It was a disappointing week for the conference, as we lost the very last B1G/ACC Challenge 8-6. A couple favorites didn’t quite punch to their weight, but I won’t name any names. We at OTE only have nice things to say about the people at Northwestern, or Wisconsin. Or maybe Michigan State. Anyways, most of the preseason fluff is out of the way, and the Big Ten season starts proper Friday night with a banger at College Park.
Friday, December 2nd
#11 Illinois Fighting Illini (6-1) at #17 Maryland Terrapins (7-0), 8 pm, BTN
MaximumSam: We are blessed with a great Friday night opener, far superior to the Pac-12 football championship which some fans of some Big Ten school might be watching with extreme prejudice. Anyways, the Illini have looked surprisingly good early, considering how much turnover they had from last year. They’ve been impressive defensively, forcing turnovers on over a quarter of opponent’s possessions and locking teams down from two and from three. Terrence Shannon has been a phenom, and shot a very strong 43% of three to go along with everything else he does well.
But Maryland has been no slouch, either. They’ve been exceptional attacking the basket - shooting over 60% from two and getting to the line. Their trio of forwards in Hakim Hart, Donta Scott, and Julian Reese have all been great, and Jahmir Young has done well at the point despite shooting just 20% from three. That feels like an outlier, as his lowest season at Charlotte was 34%. These are two long, athletic teams don’t mind going up and down the court. Torvik gives it to the home team, 73-70.
BoilerUp89: This is a really intriguing game and a fantastic conference opener. Maryland is undefeated, but has yet to show they can compete against teams that has size in the paint and the Illini have that. Illinois has the one loss to a really talented Virginia school, but really impressed me in Vegas. I think Illinois is the better team, but not by a lot and Maryland is at home.
I do think this one gets decided in the paint. Donta Scott and Julian Reese have scored a lot inside this year, but Illinois has the best defense they’ve faced. Hawkins and Dainja shouldn’t be guys the Terrapins can bully in the paint. Take that paint scoring away (Maryland has made 60.9% of their two-point attempts this season), and Maryland is beatable. If the Illini can’t take away that part of Maryland’s game, the first collegiate road game for Skyy Clark, Sencire Harris, Jayden Epps, and Ty Rodgers will probably feature enough freshman mistakes to push this one to Maryland’s side.
Saturday, December 3rd
BoilerUp89: All the real football schools know not to schedule basketball games on Big Ten football championship day...
#294 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (2-6) at #30 The Ohio State Buckeyes (5-2), 11 am, BTN
MaximumSam: The Buckeyes lick their wounds after failing at Cameron Indoor. Luckily, the Red Flash don’t have a bunch of seven footers.
BoilerUp89: Of the two St. Francis’s in D1, PA is the better of the two but both are pretty bad. The Red Flash don’t give up many 3 point attempts but that’s probably because opponents are shooting at such a high clip (58.2%) on open 2 point attempts.
#8 Indiana Hoosiers (7-0) at #41 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-2), 3 pm, BTN
MaximumSam: The Hoosiers are riding high and meeting expectations so far. Why? They are well coached. The question for them was the constant refrain that they couldn’t shoot threes. So what do they do? They stopped taking them. Indiana is currently 2nd in the land in effective field goal percentage, but 340th in three point rate. They have been laser focused on taking good shots, and as a result they are making a bunch of shots.
But the downside of that is that sometimes you have to go on the road, where shots don’t fall as easily. The Hoosiers have one road game on the year, a two point win over Xavier. The X-Men put up a great fight, but didn’t have anyone who could do much with TJD, and he went for 30. Rutgers does have someone who might cause him some issues in Cliff Omoruyi. Rutgers has been great defensively, and are eight in the land in opponent’s EFG. This has Upset Alert written all over it, but Torvik has it as a one point win for Indiana 66-65.
BoilerUp89: The Hoosiers actually have a perfectly respectable 3-point percentage this year (36.7%). That’s because they are only taking good 3-point looks and prefer working the ball inside, but if they keep that discipline, the 3-point woes of the past probably aren’t as big of an issue this year.
I agree with MaximumSam that Cliff Omoruyi can guard TJD. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Omoruyi does in this game as he definitely improved from last year. The problem of TJD is that he plays a lot at the PF position. If Omoruyi is guarding Race Thompson, can Mawot Mag defend TJD? Or do you stick Mag on Thompson and risk the bigger mismatch there as well as potential foul trouble for Omoruyi - a crucial part of the Knights offense?
Caleb McConnell has been back the past two games, but Mulcahy has still been out. The RAC is filled with blood and spiders, but depth is an issue for Rutgers at the moment.
#50 Wisconsin Badgers (5-2) at #28 Marquette Golden Eagles (6-2), 3:30 pm, FS1
MaximumSam: Wisconsin already has a lot out of their preseason schedule with wins over USC, Dayton, and Stanford. Still, they have three tough games in a row with Marquette, Maryland, and Iowa, and 5-5 doesn’t sound great. The Eagles may be better than advertised - they have close losses to Purdue and Mississippi State, two teams that are undefeated. They horsewhipped Baylor by 26 on Tuesday, which is worth an eyebrow.
