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Rivalry Weekend: Big Ten Basketball Previews, Open Thread

You might think Butler-Purdue or Indiana-Notre Dame are the best rivalry games on the Big Ten slate this weekend. You’d be wrong.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off Finals Week, most of the Big Ten returns to shootyhoops action this weekend, playing regional rivals in sponsored showcases of really bad basketball!

Many of you will tune into the Hy-Vee Classic at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

More of you will watch the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Conseco Fieldhouse.

Some masochists/drunks among you might even turn on FS1 at 7pm to see something called Shelter Insurance sponsoring a 30-point shit-kicking.

None of those are the greatest* basketball** rivalry*** taking place in the Big Ten this weekend.

No, that’s the Battle for the Mayor’s Key, coming at you live from Wintrust Arena at 1pm, as my Northwestern Wildcats head into the city to take on the DePaul Blue Demons.

What’s that? You scoff?

I’ll have you know something, friend. Since losing to DePaul on a last-second layup in 2013, Chris Collins has not slept. I don’t mean he tosses and turns a little before he goes to sleep. He literally hasn’t slept. He is haunted by that coast-to-coast DePaul layup, and he has vowed to never lose to DePaul again.

Rodger Sherman long ago branded it the Purple Line Express Rivalry, and I really like that. But that’s not enough for me. There’s some bullshit award, the Fisher-McGrath Award, given to the game’s MVP. That’s not enough for me.

I want the Mayor’s Key.

I want Rahm Emanuel to attend this game, walk out onto the court afterwards, and hand Chris Collins the key to the city, which Northwestern will proudly**** display in Welsh-Ryan Arena until pulling it out next December, beating the piss out of DePaul, and returning it to Welsh-Ryan again.

You might be thinking, shouldn’t the city’s public schools play for the Mayor’s Key?

Let’s be honest: ain’t no one showing up for UIC-Chicago State. Shit, those schools played last year and hadn’t seen each other before that since the CIT in 2013. You know, that instant classic.

You want it to be Loyola-DePaul? I’ll be honest: I didn’t know Loyola was co-ed until my sophomore year. I thought it was just girls I would awkwardly stare at when we got into Hamilton’s with our fake IDs. Fuck them. They can play us in the Sheridan Road Showdown, but what has Loyola ever won? Oh shit, the 1963 championship? Well they’re too successful for DePaul or Northwestern. Fuck them double.

No, the Purple Line Express Rivalry—the Battle for the Mayor’s Key—that’s where it’s at. Make this trophy a thing, Northwestern Athletics and DePaul Athletics. Get in on this, Rahm Emanuel. Your approval rating would rise from 16% to like, 16.3%.

We took your arena, DePaul, and now we’re keeping the Key as well.


#15 Seton Hall Pirates (9-1, KP 17) at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-3, KP 101)

11am | BTN | SH -8

Contrived Event Name: Garden State Hardwood Classic
Is it actually a rivalry?: I suppose, since they’ve played like, 65 times in the last century.
What trophy should they play for?: The Keg o’ Taffy.

ZuzuRU: After last year's painfully close game being such a tease for Rutgers fans, and dealing with absolute trash that are Seton Hall fans in their natural trash habitat of Newark, NJ in the aftermath of such a game, Rutgers WANTS this win very badly in order to be the "best basketball team in New Jersey," a surprisingly coveted title. And also to stick it to Seton Hall, a school whose stupid fans think is relevant when in reality has no relevance beyond basketball outside of NJ.

Michigan Wolverines (9-3, KP 36) vs. Detroit-Mercy Titans (4-6, KP 294)

11am | ESPNU | Little Caesar’s Arena | Mich -19

Contrived Event Name: Hitachi College Basketball Showcase
Is it actually a rivalry?: No.
What trophy should they play for?: Ypsilanti.

Graham Filler: Successful Wolverine stuff last week was a tad unexpected but definitely welcome if you consider Michigan a bubble team. It's time to keep winning the winnable games, because a loss to UDM would be a blow to bubble hopes. It's not an outright bad Titans team, but it's definitely not a good one. Cool game concept tho!

#17 Purdue Boilermakers (10-2, KP 8) vs. Butler Bulldogs (8-2, KP 49)

11am | FOX | Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse | Pur -7

Contrived Event Name: Crossroads Classic
Is it actually a rivalry?: No. This is the least appealing rivalry in Indiana power basketball.
What trophy should they play for?: The Ol’ Construction Barrel.

