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Buckeyes-Spartans, Hoosiers-Wolverines highlight exciting Big Ten basketball weekend slate

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Come talk about the games with us! (There’s also a really sad Illinois-Northwestern preview.)

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten comes rolling into the first weekend of the New Year, with two clear favorites (hint: look to the Mitten State), a burgeoning second tier with some offensively-gifted clubs, and a whole lot of questions until you hit the rock bottom of Illinois and Rutgers (and not in that order).

While the conference has slipped to second in Jeff Sagarin’s rating system (84.82, just behind the Big XII at 85.25 and ahead of the ACC at 84.23), that’s mostly what the dead weight of the conference’s two worst teams gets you—the Big XII’s lowest-ranked team is Oklahoma State, at 76th in Sagarin. (Rutgers and Illinois are 98th and 102nd, since you asked.)

Unquestionably, though, the 20-game death slog to the finish line—or at least the Big Ten Tournament—will be a struggle as the conference jockeys for anywhere from six to ten NCAA Tournament bids. And, with three ranked matchups this weekend, the excitement is just starting.

Saturday, January 5

#8 Michigan State Spartans at #14 Ohio State Buckeyes

11am CT | FOX | MSU -2.5 | O/U 146.5

MSU: 12-2 (3-0 B1G), KP 4, Sagarin 3
OSU: 12-1 (2-0 B1G), KP 22, Sagarin 19

James Buckeye: Ohio State’s defense will keep it close, but Michigan State will prevail.

Stanislaw Andrezj Krasztoryzski III: MSU is nationally elite in both rebounding and assist rate, which has made them almost (hi, Louisville game) immune to even the iciest of cold shooting.

OSU has quietly been effective despite lacking a clear top scoring option the way they had last year, you can really see where Holtmann’s taking this and it’s impressive.

I like MSU in this one, despite it being on the road, because OSU really just isn’t very good on the boards. That’s not a good weakness to have against MSU. I feel a Kenny G solo coming up to the tune of 0 points and 14 rebounds.

Of course, me saying this guarantees the Buckeyes pull it out.

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Ohio State
    (8 votes)
  • 61%
    Michigan State
    (13 votes)
21 votes total Vote Now

Maryland Terrapins at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

1pm | BTN | MD -4 | O/U 132.5

MD: 11-3 (2-1 B1G), KP 29, Sagarin 33
RU: 7-5 (0-2 B1G), KP 109, Sagarin 98

DJ: I’m a bit worried that Maryland is going to allow themselves to get drug down into the mud in this game and it’ll be closer than it should. rutger is a good defensive team but they also try to simulate Wisconsin’s style of play by dragging teams into a rock fight. Their offensive philosophy still hasn’t changed, though: Chuck it up and hope to get the offensive board for the put back. Luckily for MD, they are one of the best rebounding teams in the country with Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith inside.

This may be ugly, but Maryland should win this one, pulling away later into the second half.

Poll

Who wins?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Maryland
    (10 votes)
  • 47%
    rutger
    (9 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now

Sunday, January 6

Illinois Fighting Illini at Northwestern Wildcats

12pm | BTN

IL: 4-10 (0-3 B1G), KP 110, Sagarin 102
NU: 9-5 (0-3 B1G), KP 51, Sagarin 53

MNW: Ugh.

Look, Northwestern is an NIT bubble team, and I guess that’s to be expected or something. Perhaps that’s overly dramatic, given that the five losses are to (in order of Kenpom ratings) Michigan State (4), Michigan (5), Oklahoma (24), Indiana (28), and Fresno State (62). Nothing there should preclude the ‘Cats from being in the conversation should they get their shit together, find a scorer who can make up for Vic Law drawing opponents’ best defenders, and make a run at a .500 conference record. But that’s a pipe dream right now.

