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One Last Cupcake before the New Year: Big Ten Basketball Weekend Previews, Open Thread

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WHY IS WISCONSIN PLAYING AT WESTERN KENTUCKY?!?!?!?!?

NCAA Basketball: Western Kentucky at Wisconsin
If you can believe this, wisconsin drew a charge on this play.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The most intriguing thing about this weekend is that wisconsin will play a road game at Western Kentucky. But enjoy your cupcakes while you can! We start counting calories again on January 1. But

Editor’s note: There are a lot of games we just can’t cover! If you’re interested in writing about basketball or, well, anything, feel free to publish a Fanpost on Big Ten hoops and your team’s fortunes! We’ll drop you a line.

Saturday

#13 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) vs. High Point Panthers (6-6)

11am | BTN

Penn State Nittany Lions (6-6) vs. UMBC Retrievers (7-6)

12pm | BTN

This would’ve been a great game before the year started...but then it did. The Retrievers (KP 248) have faded back into irrelevance in 2018, boasting one of the worst 50 offenses in the country and losses to South Dakota (KP 187), American (KP 203), Florida Gulf Coast (KP 224), and Towson (KP 274). Another reminder of what a cruel mistress low-major college basketball can be.

Aaron: Maybe there’s still a little magic to be had! Penn State has already lost to two teams outside of the KenPom top 100, and Pat Chambers has maybe one player on his team — freshman Rasir Bolton at 44 percent — who can knock down three-point shots reliably. Penn State’s defense is going to keep it in a lot of games against Big Ten opponents this year, but its offense is going to keep it in games against mid-major opponents. Hopefully we’ll see more of Trent Buttrick in this game; he gave the team a shot in the arm with 13 points at Alabama.

#8 Michigan State Spartans (10-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (7-5)

1pm | BTN

Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2) vs. Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs

1pm | BTN+

Jesse: Look, this game is peak-December doldrums. SMSU is a D-II school in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference that boasts such members as St Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato.

That might be cool if this was hockey, but it is not and this probably ends really poorly for the Mustangs. The entire school is ~8700 students which, unfortunately, is probably about half the size of the PBA crowd on Saturday. Look for Nebraska to be a bit unfocused, but probably still able to sleepwalk through an uninspiring win that will not even count because D-II.

Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8) vs. Florida Atlantic Owls (8-4)

2pm | BTN+

Thump quit the basketball channel after Braggin’ Rights, so we’re just going to leave his going-away rant here:

I retract my earlier remarks about our AD not being an idiot

Shitty coach, whatever. Football has plenty of shitty coaches. But to go along with historically bad play, Underwood has made Illinois basketball incredibly unlikeable by pulling shit like creaning all three 2017 recruits he brought in, pulling javon Pickett’s scholarship, pulling Talen Horton-Tucker’s scholarship hours before he was to announce for Illinois because he got an ultimatum

We’re a villain now, and we aren’t winning. Nobody wants brad underwood to succeed. There are neutral observers who want to see Lovie win. There are neutral observers who’d like to see Steve Pikiell build a program. Nobody could possibly like the Brad Underwood Illini, and now they’ve lost the only game we still care about. I hope the FBI probe takes down Underwood; it’s our only hope now.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-5) vs. Maine Black Bears (2-11)

2pm | BTN+

Rutgers lost to Fordham (KP 204) in one of the two non-conference games it has played out of New Jersey...maybe in the entirety of Steve Pikiell’s tenure on the banks? [The other was an increasingly-baffling win at Miami.]

Maine is 335th in Kenpom, and not even Rutgers should lose to them.

Purdue Boilermakers (7-5) vs. Belmont Bruins (9-1)

3:30pm | FS1

Boilerman31: Purdue plays /checks schedule Belmont on Saturday. The Bruins only have one loss and went to UCLA and got a win, so they’re not afraid of the road.

This should be a good tune up for Carsen Edwards and Co. I expect a bit of a challenge in a game the Boilers need to shake off the Christmas rust.

#15 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-6)

4:30pm | CBSSN

This was a straight home-for-home trade, with the badgers heading to Bowling Green this year after Western visited madison and nearly shocked the badgers in 2017, falling 81-80. The WKU AD also thought—if you can believe this!!!—that wisconsin benefited from some flopping and shitty refereeing in madison. Doesn’t sound right, does it? I didn’t think so.

Anyways, this year, wisconsin is playing at Western Kentucky.

I still have no idea why.

At 120th this year, Western Kentucky has fallen off slightly from its 47th rank (and 4-seed in the NIT) in 2017-18, but...there’s nothing that would have indicated to wisconsin in 2016-17 that they should’ve scheduled a home-and-home with Western. Coach Rick Stansbury has no ties to madison, AD Todd Stewart has been in Bowling Green in some capacity since 2008 (and the Sun Belt and Cleveland Browns before that!), and...nope.

I have no idea why this game is happening. And I don’t think it should baffle or irritate me as much as it does, but it’s under my skin. Damnit, madison.

Maryland Terrapins (9-3) vs. Radford Highlanders (7-5)

5pm | ESPNU

DJ Carver: Hopefully a Radford upset of Maryland to get whatever fans aren’t on the Fire Turgeon bandwagon onto the bandwagon.

Still waiting for Turgeon to say what they really focused on in practice this week so I know exactly what will be awful during the game.

#24 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-2) vs. Bryant Bulldogs (3-7)

7pm | ESPNU

Stewmonkey13: Iowa is taking a step up in competition from Savannah St.; on Saturday they’ll be playing some dude named Bryant.

Sunday

#2 Michigan Wolverines (12-0) vs. Binghamton Bearcats (4-9)

11am | BTN

Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-2) vs. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (3-9)

3pm | ESPNU

Northwestern Wildcats (8-4) vs. Columbia Lions (3-8)

4pm | BTN+

MNW: Whatever. The ‘Cats couldn’t get the last bucket against Oklahoma; it’s all over. Maybe there’s an NIT berth out there; probably not. Just enjoy what Vic Law and Dererk Pardon can do, in the meantime. Columbia’s shitty and we should beat ‘em like they’re shitty in front of 4,000 empty seats. (Believe it or not, that means there are 3,000 people there!)


Open thread for the weekend of basketball. Go nuts. Or don’t. These games blow.