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Big Ten Basketball’s Back! Conference Play Previews, Open Thread

A lone Top 25 matchup as Wisconsin heads to Purdue, but plenty of uncertainty across a COVID-marred Big Ten slate of games.

NCAA Basketball: Fairleigh Dickinson at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to your favorite Big Ten basketball blog!

Yes, we’ll cover the end of bowl season. We promise. But in the meantime, there’s basketball to play today, and we know you’re itching to talk about it.

Didn’t know that? Well check out our recaps, vote in the Power Poll, and get excited!

Here’s what’s on tap for Big Ten men’s hoops in the first half of this week:

Sunday, January 2

#10 Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats

1pm | BTN | Michigan State -1.5 | O/U 138.5

MNW: How many players will Michigan State be missing? Does Northwestern have anyone out? The ‘Cats have not played a P5 opponent since beating Maryland on December 5; they have not played D1 opposition since beating NJIT on December 12; their last win was a comfortable romp over Illinois-Springfield on December 20.

In our recaps Green Akers was pretty negative-ass on the Spartans’ ability to stop teams shooting from deep—the problem is...uh, I’m not holding my breath on Northwestern’s ability to exploit that problem. The ‘Cats are 36.5% from deep on the year (67th in the nation), so there’s a chance.

Green Akers: No updates as of yet on who MSU will have available for Sunday, and the women’s game between these same schools was just called off for COVID issues on the Northwestern side.

Even if MSU is short a couple bodies, I’d hope a conference opponent gets a more focused effort than High Point did.

Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions

3pm | BTN | Indiana -2.5 | O/U 128

Buffkomodo: Finally we have arrived at meaningful basketball. Not to discount the St. John’s, Syracuse, Notre Dame or the early B1G game teases, but now it’s rubber meets the road. Seeing Indiana as a 2.5 favorite really does concern me a little, as I thought Penn State was….not good. And they may not be.

Indiana may not be good as well.

I’ll say this several times as long as MNW allows me to write here, but a team’s guard play determines how good of a team you are. I am yet to see Indiana have decent to good guard play consistently to this point in the season. It has flashes when the stars align, but it generally ranges from decent to “throw yourself off a bridge.” That’s not desirable. That’s got to improve.

If Indiana can get this road win, which is tough in the B1G no matter who you play, I feel pretty good going into the Ohio State game on the 6th. Let’s see what happens here though.

#13 Ohio State Buckeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers

7pm | BTN | Ohio State -9.5 | O/U 149

MaximumSam: The Buckeyes haven’t played since December 11th, but are hopefully going to get this one in. Who knows what they will look like or who is even playing? Nebraska basketball is an adventure, and while you would normally expect a Buckeye win, going on the road after sitting for three weeks eating cookies and not practicing seems likely to impact the result.

Monday, January 3

#24 Wisconsin Badgers at #3 Purdue Boilermakers

6pm | BTN | Line, Total TBD

BoilerUp89: Purdue has followed up a really promising November with a pretty disappointing December. The defense was mostly non-existent other than the Butler game, and Purdue got off to a poor conference start with Rutgers.

Wisconsin tends to really struggle at Mackey, but the students won’t be back either. As far as matchups go, from what I’ve seen Purdue has the advantage, but they are going to have to be more focused than they have in recent games if they want to get the win.

Kind of...: Wisconsin can’t win at Mackey even when they’re clearly the better team. This is going to be ugly. Purdue gave up a lot of points to Nicholls State in a comfortable win. Wisconsin barely beat Nicholls State. And Illinois State. That (not-) Maui championship was a LONG time ago.

Maryland Terrapins at Iowa Hawkeyes

8pm | BTN | Line, Total TBD

larry31: This shit (lethargic, unintelligent play) won’t play against B1G opponents. Two L’s coming for the Terps this week.

Under Manning, Maryland looks just like the team playing under Turge, including the frustrating slow starts. And the horrible offensive execution. They are just not fun to watch. The frustrating thing is they have talented players. I think they are missing a true leader amongst the players. No fire or energy. They don’t seem to be having fun.

Tuesday, January 4

Michigan Wolverines at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

6pm | BTN | Line, Total TBD

Illinois Fighting Illini at Minnesota Golden Gophers

6pm | FS1 | Line, Total TBD

WSR: Are we sure this game is going to happen? It was originally scheduled for Sunday night before Illinois chickened out. Or had a COVID outbreak. Either one works.

Anyway. Assuming this does happen, I don’t have high hopes because Minnesota is not a great team inside and Kofi Cockburn is big and good. Our best chance is for Illinois to have more rust than we do (since neither team has played in almost 2 weeks) and grind out a win through great defense and meets-or-exceeds expectations offense.

Other (Probably Bad) Basketball Games of Note

Hi. Me again. You know it’s fun when you watch bad and silly basketball on strange channels featuring players who will likely never get the attention of even the most dedicated and not-at-all attention-seeking accounts that declare Michigan State-Northwestern a totally bad game that you should watch, lol.

Monday, January 3

One thing to keep in mind particularly on Mondays—the SWAC plays! Most of these HBCUs are the usual pre-season cannon fodder for P5 schools seeking pay games: Mississippi Valley State alone lost to St. John’s 119-61, Vanderbilt 75-36, and UAB 100-58, though they did manage a respectable 73-58 loss at Ole Miss and nearby shocked Arkansas State in Itta Bena before falling, 82-77. The conference’s NCAA Tournament rep will likely be Texas Southern (KP 191), though Jackson State (247) plays some decent defense and Prairie View A&M (260) and Southern (266) play fast enough to outscore anyone in the conference.

Particularly if you, like me, like just having something live and sports-adjacent on the TV, many of these SWAC games play on the various schools’ YouTube pages. So, while you have to know who’s playing on a given night, you can track down live basketball starting in the late afternoon.

Alabama State Hornets at Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils

4pm | YouTube | ASU -8 | O/U 149.5

The Hornets, at 2-11, are the 333rd-rated team by Kenpom. They play the dead last—358th!—Delta Devils in a matchup of the 11th- and 5th-highest tempos in the NCAA. Of course, as I write this, it’s 38-28 in a clang-fest as the Delta Devils have rolled out a token pressure that’s kept the Hornets from settling into a half-court offense.

Florida A&M Rattlers at Bethune-Cookman Wildcats

6:30pm | YouTube | FAMU -2 | O/U 129.5

Amazingly, the Bethune-Cookman YouTube channel is called the Cat Eye Network.

This is an HBCU rivalry you should learn about—the annual Florida Classic is a major draw in central Florida, and the results on the court have been enjoyable, too. Can’t promise it’ll be that way this year—the Wildcats (2-9) are rated 353 by Kenpom and have only one D-I win, over Bryant, but FAMU (2-9) lacks a single D-I win, though they played Kansas State close.

Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions

7:30pm | UAPB feed | AAMU -2.5 | O/U 127.5

Oofda. The 331st-rated Bulldogs, the 356th-rated Golden Lions. But the alternatives are UT Rio Grande-Sam Houston and a bevy of games on the Pac-12 Network, which may or may actually not exist.

Here’s your open thread for the early week basketball. Schedule below. Behave.