Basketball is here. Tonight, 13 Big Ten teams are taking the court against a veritable “who is that” slate of opponents. No doubt, one or two will have close games or maybe even lose, and check here in a couple days when we make fun of that team.
The saving grace is that most of these games are on BTN+, which means they will be enjoyed by dozens (and dozens!) of Big Ten fans. Without further ado...
Monday, November 7th
All times Central, all games on B1G+ unless noted.
Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons at Michigan (-15.0), 5:30, BTN
Your early game on the BTN brings Hunter Dickinson and his merry band of random teammates up against Fort Wayne. PFW clocks in at 147 on the Torvik rankings and look to start five seniors. However, they don’t have anyone over 6’9’’, which is probably an issue.
BoilerUp89: Jon Coffman leads the Mastodons for a ninth season. They have been known as IPFW, Fort Wayne, and Purdue Fort Wayne during that time and competed in the Summit and Horizon leagues. Last season, the ‘Dons appeared to have figured it out late in the season ripping off nine consecutive wins in February. Unfortunately, they fell to the Norse of NKU in the semifinal of the Horizon tournament.
Morehead State Eagles at Indiana (-20.5), 6 pm
Morehead State was actually pretty good last year. Unfortunately, their best two players transferred, including Ta’Lon Cooper, who is now a Gopher. What’s left behind is all the elderly role players, and they clock in at 223 on Torvik.
BoilerUp89: With Belmont and Murray state off to the greener grasses of the Missouri Valley, Morehead State may be the favorite in the OVC this year. That said their top three scorers from last season are gone and they are still going to be figuring things out early in the season. Take Indiana to cover.
Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Michigan State (-21.0), 6 pm
The Lumberjacks went 9-23 last year and were generally very bad. However, they do return most everyone, so they figure to be marginally less bad. Torvik pegs them at 258. Their best player is likely their point guard Jalen Cone, so it will be a good test for Sparty’s experienced backcourt. Just kidding - it won’t be.
Columbia Lions at Rutgers (-23.0), 6 pm
Columbia was extremely bad at the game of basketball last season, going 4-22 and finishing nearly last in all of basketball by the Fancystats. They do return guys and are predicted to be a bit better, and check in at 300 on Torvik. Their top player is Geronimo Rubio De La Rosa, and I hope the announcers say his full name every time he touches the ball.
BoilerUp89: KenPom has Columbia at 351 preseason. Jim Engles leads the Lions for a 6th season. In the previous five, Columbia’s best showing was a 5-9 Ivy League record. They’ve reached ten total wins just twice under Engles - back in 2017 (11-16) and 2019 (10-18). Their four wins last season: Binghamton in OT, non-D1 Mount Saint Vincent, fellow sub 350 team Maine, Penn by 4. If Rutgers struggles, I have concerns.
Winthrop Eagles at Penn State (-13.5), 6 pm
Winthrop went 21-9 last year, but lost a lot of their best players and Torvik has them pegged at 257. They will be on of the few teams Penn State plays that are smaller than them.
misdreavus79: Year 2 for Micah Shrewsberry will be underway on Monday. We’ll see a half-new-look Lions squad, as John Harrar is out of eligibility (along with Greg Lee, Jaheim Cornwall, and Jalanni White), and Sam Sessoms transferred out along with Jevonnie Scott. What they do bring back is a core of Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, Myles Dread, and Dallion Johnson, and one of the best recruiting classes in Penn State history.
Winthrop themselves lost some talent from last year’s squad, so they’re possibly not going to be as potent as they were a season ago. This makes the perfect opportunity to test the waters and see what sorts of combinations the Lions can put out there with the new players coming in.
BoilerUp89: Winthrop lost Big South player of the year DJ Burns to NC State as well as seniors Drew Buggs and Patrick Good. They do return their second and third best three point shooters in redshirt senior Cory Hightower and grad senior Michael Anumba. This is also Mark Prosser’s second year as the head coach (previously three years at Western Carolina) and while I don’t expect him to repeat last season’s regular season run thru the Big South his up-tempo style of play is at the very least entertaining.
If I wasn’t headed to the Xavier game tonight, this is the game I’d be most interested in watching among Big Ten teams. You know, if the games were all televised.
