Upsets by Nebraska and Minnesota have them flying into a week of basketball in which they'll get opportunity to distinguish themselves in the Big Ten's mushy middle, while Purdue and Indiana stare down tough matchups as they try to right the ship. But first...
I'm half-guessing region and opponent for Lunardi, because he's only released these projections in a string of tweets with the seeding numbers and I'm far too lazy to actually figure out what fits where. Do with it what you will.
|FanSided (1/2)||Joe Lunardi (tweets)|
|wisconsin||3||S||New Mexico St||5||E||UNC-Wilmington|
|Minnesota||8||S||Wichita State||8||S||Wichita State|
|Michigan St||11*||S||VCU||9||W||Iowa State|
|Ohio State||-||-||-||-||-||NEXT OUT|
All times CT.
#13 wisconsin (12-2, KP 11) at #25 Indiana (10-4, KP 24)
6pm || ESPN
Indiana plays host to wisconsin on a two-game skid, having dropped home contests to Nebraska and Louisville. I like this matchup inside--can Thomas Bryant and the Hoosiers' athleticism beat Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson, and the disciplined badger frontcourt on the glass?
There are points to be had here: I don't buy the wisconsin perimeter defense against James Blackmon Jr, but the same goes for the Indiana defense against Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, along with Zak Showalter if he comes out shooting hot.
Ultimately, it'll come down to Indiana having a better shooting game than they did against Louisville and winning the battle inside. I think at home they have just enough to do it.
Pick: Indiana, 81-76
Rutgers (11-4, KP 132) at Michigan State (10-5, KP 47)
5:30pm || BTN
This one actually does intrigue me. Michigan State gets Miles Bridges back and is already 2-0 in conference with wins over a decent Minnesota team and a not-shitty Northwestern club, but the (yes, I know!) size of Rutgers might...actually present a challenge?
Bear with me. CJ Gettys is a mediocre center and Deshawn Freeman struggled against Penn State, but Rutgers still has the length to give Michigan State some trouble on defense. The Scarlet Knights will need to get to the basket, which I doubt they can do, but Corey Sanders is due for a game and this could be Pikiell's chance to sneak up on someone.
At the same time, Cassius Winston finally found his form against Northwestern and Nick Ward continues to put up big numbers. It's at home and Tom Izzo's devil magic is in mid-season form, but if Rutgers keeps this close into the second half I won't be stunned.
Pick: Michigan State, 68-56
Penn State (9-6, KP 94) at Michigan (10-4, KP 32)
7:30pm || BTN
Having fallen to a hot-shooting Northwestern and beaten a...cold-shooting feels polite for what Rutgers turned in, Penn State could have another rough night when they travel to Ann Arbor to face the three-raining Wolverines. Worse yet, Michigan matches the Nittany Lions' length on the perimeter and is a far superior team shooting the ball.
Mike Watkins should have a decent game inside against the limited size of the Wolverines, but whether Penn State can get the ball in there instead of continuing to chuck from deep may determine whether they hang on the road. I haven't been blown away by the Penn State offensive philosophy this year, but limiting Derrick Walton Jr outside (he's averaging 15.7 ppg in his last three) and finding DJ Wilson (like Iowa couldn't) could help the Lions keep it close.
Pick: Michigan, 69-60
#20 Purdue (12-3, KP 15) at Ohio State (10-4, KP 48)
6pm || ESPN
Ohio State is scuffling, but the Buckeyes present one of the better matchups against Purdue's frontcourt. Trevor Thompson, Keita Bates-Diop, and Micah Potter will have their hands full inside with the Caleb Swanigan Show, as he goes for another casual 20/20 outing, but Thad Matta's defensive stylings can give Purdue trouble with their length and perimeter defense.
On offense...that's another matter. The Boilers should be able to shut down the Buckeye offense, and if Dakota Mathias returns to his hot-shooting ways, Purdue should compound Ohio State's misery.
Pick: Purdue, 78-64
Iowa (9-6, KP 75) at Nebraska (8-6, KP 82)
8pm || BTN
BRT: Well, Nebraska is no Omaha, so there's no guarantee they'll be able to take out the Hawkeyes, but given the way the Huskers have played the last two games, they've certainly got a shot. Iowa and Nebraska, are, on paper, more evenly matched than they are most years.
In addition to similar records, they've both got a few embarrassing performances on the year, both are fielding an extremely young team, and both are reliant upon a lonely senior (Peter Jok for Iowa and Tai Webster for Nebraska) for leadership and points. In the latter, Iowa's Peter Jok has a leg up, and if he's on fire Thursday, the Huskers are in for a tough night.
Nevertheless, Nebraska is riding high after a shockingly successful road trip to Indiana and Maryland, and are looking to bring success back to Pinnacle Bank Arena after some ugly recent scenes.* This might be a messy game given the youth involved, but it could also be an exciting, competitive one.
*The Gardner-Webb Incident
Minnesota (13-2, KP 38) at Northwestern (12-3, KP 43)
8pm || ESPNU
This game will tell us a lot about the Big Ten bracketology picture moving forward. Both teams rate out slightly over .500 in the conference for the season, and while Minnesota would do well to get a decent road win, Northwestern needs to beat the teams around it in the standings to make a case for itself at some point this year.
The biggest factors for me: (1) the return of Dererk Pardon to the Northwestern lineup. While I don't know his full readiness off a hand injury, the foul-prone Gavin Skelly and freshman Barrett Benson would likely not be able to handle Reggie Lynch and Jordan Murphy inside; and (2) Minnesota's backcourt shooting the ball. Northwestern does a decent job collapsing on drives, but the outside shooting of Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer has been more than enough for the Gophers.
Pick: Minnesota, 73-67
That's what I got for ya, folks. Feel free to give us your picks for the week and use this as your open thread! Usual rules apply.