Well, here we go again. For most of us, there are two or three games to the sweet, sweet release of the off-season so we can piss away $5-$20 on office bracket pools or more on Vegas betting, then flip right in to arguing about football.
But, in the meantime, the hunt for the NCAA Tournament rolls on, with the chances of Minnesota and Ohio State waxing and Indiana’s on life support. Check out our bracketology for more, along with a projected Big Ten Tournament bracket:
Onto the previews. We also asked each writer to give us thoughts on their coaches’ job security, player development, and more...so there’s a little something for everyone. Unless you’re a hockey fan or waiting for football, in which case fuck off.
#6 Michigan State Spartans at Indiana Hoosiers
MSU: 23-5 (14-3 B1G), NET 6 | IU: 14-14 (5-12), NET 58
11am | FOX
Andrew Kraszewski: MSU’s last road game of the season is a shot to undo some of the seeding damage Indiana dealt them in by far their most embarrassing loss of the season. IU’s played somewhat better of late, but even without Nick Ward, MSU has too much to play for to let off the gas. I can’t picture MSU playing to the level they did at Michigan, but 80% of that should suffice.
Looking forward, MSU’s young players really need to take a big step forward next season. This was always supposed to be a developmental class, but Aaron Henry has been the only guy who looks ready for a big role - and even he has gotten really hesitant on offense. On the other hand, the steps forward taken by Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, and especially Kenny Goins should be a reminder that Tom Izzo still knows how to get the most out of a guy. Next year all depends on what combination of Winston, Langford, and Ward come back, but the present has been a lot more fun to watch than I thought it would be.
Candystripes for Breakfast: Indiana’s season since about the turn of the new year can pretty much be summed up by joeybosa.emoji, and I don’t see any reason why this game won’t be right on that track. Same with Archie’s contract status, even though there’s almost nothing short of “major NCAA violations” that should actually stop him from returning next season.
Indiana’s future is just about as clear, given that their top two players are gone next year, and unless someone makes a giant leap or an incoming freshman makes a huge step, it’ll be basically the same team as this year, but with less star power.
Revenge for Sparty?
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Penn State Nittany Lions at #19 wisconsin badgers
PSU: 12-16 (5-12), NET 50 | wisc: 19-9 (11-6), NET 16
12pm | BTN
Aaron Yorke: If there’s one team that can slow down this crazy run that Penn State is on, that team is Wisconsin. The Badgers never turn the ball over, and that’s going to make life difficult for a Penn State offense that loves to run in transition.
The Lions just played their most complete game of the season by thumping Maryland, but playing Wisconsin on the road will be a real test of how far Pat Chambers’s team has come since the 0-10 start to Big Ten play. Ethan Happ is almost impossible to defend with just one man, so the Penn State defense could be scrambling in and out of double teams for much of the day.
On offense, the lack of transition opportunities means that Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton will have to be patient and use screens effectively in order to create effective shots. Lamar Stevens cannot afford to experiment with his three-point shot. Either you have it or you don’t at this point in the season.
Even the NIT seems out of reach at this point, but every win Penn State racks up is another bullet in Chambers’s “don’t fire me” gun. If the embattled coach pulls off a win in Madison, he’ll convince even more fans that he deserves to stick around.
MCClap Yo Handz: I pay no attention to PSU basketball and assume we’re fine as long as Talor Battle isn’t playing.
Boilerman31: I mean, if you watch any of their home games, neither do their fa--OOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Beezer07: After Maryland tried to poop the bed but was actually so horrible that even the poop missed the bed and went all over the floor, I am terrified Wisconsin will do the same.
The top half of the B1G has been a neverending loop of “oh god how did THAT happen,” and I’d prefer if Wisconsin’s loss at home to Minnesota were the only truly embarrassing B1G loss of the season.
I’ll be interested to see if Wisconsin’s recently-horrific 3-pt shooting and teamwide free throw problems abate, even for just one game. If they don’t? Wisconsin by 1. If they do? Wisconsin by 30.
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Ohio State Buckeyes at #14 Purdue Boilermakers
OSU: 18-10 (8-9), NET 40 | Purdue: 21-7 (14-3), NET 12
1pm | ESPN
Boilerman31: It’ll be Senior Day in West Lafayette. It’s fitting that this day will honor two young men who have rounded into form as the season has progressed. Former walk-on Grady Eifert has become the glue guy this season. Early on, I lamented in the fact that he was the best Matt Painter could put on the court. Now, he’s turned into a guy that’s called upon to do the unheralded work of the game and he’s filled the role beyond this ‘writer’s’ wildest dreams. Similar things could be said for Ryan Cline. Early on in the season, I slapped the “Clone” nickname on him. Now, he’s returned to sharpshooting form and added a decent dribble drive game to go with it.