Robert Morris Colonials at Ohio State (-20.5), 6 pm
At first I thought this was Oral Roberts and got kind of sick, but this is instead Robert Morris, terrible basketball team, and I recovered. They check in at 281 on Torvik. Their best player is forward Kahliel Spear, and I imagine we’ll hear his name 30 times tonight. Both Justice Sueing and Gene Brown missed their scrimmage with injuries and are questionable to play. What could go wrong?
BoilerUp89: Robert Morris has a lot less buy games than I would expect for them most years (just 4 road non-conference games and one of those is the back end of a home and home deal). Andrew Toole enters his 13th season at the helm of the Colonials having made the tournament just once - back in 2015. His teams are typically slow and they’ve really struggled the past two seasons since moving from the Northeast to the Horizon.
Niagara Purple Eagles at Maryland (-15.5), 6 pm
Niagara comes in with head coach and former OSU assistant and Duke flunky Greg Paulus as their head coach. They are predicted at 255 on Torvik after finishing 14-16 last season. Their top player, Marcus Hammond, transferred to Notre Dame, and they have an assortment of transfers and freshman. Kevin Willard looks to get going in his first game with the Terps.
Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at Iowa (-25.5), 6 pm, ESPNU
Hey, television! Coach Fran looks to get red faced and sweaty with Bethune-Cookman, who was not good last season, going 9-21 for former Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus. They do have the sharpshooter Joe French, who I hope some Big Ten team poaches because we need some good French jokes in the conference. They are 310th on Torvik.
Chicago State Cougars at Northwestern (-25.5), 7 pm
Crosstown shootout in Chicago! The 332nd ranked Cougars look to make life miserable for Northwestern. Sophomore Jahsean Corbett leads a team that went 7-25 last year as they look for a stunning upset over the Wildcats. No wind to aid Pat Fitzgerald this week.
BoilerUp89: Chicago State is no longer the worst Division 1 basketball team. They won 7 games last year against Division 1 competition including a home win against New Mexico State. New Mexico State did finish in front of Northwestern in last year’s KenPom rankings.
MNW: I’m genuinely curious about the future of Chicago State. Cut adrift from the WAC, they’re playing as an independent this year—the other independent, the University of Hartford, is moving to D-III—and the school’s dire financial situation is well-known. HBCU Sports reported that after the MEAC’s athletic directors voted 7-1 to admit the Cougars, the universities’ presidents voted it down, 6-2. Matt Brown added that Chicago State even explored fielding a D-1 football team to sweeten the pot, but that the Horizon and MEAC—the latter of which is hemorrhaging members—weren’t convinced.
All that’s left Cougars HC Gerald Gillion in an interesting spot. Like MaxSam and BoilerUp mentioned, it’s not your older brother’s Chicago State—the Cougars remain horrific on defense, but Gillion’s slowed their offense down from the run-and-chuck, AAU-dependent days of Lance Irvin. Is it still horrific to watch at points? Sure! But as someone who willingly watched multiple CSU games in 2021-22, the Cougars appear to have some semblance of a plan on offense. Add to that a transfer-laden roster that leveraged Gillion’s Florida connections, including a 6’9” center?
As an opening game for Northwestern, I hope this is productive. I want see how the ‘Cats get their forwards like Luke Hunger and Tydus Verhoeven cooking in the middle. If it descends into Boo Buie and Chase Audige running at the basket or chucking shit, well, we’re not going to learn much and are likely in for a long year.
But ‘Catsketball is back. Hooray.
Maine Black Bears at Nebraska (-20.5), 7 pm
One of the worst teams in basketball last year, Maine comes in ranked 318 on Torvik this season. I always forget Maine is up there, even though I spent a week there many years ago canoeing down a river. When can Maine join the Big Ten so we can get that sweet Maine television market?
Anyways, Nebraska looks to start this season on a good note.
MNW: Maine—proud member of the Never Made the Tournament Club—has gone back to an alum in Chris Markwood for their head coach after the Black Bears canned HC Richard Barron, who amusingly coached the women’s team at Maine before moving over to men’s.