Boilerman31: Last year, Purdue finally broke through and got a win at the Crossroads Classic. This year, they can get another 'name brand' win over a Butler team that's decidely middling after losing their head coach to Ohio State (they got revenge beating the Bucks in OT). There's nothing about this Butler team that moves the needle. They're not great from downtown (32%) and their best win to date is either Ohio State or Utah.

Look for the Boilers to give the Bulldogs a healthy dose of Isaac Haas and Haarms and dare Butler to double them opening up the streaky outside shooters. Purdue by 8.

#2 Michigan State Spartans (9-1, KP 2) vs. Oakland Golden Grizzlies

1pm | ESPNU | Little Caesar’s Arena | MSU -17

Contrived Event Name: Hitachi College Basketball Showcase
Is it actually a rivalry?: No, but it’s cool Tom Izzo goes on the road to play these games.
What trophy should they play for?: A bronzed Greg Kampe Christmas sweater.

Andrew Kraszewski: Sooner or later, MSU is going to regret putting Kampe's squad on the schedule every year. This probably isn't that year, even with certain 'writers' on this blog talking about Kendrick Nunn like he's prime-years Allen Iverson. Oakland will give MSU a fight, but the result will probably not be in doubt after halftime.


Northwestern Wildcats (7-4, KP 44) at DePaul Blue Demons (6-4, KP 120)

1pm | FS1 | NU -6.5

Contrived Event Name: None, as it’s very real.
Is it actually a rivalry?: Fuck you, hell yeah it is. GIMME THAT KEY.
What trophy should they play for?: THE MAYOR’S FUCKING KEY.

MNW: A loss to DePaul would be devastating. The Blue Demons have a tricky frontcourt in Max Strus, Eli Cain, and Tre’Darius McCallum, but I like Northwestern’s ability to shut them down with the talented defense of Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey. They’ll need a good performance from Aaron Falzon on the defensive end, though, otherwise sixth man Gavin Skelly will need to hop into action and combine his newfound scoring touch with his hard-nosed defense.

I’ll take the ‘Cats shooting the ball to be the difference in this one. DePaul is 48.5% (260th) from the field and 31.2% (298th) from deep, which is...not...good, while Dererk Pardon and Barret Benson should handle scoring threat Marin Maric inside. ‘Cats by 15.

But you know that ol’ chestnut: When the Mayor’s Key is on the line, you throw out the records. Both teams picked up their lunch pails and hopped on the Purple Line Express, and you never know what’s gonna happen.

But a bum’s probably peeing in the corner.

Iowa Hawkeyes (5-6, KP 81) vs. Drake Bulldogs (5-5, KP 181)

1pm | BTN | Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines) | Iowa -6.5

Contrived Event Name: Hy-Vee Big Four Classic
Is it actually a rivalry?: No, because Iowa can actually win it.
What trophy should they play for?: A third-place ribbon.

Stewmonkey13: I've attempted let go of almost all expectations, at this point. Drake isn't that good, as evidenced by their game against Minnesota. Neither is Iowa. Even is Drake isn't very good at forcing turnovers, Iowa is still going to turn it over too much.

Connor McCaffery (yes, relation) is still coming back from mono, and is hardly ready for competitive minutes. If Iowa can take care of the ball, this should be a route, as they'll likely control the boards (the height advantage is fairly absurd). Still, it's essentially a road game against Drake.

Indiana Hoosiers (5-5, KP 83) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2, KP 18)

1:30pm | FOX | Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse | ND -5.5

Contrived Event Name: Crossroads Classic
Is it actually a rivalry?: Yeah, I suppose.
What trophy should they play for?: Not so much a trophy, but rather a jacket which should be flipped to reveal the winning team’s colors. I’m sure we can find one lying around.

Candystripes for Breakfast: This might actually be a good game. Notre Dame is (last I checked) a real good squad this year, but they did also get upset by Ball State, so they're beatable.

On the other side, Indiana has been very up and down while getting Archie's system in place, but they've been able to get up for big games in front of what will likely be a fairly Indiana-partisan crowd (not quite Assembly Hall partisan, but it might be enough).

I still don't like Indiana's chances of actually pulling this one out, but that's true of most of our games this year, so it wouldn't totally shock me to see us competitive and possibly even victorious if things break the Hoosiers' way a few times.

