassoum Yakwe, but the Spartans have the depth and weapons behind Miles Bridges to slowly pull away from Chris Mullins’ club.

Ohio State vs. Jackson State

Global Sports Invitational

6:00pm || ESPN3

So "Global Sports Invitational" is just "Buckeye Classic" with a corporate sponsor. And this is just another bad SWAC club (KP 282). Buckeyes rolls the Tigers; I’m running out of energy.

Penn State (-9.5) vs. Colgate

6pm || BTN

I readily expect the Nittany Lions to brush Colgate aside. The Raiders are still cutting their teeth, not starting a senior in their lineup, which is led by junior G Sean O’Brien (12.7 ppg). I don’t want to floss over this game, but you have to think Colgate’s season Crested with a win over Cornell. They’ll likely want to brace themselves for a pasting at the hands of Penn State.

Rutgers (-14) vs. North Texas

Scarlet Knight Showcase

6pm || BTN+

Another team outside the Kenpom 250 for the Scarlet Knights, who stay home to play the Mean Green. Steve Pikiell has Rutgers playing well, with Nigel Johnson average 14 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds a game to lead the club, which is winning with defense and a slowed-down tempo.

I’m exhausted from all those tooth puns. Moving on.

#17 Purdue (-9.5) vs. Auburn

Cancun Challenge

7:30pm || CBSSN

We've got quite the contrast in styles here, as the Tigers (KP 104) want to get out and play at a nice, quick pace (AdjT #23). Bruce Pearl's club brings two long, talented athletic freshmen in F Danjel Purifoy (15 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and G Mustapha Heron (14.8 ppg, 6.0 apg) to the table, and their outside game will challenge the Boilermakers.

Size, though, as usual, should lead Purdue safely through this one: Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas go up against an Auburn club that really doesn't have a frontcourt, as both Horace Spencer and LaRon Smith (both 6'8") make up the bulk of the Tigers' rebounding efforts. Auburn plays tough defense (KP 77), but their 67-65 win over Texas Tech in the first round is as tough a game as they've had--though they at least put away Georgia State. The Boilers will need a good showing from their guards to break the full-court press Pearl loves to trot out; settling into the half-court and bludgeoning the Tigers with Ivan Drago and Biggie will get the job done.

An amusing (to me) note -- Auburn has allowed 66, 65, 64, and 65 points in their four games to date. Model of consistency, that Bruce Pearl.

#16 wisconsin vs. #4 North Carolina (-4)

Maui Jim Maui Invitational
8:30pm || ESPN2

So...we know North Carolina is really good, right? No need to rehash that? The Tar Heels have only been held below 90 points once in their first 6 games (KP 3, AdjO 3) and have the muscle inside with Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks to match up with Happ and Alex Illikainen in a way...maybe only Purdue will be able to this year.

The problem with that is that Roy Williams' club has the guard play of Joel Berry II (16.3 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Nate Britt to spread the ball around and get it in the hands of playmakers like Justin Jackson (16.0 ppg) and Tony Bradley, who have the length to contest Nigel Hayes on the perimeter.

I could see a return of the matchup zone from the badgers, too, if Jackson and Berry are getting to the basket too quickly. That causes some problems potentially, too, as opponents are shooting 37.5% from deep already against wisconsin. The Tar Heels are over 40% from three so far.

It's tough to convince myself of a way the badgers can overcome all these facets and get past the Tar Heels, but that's why they play the game, right? Happ will need to show a little craft when he gets the ball--getting Meeks into trouble will give wisconsin a chance to control this game from the inside. It'll require a lights-out performance from just about everyone in red, but wisconsin's proven year-in, year-out that you can't count out the badgers.

And now I need to go shower.


Illinois vs. #19 West Virginia

NIT Season Tip-Off || Brooklyn, NY

1:30pm || ESPNU

The Mountaineers play fast, they play Top 10-caliber defense, and they score a lot. That’s an ugly combination for the Illini on Thanksgiving Day, but if Huggsy Bear’s club can’t keep Malcolm Hill under wraps, I guess you never know?

Watch out for Mountaineers’ forward Nathan Adrian, who’s scoring 14 points per game but also pulling down 8 boards and dishing out another 4 assists to go with them. The 6’9", 235# senior forward can be a bully inside, and while the Mountaineers haven’t played anyone of note yet, they’re playing excellent basketball (2:1 asst:TO ratio and 14 steals per game).

Nebraska vs. Dayton

DirecTV Wooden Legacy || Fullerton, CA

7:30pm || ESPNU

I’m sorry; I tried. I’m out of energy. Dayton is better than Nebraska, plays tight defense and slows the game down, and should be able to control this one start-to-finish at Titan Gym. If Tai Webster can pour a few in against the Flyers, I guess watch out, but I don’t think there’s a ton here for Husker Hoops.

Tournament TBD:

Michigan State vs. Baylor/VCU

11am, ESPN if win; 6pm, if loss

Anyways, here’s one big-ass basketball open thread for the week! Talk about the games here; vote in the polls as they change and update (pending me remembering to update them). Usual rules apply in the open thread--don’t be an ass.

Thanks as always for reading and talking basketball here at OTE!