I know nothing about the Black Bears beyond that, but watching the Huskers find their sea legs and team cohesion as they just sprint frantically up and down the court is always good for a laugh.
South Dakota Coyotes at Wisconsin (-12.5), 7:30 pm, BTN
A line shorter than 15 points signals that South Dakota may not be complete crap. They have five guys who attempted over 100 threes in their last season, and the Coyotes were one of the best three point shooting teams in the country last year. All that adds up to Wisconsin better be on point on the perimeter, because South Dakota (158th) may try to go bombs away.
BoilerUp89: This is the first game as a D1 head coach for Coyotes head man Eric Peterson. Will South Dakota continue to make as many threes as they did last year? Will they shoot more of them than they did last season, despite being one of the top shooting teams in 2022?
MNW: Genuinely did not know the ‘Yotes had parted ways with Todd Lee—it’s surprising, given he was an alumnus of USD and had finished 2nd in the Summit in back-to-back years, but an indication of South Dakota’s ambitions in basketball and desire to get out of the shadow of South Dakota State. Peterson was an assistant under Craig Smith in the Coyotes’ heyday, and we’ll see if he can recapture that magic.
Rapid City gunner Mason Archambault runs the show for the ‘Yotes—good distributor, great 3-point shooter, and one of the best free throw takers in the country. Probably not enough against the badgers, but if he gets hot, maybe a scare at the Clearance Rack.
BoilerUp89: Just to add more context on outgoing SD coach Todd Lee. He went 66-52 in four years, won Summit CotY in 2021, and finished in 2nd place the past two seasons. He’s now the director of scouting for Arkansas.
Eastern Illinois Panthers at Illinois (-29.0), 8 pm, ESPNU
Another game we can actually watch on the television, Eastern Illinois may bring up the bottom of the Illinois based basketball teams. Last year they went 5-26 in the Ohio Valley conference, and they rank 343 on Torvik.
Western Michigan Broncos at Minnesota (-10.5), 8 pm
The closest spread of the night, the Gophers take on the MAC. The Broncos weren’t good last season and only went 8-23, but they do return a lot, including leading scorer Lamar Norman Jr. They are 205th on Torvik, though Minny is at 167, so we might get a game here.
BoilerUp89: Dwayne Stephens begins his coaching career at Western Michigan following 19 seasons as an assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State. I suspect that Stephens is the current favorite to take over for Izzo when Izzo decides he is ready to hang it up and this is the attempt to get him some head coaching experience before that time comes. Western Michigan should have hired Stephens in 2020 when their position was last opened and they’ve corrected for that mistake now.
Tuesday, November 8th
Milwaukee Panthers at Purdue, (line? what line?), 5:30 pm, BTN
The sole Big Ten game tomorrow sees Purdue welcoming in doormat Milwaukee. They went 1-22 last season in the Horizon league. If you’d like a reason to watch, know that Manute Bol and Bol Bol cousin Moses Bol figures to lock horns with Zach Edey.
BoilerUp89: This is my least favorite game on the Purdue schedule. One of three projected sub 300 teams that Purdue will face this season (four sub 200 teams), at least the other sub 300 teams are during the Christmas break when players’ and fans’ minds are elsewhere.
Head coach Bart Lundy last ran High Point back in 2009. Out of D1 basketball since then, he’s been the head man at Queens University (yes, the Queens University that MNW reported making the D1 transition starting this year) for the past nine seasons. During that run Lundy has made the NCAA D2 tournament the past seven years and reaching the D2 Final Four in 2018.
Milwaukee doesn’t have a ton of talent this year, but they are well coached, and Purdue is breaking in a handful of starting freshman guards. There is no upside to this game and more risk than I would like in an opener.
MNW: Milwaukee remains in shambles under the Amanda Braun Administration, but maybe Lundy’s the guy to bring them out of the tailspin since they fired Rob Jeter and wasted Patrick Baldwin, Jr.
Does anyone lose in the first round of Big Ten games?
This poll is closed
Yes, Penn State
Yes, someone else who I’ll tell you about in the comments
In fact, multiple teams lose, and I’ll tell you who in the comments
Here’s your open thread for the evening’s games and all the college basketball happening across the country. Behave yourselves.