Ohio St.Buckeyes (8-3, KP 48) vs. Appalachian St. Mountaineers (5-6, KP 186)

5pm | BTN | OSU -16

Contrived Event Name: “Non-conference game.”
Is it actually a rivalry?: I hope not
What trophy should they play for?: They should not. This is a garden-variety non-conference game.

I have nothing to say about this game. Ohio State is possibly good. Appalachian State is the exact kind of team they’ve been beating up on. The Buckeyes have been rolling behind Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, and they should continue to do so against the Mountaineers.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-4, KP 92) vs. #13 Kansas Jayhawks (7-2, KP 7)

7pm | FS1 | KU -11.5

Contrived Event Name: Shelter Insurance Showcase
Is it actually a rivalry?: Nah, it’s just a two-off home-and-home.
What trophy should they play for?: Kansas should buy a nice new lamp for Bill Self’s office and call it the trophy. Same effect.

BRT: Nebraska plays Kansas pretty frequently. It generally doesn't go well. It probably won't this time either.

Illinois Fighting Illini (8-4, KP 90) vs. New Mexico State Aggies (8-2, KP 97)

7pm | BTN | United Center | Ill -6

Contrived Event Name: Dynegy Shootout
Is it actually a rivalry?: Few people know this, but New Mexico State and Illinois are bitter rivals. As a matter of fact, they haven’t played since 1992 because that game—the championship of the Great Alaska Shootout (RIP), a 95-94 NMSU win—ended with the Aggies’ Sam Crawford giving Deon Thomas such a dirty look that the glue on Lou Henson’s head cracked. It was decided that to prevent brawls in future years, the rivalry would be suspended.
(No, it’s actually Lou Henson, whose name is found on both schools’ home courts.)
What trophy should they play for?: The Bronze Toupee.

It’s a mixed bag for the Illini. Lou Henson, who this game is supposed to honor, is ill and will not make the game. On the other hand, Illinois should have Kipper Nichols and Leron Black and close to full health, and freshman Trent Frazier is hitting his stride.

But the Aggies, who Henson coached from 1966-1975 and 1997-2005, are just a slightly worse version of UNLV, who took down the Illini in Vegas last weekend. Led by dismissed by Minnesota, then Illinois State-turned-Texas Southern-turned-NMSU guard Zach Lofton (18.9 ppg, went to my childhood church in Saint Paul), first-year coach Chris Jans’ Aggies bring a defensive intensity that could disrupt the Illini—if 6’5” F Jemerrio Jones (10.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg) and the undersized frontcourt can keep Illinois off the boards.

Thumpasaurus: We always lose at the United Center.

Penn St. Nittany Lions (8-3, KP 40) at George Mason Patriots (5-6, KP 211)

Sunday, 3pm | Stadium | Line TBA

Contrived Event Name: No.
Is it actually a rivalry?: Who came up with these dumbass categories?
What trophy should they play for?: They shouldn’t. It’s just a stupid fucking non-conference game.

Aaron Yorke: Thanks to losses against North Carolina State and Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions will have to put in a lot of work in Big Ten play if they want that elusive NCAA Tournament berth. There simply aren't any quality wins available until Big Ten play resumes on January 2.

The good news is that Penn State has taken care of business against the tomato cans on its schedule, and that should continue against George Mason on Sunday. The Patriots have a brilliant point guard in Otis Livingston II, but they also have zero wins against top-200 KenPom teams this season.

Vote in the polls, bring your rivalry trophy suggestions in the comments, and enjoy the open thread! Rules and shit apply. Enjoy a wonderful weekend of Big Ten basketball!


Who’s the best in the Garden State?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Seton Hall
    (2 votes)
  • 20%
    (1 vote)
  • 40%
    (2 votes)
5 votes total Vote Now


Who wins the Battle for the Ol’ Construction Barrel?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    (5 votes)
  • 16%
    (1 vote)
6 votes total Vote Now


Who’s taking home the Mayor’s Key?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    (7 votes)
  • 41%
    The Losers in Lincoln Park
    (5 votes)
12 votes total Vote Now


Which way are we flippin’ the Ol’ Reversible Jacket?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Blue and Gold, baby! Wake those echoes! Rudy!
    (11 votes)
  • 15%
    Cream and Crimson! Hoo hoo hoo! Hackman!
    (2 votes)
13 votes total Vote Now