A pretty light weekend is on tap the next two days with three games each day and no big marquee matchup in the B1G. A few games could be interesting to start separating how some surprise teams are going to go this year, so let’s take a look:
#24 Minnesota (15-3, 3-2) at Penn State (10-7, 2-2)
12:00pm ET || ESPNU || PSU -1.5
DJ: Can Minnesota right the ship after a big loss to Michigan State earlier in the week? Penn State hasn’t played since beating Michigan State last weekend so they will be fresh heading into this early day matchup. Both teams are surprisingly doing well this year, perhaps Minnesota more than Penn State, but whoever wins will certainly propel themselves into their respective tiers of the Big Ten. Minnesota can’t afford to lose any should win game at this point if they want to stay near the top of the B1G.
Prediction: Minnesota 77, Penn State 71
Nebraska (9-7, 3-1) at Michigan (11-6, 1-3)
2:00pm ET || BTN || UM -9
DJ: I have no idea on this game. Nebraska lost leading rebounder and post player Ed Morrow, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury, while Michigan just got absolutely destroyed by previously lifeless Illinois. This game will come down to how each team responds to their respective situation but I’ll take Nebraska, who has surprised everyone in Big Ten play after their shaky start. Nebraska probably responds by making this game as ugly as possible, which seems to be their thing now, but it’ll probably get ugly enough that they pull out the win.
BRT: I think this was probably a good week for Nebraska to not have a mid-week game. They looked sluggish and hungover last Sunday against Northwestern, as if the flurry of the first three conference games had gotten to them. Hopefully, they were able to rest a little bit and refocus. Michigan has looked entirely beatable this season, particularly in the Big Ten, and the Huskers have done alright on the road, so this is a game they could win, barring another performance like last Sunday’s.
Prediction: Nebraska 63, Michigan 57
Maryland (15-2, 3-1) at Illinois (12-5, 2-2)
6:00pm ET || ESPN2 || ILL -3
DJ: Maryland absolutely blasted Illinois to open up Big Ten play earlier this month so this game will be interesting to watch. Illinois finally put together a complete game against Michigan earlier in the week while Maryland stuck it out against a tough Indiana team as they continue to grow. Which Illinois team shows up? Are they going to allow every single variation of the screen and roll to be used against them with utter efficiency by Maryland again? Look for Maryland to drive the lane early and often to get Illinois bigs in foul trouble, who drive the offense of the team. I don’t think Illinois comes out as flat as they did last game but unless they shoot out of their minds from three as they did earlier in the week they don’t pull the win off at home.
Prediction: Maryland 77, Illinois 66
rutger (11-7, 0-5) at Indiana (11-6, 1-3)
12:00pm ET || BTN
DJ: James Blackmon is not going to allow Indiana to lose to rutger this weekend. Indiana struggled mightily inside the lane against Damonte Dodd earlier this week when they played Maryland so look for Tom Crean to get Thomas Bryant back on track against rutger as Indiana will work inside out to win this game. rutger will probably keep it close for a while with their improved rebounding but at the end of the day the pure skill on Indiana’s roster should be all that they need to avoid a massive upset at home.
Prediction: Indiana 92, rutger 70
Michigan State (12-6, 4-1) at Ohio State (10-7, 0-4)
1:30pm ET || CBS
DJ: This one isn’t going to be pretty. Ohio State looks like a completely defeated team this year, as evidenced by getting blown out by Wisconsin on Thursday at the Kohl Center. There is no semblance to what they are doing on offense and the defense was always a step too slow. Look for Tom Izzo to exploit the depleted front court with Nick Ward and Miles Bridges all day long until the Buckeyes can show they can defend it.
Andrew: Coming off of probably their best game of the season thus far in a romp over Minnesota and facing winless-in-conference OSU, confidence should be high in East Lansing. OSU’s already-short bench just lost Keita Bates-Diop for the season, and Miles Bridges’ reintegration took a big step forward on Wednesday...and yet, caution is warranted. MSU’s deficiencies are the sort that can rear their head at any time, so Sunday will tell us if they can build a little consistency. Should be MSU by 8-10 points, but we’ll see.
Prediction: Michigan State 84, Ohio State 70
Iowa (11-7, 3-2) at Northwestern (14-4, 3-2)
6:30pm CT || BTN
MNW: Hoo boy. The 'Cats are not going to stop Peter Jok, so let's just see how this one goes. Really, the matchup(s) in my mind are the ones against the other four Hawkeyes on the court. Can Northwestern clamp down on Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer inside, run Jordan Bohannon off the line, and keep Cordell Pemsl from getting penetration?
When the 'Cats have the ball, it'd sure be great if they continued to let Dererk Pardon shine inside. He had a nutty 8 pt, 11 reb, 8 blk stat line against rutger, but what was most important was that getting the ball inside to him against rutger and Nebrasketball took it out of Bryant McIntosh's hands.
Because man is he struggling to shoot. His totals on conference play have sunk to 36.4% from the field and 22.2% from deep, yet he continues to command a high number of shots because there seems to remain this stupid Duke fantasy that in late-clock situations if you just get him the ball he's going to throw up a stupid-good runner. It ain't happening.
If Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law can dribble-penetrate get to the line, the 'Cats can sneak this out. But they'll need all hands on deck to keep the Iowa cast of characters from funnin' and gunnin' all over in "historic" Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Stew: Iowa is hoping to avoid a hangover after the thrilling win over Purdue. This young hawks team has yet to win a true Ross game this season, and I’m not optimistic of their chances on Sunday at intimidating Welsh-Ryan. In what clearly is The Year, the Wildcats led by pesky PG Bryant McIntosh will give the Hawkeyes fits.
Prediction: Gavin Skelly becomes the new Northwestern player Iowa fans curse, and the 'Cats sneak one out, 71-66.