Instead, the ‘Cats need to contend with a Fighting Illini squad that can do things—press, and defend (54th AdjD, 12th in TOs forced)—with which Northwestern struggles. If Northwestern can get into their half-court offense, though, Illinois is letting opponents shoot well enough that Northwestern could settle in and have a nice afternoon.

But if the offense isn’t clicking and Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier are getting dribble penetration or hitting their threes, we’ll have to deal with the Bad Loss we’ve been so worried about. No matter how much Illinois fans (OK, Thump) bitch and moan about Brad Underwood, with Northwestern it’s another white-knuckler with a Georgia Tech-like team until proven otherwise. Let’s have an ugly one. ‘Cats, 59-54.

Poll

Who’s the best team in Illinois?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Northwestern
    (21 votes)
  • 6%
    Illinois
    (3 votes)
  • 50%
    Chicago State
    (24 votes)
48 votes total Vote Now

#21 Indiana Hoosiers at #2 Michigan Wolverines

3:30pm | CBS

IU: 12-2 (3-0 B1G), KP 28, Sagarin 17
UM: 14-0 (3-0 B1G), KP 5, Sagarin 6

This will be the real test for Romeo Langford and the Indiana Hoosiers, as they are going up against a great Michigan team. Michigan doesn’t really have anyone you can point to but the sum of their parts is very, very good. Indiana scores almost all of their points inside the arc, but Michigan is ranked 11th in the country in defensive FG% allowed against 2-pointers.

Not really a great recipe for success there for Indiana, who might be on the wrong end of a beatdown if they can’t find any success from beyond the arc.

Poll

Showdown in Crisler. Who comes out on top?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Red No-Mascots
    (19 votes)
  • 73%
    Blue No-Mascots
    (54 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now

#24 Nebraska Cornhuskers at #25 Iowa Hawkeyes

4:30pm | BTN

UNL: 11-3 (1-2 B1G), KP 14, Sagarin 10
IA: 11-3 (0-3 B1G), KP 44, Sagarin 50

Stewmonkey13: Iowa takes on UNL in a game where both teams will still be ranked!

...until Monday rolls around, that is, when both will likely drop out of the polls.

The advanced stats give the edge to UNL, who has had a pretty incredible season, so far. And coming off yet another road game getting blown out, it would be easy to expect Iowa to start to circle the drain. But it’s in Iowa City, and Luka Garza may be back in the lineup. I think that’s enough to at least make this game competitive, if not steal the victory.

Jesse Collins: Iowa is an incredibly important game already for this Nebraska team unfortunately. While Maryland is not a bad team—nor is home Iowa—two early losses create some urgency in conference play already.

I think I like the way Nebraska has bounced back after losses so far this season but road games in the B1G suck. Gotta get more than just James Palmer Jr. going to win this one.

Poll

Cornfield Cagers Clash:

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Hawks
    (19 votes)
  • 56%
    Huskers
    (25 votes)
44 votes total Vote Now

#22 Wisconsin Badgers at Penn State Nittany Lions

6:30pm | BTN

uw: 10-4 (2-1 B1G), KP 19, Sagarin 26
PSU: 7-7 (0-3 B1G), KP 48, Sagarin 66

DJ: Penn State likes to foul to negate an inside presence, or at least in my limited viewing of them this year that was the case.

Mike Watkins is back, though, so that strategy may change, but this wouldn’t be the game to do it. Ethan Happ is an absolutely terrible free throw shooter, so if Penn State’s struggling to contain him inside, fouling may be a better option.

Given Wisconsin’s lack of shooting in the last game and their in general lack of dribble penetration, this game is prime for Penn State to perhaps get a big time win in conference. I wouldn’t touch this game if I were betting.

Poll

In front of 1000 fans...

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    ...Penn State wins, and no one cares
    (17 votes)
  • 66%
    ...Penn State loses, and no one cares
    (33 votes)
50 votes total Vote Now

Here’s your open thread for the weekend of Big Ten basketball. Be good to each other.