Questions will undoubtably arise if this will end up as Carsen Edwards’ final game in Mackey as well. If so, it’d be completely understandable. Carsen has had his ups-and-downs and relied upon volume shooting but no one can question his impact on the court. Teams are forced to decide to double him off of screens in hopes that Matt Haarms isn’t sliding toward the basket for an easy two.
As to the game, Ohio State has announced that leading scorer Kaleb Wesson has been suspended for violation of athletic department policy. One has to think Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams are licking their chops at the thought of having that much size advantage. Assuming the Boilers keep the Buckeyes’ long range game in check, I expect Purdue to roll and send Cline and Eifert a nice ‘Thank You’ along the way.
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The school whose football team won 49-20
The school whose football team lost 49-20
Rutgers Scarlet Knights at #22 Iowa Hawkeyes
RU: 13-14 (6-11), NET 104 | Iowa: 21-7 (10-7), NET 33
4pm | BTN
Stewmonkey13: Iowa’s got senior day to send off the scrappiest of scrappy players, Nicholas Baer. The guy who kinda does it all, all while confusing the hell out of the opposition. “Wait, how the hell is that guy beating us?!?” Leading the team will be veteran head coach, Kirk Speraw.*
Wait, wut? Why is Fran McCaffery missing senior day for god sakes? Well, he’s decided to take the game off and watch the game with Gary Dolphin.** Please don’t look much more into it.
Oh, I suppose you want to know about the game? Well, it’s at home and it’s against rutger. It’ll be frustrating at times but I expect a relatively easy win after the disaster on Tuesday.
**Yes this is happening
Does Iowa’s tailspin continue?
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No Fran, no problem—Hawks roll
Add "home loss to Rutgers" to the list of "fucking disgraces"
#9 Michigan Wolverines at #17 Maryland Terrapins
Mich: 25-4 (14-4), NET 9 | MD: 21-8 (12-6), NET 26
2:45pm | CBS
DJ Carver: Maryland’s gonna lose.
How do you prefer to accent eye-blinding yellow?
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With black, or red, or white, or grey, or Fort McHenry...
Northwestern Wildcats at Illinois Fighting Illini
NU: 12-16 (3-14), NET 94 | Ill: 10-18 (6-11), NET 93
5:30pm | BTN
Thumpasaurus: Well, we’ve been pretty good at not getting shot clock violations, so that should help relative to the first game against the cats. Trent has disappeared, and his game seems to just have wild ups and downs regardless of what the opponent does. On the other hand, Northwestern doesn’t have the THICC that Purdue does, so Giorgi probably won’t repeat his Mike Tisdale stat line of 2 points 5 fouls.
Our last three games are against the bottom three teams in the league. Win 1 and I’m relatively happy. This team is going nowhere without a BTT win, but I’ve known that for months. If there’s a silver lining to Ayo cooling off, it’s that he’s no longer a consensus first round pick and thus it would probably behoove him to stay another year. I can’t believe we get three more years of Giorgi.
I’ll probably end up way less mad about this season than expected due to expectations being lowered to zero by January. Of course...we’ll see what the roster looks like by the start of next season, because I expect two transfers and there’s also the thought that Anthony Higgs might hang it up due to a chronic foot problem. With one scholarship already open right now, this roster is still incomplete, but if Cockburn signs there will be a pretty solid starting 5.
MNW: Things are bleak in Evanston. The ‘Cats are still without a true point guard unless they throw freshman Ryan Greer into the fire against the Illini press, meaning this will be a long game with lots of turnovers. Dererk Pardon, as always, has the moves and savvy to neutralize Giorgi well enough to keep the Northwestern in it, but things...just aren’t panning out.
A lot of that has had to do with Chris Collins’ recruiting misses/not-big-enough-hits (Aaron Falzon, Grand Canyon out-transfer Isiah Brown, Colgate out-transfer Rapolas Ivanauskas, backup C Barret Benson, the revoked admission of now-UTEP G Jordan Lathon). Add to that the struggles of transfers Ryan Taylor (the Evansville sharpshooter has struggled to get space in the Big Ten) and AJ Turner (the Boston College wing who has struggled with the ball in his hands), and it’s just...well, it’s Vic Law and little else.
Will that change? Not soon. We’re hoping Law and Pardon can make some memories and steal a couple games on the way out, and it’d be great to see freshmen Pete Nance (recovered from mono) and Miller Kopp (just...not as effective yet) develop their game, but this season’s been too much, too fast. Add to that some aberrations in the offensive sets and a commitment to KEEP SHOOTING THREES despite the fact that YOU CAN’T FUCKING SHOOT THREES, and it’s just...it’s bad. It’s really, really, really bad.
Oh yeah, and we’re gonna lose to Illinois by 30. But you knew that.
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Here’s your open thread for the weekend’s basketball. Let us know how YOU think this season has gone. And in the meantime: Don’t burn the place down.