As we head into the key February stretch of basketball season we have a couple key matchups this week that could make some moves in the conference standings. With Maryland beating Illinois on Friday, they took sole possession of first place but Illinois has a key matchup with MSU and Purdue with Penn State that could put some space at the top of the standings.
Nebraska at Maryland (-17) || 8:30pm || BTN
BRT: Well this isn’t too hard at this point. Nebraska. Road game. Pain. They’ll probably get down by a lot, rally to respectability, then lose by a decent margin. Bonus prediction: DJ is still upset with Maryland’s performance.
DJ: Maryland is favored by 17 points over Nebraska, which is huge for a conference game. I’m pounding the Nebraska line to cover that. Turgeon doesn’t often run up the score on teams and I don’t think he starts tonight. That being said, I expect this to be a thorough beatdown as MD heads into a big weekend matchup with MSU. Then again, I also thought MD would thoroughly dispose of Northwestern and they needed a huge second half to come back and win so who knows. Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith are the cogs that make the Maryland team go and as long as they are getting theirs, it can mask a lot of other deficiencies on offense. If Maryland can get Aaron Wiggins going or Darryl Morsell is is normal scrappy self, this won’t be a matchup for long. Also, BRT is prob right depending on how MD plays but they have looked a lot better lately with Turgeon actually making ingame adjustments.
Brian: I’m sick, but have season tickets to Maryland basketball like an idiot. Thus, I am obligated to wait around in the cold and rain for an 8:30pm EST (!!!) tip-off, to watch Maryland ultimately struggle against a huge underdog. Maybe I’ll just drink a lot of beer and take a nap for the duration of the second half.
#13 Penn State at Purdue (-5) || BTN || 6:30pm EST
Bman31: Well, it certainly looks like Matt Painter has gotten the Boilers to turn a corner. The shooters have found their stroke from distance and the bigs are playing effectively. Now into Mackey comes Penn State. Assuming Mackey Magic reigns supreme, this will be another Q1 win for the Boilers. That’s not to say the Nittany Lions are to be taken lightly. There were many saying Pat Chambers’ crew should have been announced among the top 16 teams by the Selection Committee. They’ll have plenty of motivation and a road win at Purdue would be quite impressive.
DJ: If Purdue can pull this win off at home, they’ll knock Penn State down a game in the top 4 standings of the B1G but also bring themselves up into the conversation. This game is big for both teams as the battle for the Top 4 seeds start to take place.
Michigan State at #22 Illinois (+2) || ESPN || 9pm EST
Thump: The Illini have a chance to make some things right against Michigan State. To wit:
-A chance to get a little bit of the payoff from all the energy in the building on Friday
-A chance to avenge their worst half of Big Ten play, which came against these Spartans on the road
-A chance to prove their emotional resilience against an MSU team that’s in a similar spot with a two game losing streak putting them behind the 8 ball
I really hope the last two games have shown Underwood that he can trust his guards to play with two fouls. Honestly, I’m kind of hoping not to see too much of Giorgi and Kofi on the floor at the same time. Giorgi has really struggled to play a different role than he did last year. I think the Illini can battle back to get the inside track to second place.
Rutger at Ohio State || BTN || 7pm EST
DJ: If Ohio State can get out and run and not let Rutger muck this up to slow the game down, they should be able to win this game with ease. Kaleb Wesson’s outside shot ability should be key to spread Rutger out and if they can play with space, they’ll negate Rutger’s top notch defense.
I still don’t buy into Rutger shit style of basketball of muck it up and jack up shots at the rim to get offensive rebounds. It isn’t actual basketball.
Michigan at Northwestern || BTN || 9pm EST
DJ: MNW chose to provide a preview for Drake at Missouri State, which probably tells you all you need to know about Northwestern’s chances in this game.
MNW: The pride of the 515, YOUR Drake Bulldogs, head down to Springfield for a matchup with the Missouri State Bears, who have been disappointing after being pegged as a frontrunner in the Missouri Valley this year.
The breakout of 7’1” sophomore center Liam Robbins of Davenport has been a huge boost, and he has been on a tear scoring the ball inside. But the defense has lacked a bit of quality stopping opponents’ top scorers — I believe it’s three straight games where a leading scorer for the opponent has had at least 24 points on a highly efficient shooting night. That’s going to have to change, and change fast, if the ‘Dogs (more like the Young Pups, looking at this roster) are going to achieve a second straight postseason berth.
#21 Iowa at Indiana || BTN || 8pm EST
DJ: Iowa travels to the Hall of Calls in a bid to keep in that conversation at the top of the conference. This game should be fun to watch on offense with both teams running style but really it plays into Iowa’s hands as they have the superior shooting team. I’m sure we’ll get some friendly calls for Indiana to keep things interesting but Iowa will prevail here.
Stew: Iowa is a ranked team playing at Assembly Hall. I’m sure it will go well. I believe Maryland is the only team to do that this year. Luka Garza is gonna get his. If CJ Fredrick and Joe Wieskamp are hitting outside shots, and Iowa is getting to the line, I think they can pull out the rare road win. However, getting to the line on the road in the Big Ten, let alone the famed Hall of Calls, is not exactly a given.