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Big Ten Basketball Week Ahead: Conference Play Begins!

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A New Year also means conference play is finally here! We’re all fat on cupcakes so now it’s time for the real workout.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A New Year also means better basketball, finally! Conference play kicks off tonight (well, full time conference play) and we can all finally be done taking on the cupcake schedules that was OOC play.

Wednesday

#24 Nebraska Cornhuskers at Maryland Terrapins (-1)

6:30pm ET || BTN

Nebraska travels to College Park to take on Maryland, who is coming off of an easy win over Radford to end their OOC slate. Maryland has struggled to find an offensive identity this season with new PG Eric Ayala, an absolutely shocking revelation if I ever heard one from a Mark Turgeon coached team. They’re struggling so much he discussed it at his presser:

You’ve got a philopsophy offensively and you’ve just got to execute it.

Only if Mark Turgeon could ever in his tenure follow through on what he says.

Anyways, the preview: Maryland finds themselves slight home favorites against a Nebraska team that they should easily beat, on paper. Maryland matches up very well against Nebraska with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith inside but will struggle if Isaac Copeland is hitting his shots from deep. Maryland lacks a player that can guard a stretch 4, although freshman Jalen Smith is getting there. Look for Maryland to go to Bruno Fernando early and often to drag Nebraska inside off of their guards. He’s developed very well at passing out of the double team in the post so that should open up perimeter shots. If Maryland is hitting those, they’ll win. Prediction: MD 72, Nebraska 68

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Maryland
    (31 votes)
  • 54%
    Nebraska
    (37 votes)
68 votes total Vote Now

Northwestern Wildcats at #8 Michigan State Spartans (-13)

8:30pm ET || BTN

After a stretch of three games in three weeks, the Spartans will host Northwestern to start the new year off. MSU will look to capitalize on that rest to come out strong against Northwestern, a team that took Michigan down to the wire earlier in the season and in need of a conference win after going 0-2 in December conference play. The spread on this game is massive for the amount of very close games that NW has played against good competition, so I think they will cover this but won’t have enough to beat Sparty on the road.

MNW: Northwestern plays Michigan State and still lacks the athletes to run with them despite improved recruiting. As usual, it’s “drag it into the slop and hope someone gets hot.” That means Vic Law, probably, because it’s still just him and Dererk Pardon (who I expect more foul trouble and less production out of in B1G play) unless Ryan Taylor gets super-hot from outside.

So yeah, Sparty by a dozen or so unless the ‘Cats come out hair on fire.

Poll

Does NW keep this close enough to cover?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Yes
    (23 votes)
  • 62%
    No
    (41 votes)
  • 3%
    Yes - they pull the upset!
    (2 votes)
66 votes total Vote Now

Thursday

Penn State Nittany Lions at #2 Michigan Wolverines (-11.5)

7:00pm ET || ESPN

Does Penn State have a third scoring option yet? No? Michigan wins and pulls away in the second half.

Poll

Does someone on Penn State step up to keep this close?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    They’re getting blown out
    (49 votes)
  • 29%
    No, but they make it ugly to keep it close
    (23 votes)
  • 6%
    Yes
    (5 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now

Illinois Fighting Illini at #21 Indiana Hoosiers (-12.5)

7:00pm ET || FS1

I can’t really channel Thump’s absolute passion to hate Underwood but I’m pretty sure he’s just waiting for Underwood to announce his walk on son is starting over their insanely talented freshman PG because “he knows all the plays” or something like that.

Anyways, Illinois has absolutely zero chance in this game. Romeo Langford will be able to drive at will, allowing Juwan Morgan to open up inside for easy dump off passes. I guess I could be surprised but Illinois is currently imploding and Underwood shouldn’t last past this season there.

Poll

How much does Illinois lose by?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    1-6, close game!
    (5 votes)
  • 21%
    7-10, they kept themselves in it
    (17 votes)
  • 53%
    11-15, Indiana was merciful and pulled starters
    (42 votes)
  • 17%
    16+
    (14 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now

#25 Iowa Hawkeyes at Purdue Boilermakers (-8)

7:00pm ET || BTN

There is something about Mackey Arena that just makes visiting teams worse. On paper, Iowa should win this matchup easily but I think this is the upset of the night if you will with 8-5 Purdue taking down ranked Iowa. Iowa struggled to take out Bryant in their last game before full conference play began and it will continue with a loss to Purdue. It doesn’t get easier after that either with Nebraska in their next game and it leaves Iowa with a possible scenario of starting conference play 0-4.

Boilerman: The formula for the Boilermakers is very simple:

  • Turn games into a grind
  • Hold the opponent to under 71 points
  • Profit.

The question, however, is can they do it on a consistent basis? Against the three-headed monster of Tyler Cook, Joe Wiescamp, and Luka Garza, it will be difficult. Expect Carsen Edwards to get his and since the game is in Mackey, I expect Ryan Cline to nail a few 3s as well. Purdue’s bench is beginning to step up as well. Trevion Williams and Aaron Wheeler have both shown flashes of something good. Iowa’s offense gives me pause but if Purdue can control tempo, they’ll be in a good spot for a W.

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Purdue
    (56 votes)
  • 39%
    Iowa
    (36 votes)
92 votes total Vote Now

Minnesota Golden Gophers at #22 Wisconsin Badgers (-10)

9:00pm ET || BTN

BTN got the better games for Thursday with what should be a very good Purdue/Iowa game that will be followed by what should be a very good Minnesota/Wisconsin game. Wisconsin is another team, like Iowa, who is ranked but you’re really not sure why. Like the Iowa game, I think Wisconsin gets exposed, at home, and loses to Minnesota. Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu will be able to contain Ethan Happ, forcing the Wisconsin guards to step up in the game. Outside of Trice and Davison, I’m not sure who steps up on Wisconsin to keep them going when they play teams that can go toe to toe inside with Happ.

Poll

Does Minnesota upset Wisconsin at Kohl?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Yes
    (35 votes)
  • 67%
    No
    (74 votes)
109 votes total Vote Now

Here’s your basketball open thread for the evening’s games, too. Be civil.

Update: Line’s posted for the Thursday evening games.