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Down to the walk-ons and washed-outs: Big Ten Basketball Tournament, Day 1 —Previews, Picks, Open Thread

Nebraska limps into the Big Ten Tournament, while Rutgers tries to keep the NIT dream alive. And Illinois and Northwestern will flail around for a bit.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Rutgers
like a weird hieronymus bosch triptych of big ten basketball
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a testament to the Big Ten conference this year that, of the four teams stepping onto the United Center court tonight, the worst Kenpom rating is Illinois, at 78th. The ACC can’t claim that (Boston College is 115th), the Big XII can’t claim that (West Virginia is 107th), the SEC can’t claim that (Vandy is 150th, Georgia 124th), and not even the Big East can claim that (DePaul is 104th). This conference is deep.

Unfortunately, that depth has exposed some of the programs playing tonight—Nebraska and Northwestern, perhaps—while stifling the rise of others—maybe Rutgers?—and keeping young teams from growing into their new coach’s expectations and system (hi, Illinois). Some of these teams limp in, down to six scholarship players; others literally limp in, if the injury Vic Law sustained against Purdue is any indication of how Northwestern’s season has gone.

It’s not going to be pretty, but the bottom four teams in the conference meet tonight to see whose season gets the sweet release of death, and whose marches on for at least one more sad, painful game.

We’ve previewed the week, provided you betting advice, and offered you a Pick’em Challenge (which is still open for a couple more hours!) to whet your appetite before the Big Ten Tournament tips off. Hell, if you don’t want to talk B1G hoops, there’s still the conference tournaments open thread and schedule.

But, in the meantime, let’s preview some games:

[12] Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. [13] Nebraska Cornhuskers

5:30pm | BTN | UNL -1.5 | O/U 135.5

RU: 14-16 (7-13), KP 77, NET 100
UNL: 16-15 (6-14), KP 45, NET 52

Zuzu: I think Rutgers' performance against Indiana was due to a little delfatement from than particularly stinging loss vs. Penn State. Though in that game, it seemed the defense was more affected given how poorly they performed.

The defense is what has been lacking in the last few games, resulting in slow starts and lopsided scores until they finally get it together by the half only to lose or win by the slimmest margin. I expect something similar tonight just based on routine.

I would hope though that for once, after a stern pep talk from Pike, and for the first game of the tourney, Rutgers comes out guns blazing, showing the B1G how far they've come controlling the game from the start because I can't take another heartbreaker.


which brand of off-putting basketball do you choose

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    (41 votes)
  • 33%
    (21 votes)
62 votes total Vote Now

[11] Illinois Fighting Illini vs. [14] Northwestern Wildcats

8pm | BTN | Ill -2 | O/U 136.5

ILL: 11-20 (7-13), KP 78, NET 105
NU: 13-18 (4-16), KP 70, NET 88

MNW: HALLELUJAH! (Shit. It’s Lent. I can’t say that word.) It’s almost over.

I want to see Dererk Pardon and Vic Law and Aaron Falzon (and, sure, Ryan Taylor if he’s healthy/not mad at Chris Collins, apparently maybe?) go out with a bang, sure. Beating Illinois and getting a date with a Very Flawed Iowa Team would sure be a nice thing to have.

But the ‘Cats still can’t break the Illini press with consistency, unless something’s really changed, and I think Collins is opting to use these last few games to get freshmen like Pete Nance and Miller Kopp some big-game experience. So unless Nance has suddenly learned to shoot threes or Kopp can drive into the lane and not look completely lost (stay on the perimeter, Miller! shoot threes!), I don’t like where this one is going for the ‘Cats.

My homer call would be that the ‘Cats finally get some good ball movement, Falzon hits a couple corner-pocket threes, and Pardon holds Giorgi Bezhanishvili in check.

But I know better. Illini, 68-60.

Thumpasaurus: This is really one that could go either way. Both games in this series were horrible to watch. In one, Illinois made no threes all game. In the other, the Illini failed to blow a second half lead largely because of a rare instance of bad homer calls in their favor. The thing I know for sure about this game is that it will be ugly. The Cats have lost 11 of 12, while the Illini have lost 5 of their last 6 with the only win coming against Northwestern. This is truly the game the Wednesday night slot deserves; two ass teams in freefall.

Still, I feel like Illinois is less broken than Northwestern, especially given the unfortunate Vic Law injury, and they really ought to win this one.

Illinois 62-58



This poll is closed

  • 19%
    (11 votes)
  • 80%
    (46 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now

Here’s your open thread for the night’s games. If you’re looking for a full schedule of basketball games, follow this link to our Conference Tournaments schedule and open thread. Have fun, in the meantime.