Like many good teams, they have a great point guard. Tyler Kolek is assisting on 44% of his plays and shooting 42% from three. They also have some guys on the wing in Olivier-Maxence Prosper and at center in Oso Ighodaro. This will be a tough test for the Badgers, as this team won’t be easily Wisconsified. Torvik goes with Marquette, 68-63.
BoilerUp89: Marquette is a high variance team. Shaka’s pressure defense can create a lot of turnovers or create a lot of easy looks when you beat it. A high percentage of their shots are three point attempts so a lot of how they do comes down to how they are shooting that night. Prosper, Kolek, Joplin are all excellent perimeter shooters and when they get going they are a problem.
Marquette wants this game to be a track meet. Wisconsin wants it to be a watching paint drying competition. Whomever establishes their tempo on the other is likely to be successful.
Sunday, December 4th
#68 Michigan Wolverines (5-2) v. #12 Kentucky Wildcats (5-2), Noon, ABC
MaximumSam: The Big Ten sends not our best and brightest to London. But we do send Michigan, which creates an awesome matchup between two of the best big men in the sport in Hunter Dickinson and Oscar Tshiebwe. Dickinson is the superior offensive player, but Tshiebwe is a monster on defense and on the boards, so that should be fun.
Kentucky is a bit tough to figure out. They have a bunch of wide wins over not so good teams, a double overtime loss to MSU, and a blowout loss to Gonzaga. Michigan showed enough against Virginia to make me think they have a shot, but Torvik still goes with Kentucky, 75-68.
BoilerUp89: They are playing in London? Why? Is John Calipari that scared of scheduling a home and home series?
Michigan had to shoot 50% in the first half against Virginia to have a chance. Virginia is better than Kentucky (in my opinion), but they ran into some size issues against the Wolverines and had to grind out a victory on a great shooting night for Michigan.
Oscar Tshiebwe means Kentucky won’t have the same issues as Virginia when it comes to rebounding (guy is the best rebounder in college basketball), but Kentucky’s offense has been a bit stagnant at times against better competition. The Wildcats defense is what they will rely on though, and it is no joke.
#93 Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-3) at #14 Creighton Bluejays (6-2), 3:30 pm, FS1
MaximumSam: Earlier this season I boldly predicted that Nebraska wouldn’t lose to another team from the state of Nebraska. You might think I hadn’t looked at their schedule and realized they play Creighton, which apparently is also in the state of Nebraska. While this is a logical, sound conclusion, I say, GO CORNHUSKERS. But Torvik says they lose 75-63.
BoilerUp89: I’m a big fan of this particular Creighton roster. I’ve liked Ryan Kalkbrenner since he was a recruit and Ryan Nembhard is a star in the making after an inconsistent freshman season. Surrounding those two centerpieces with a couple of great shooters in Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman and a couple of other capable post players in Arthur Kaluma and Fredrick King makes this a very dangerous Creighton offense that has fared well early this season (wins against Texas Tech and Arkansas along with close losses to Arizona and Texas).
Creighton will not foul you - so if Nebraska is planning on getting lots of points from the free throw line they will have to look elsewhere. On the plus side, Creighton foul adverse defense means they don’t create turnovers so the Cornhuskers turnover prone offense gets a break there.
#182 Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-3) at #6 Purdue Boilermakers (7-0), 4 pm, BTN
MaximumSam: Purdue’s ample success this season is both surprising and unsurprising. Playing a backcourt of freshmen is not often a recipe for success. But they are playing great defense, attacking the glass, and when all else fails, they toss it to their big guy. Zach Edey has been truly great in going from a part time player last year to the leading minutes guy this year. Hard to see what Minnesota does here, and Torvik goes with Purdue, 72-55.
BoilerUp89: How will Minnesota attempt to guard Edey? Will they double? Front him? Leave Dawson Garcia on an island? Play a zone? If they play him straight up in man to man - things could go south in a hurry for the Gophers.
Minnesota is hoping this one doesn’t turn into a free throwing contest while the Boilermakers would be more than happy with that - well Matt Painter wouldn’t like his team fouling that much but the season numbers tell us that if both team take a lot of free throws it would be good for Purdue.
If I’m Minnesota, I’d try to get Edey in foul trouble (although that’s tough the way he’s been playing D without fouling), pack the paint on defense, and hope someone gets hot from the perimeter.
#95 Northwestern Wildcats (5-2) at #44 Michigan State Spartans (5-3), 6 pm, BTN
MaximumSam: After a fun start, Sparty is in rough shape after losing Malik Hall and Jaden Akins to foot injuries. They got waxed by Notre Dame on Wednesday, and now start the B1G season with uncertainty. It sounds like Akins could possibly be back, though Hall will still be out. Northwestern has been miserable on offense, but played good enough defense to stay with everyone except for Pitt. Feels like some uncertainty on this one, Torvik goes Sparty 64-57.
BoilerUp89: Both teams are coming off ugly, blowout losses. I’m not really sure how either team will respond but I’d bet on Tom Izzo before I’d bet on Chris Collins. I’ll predict a low scoring game either way.
MNW: If Boo Buie does Boo Buie-against-MSU things, maybe the ‘Cats are competitive. But, generally, this team goes as far as its defense will take it. And...uh...well, Pitt sure found a way around it. So maybe we hope the Spartans start cold and Buie’s shots are dropping.
Challenge for the Sparty fans: watch Chase Audige. Really watch him. And tell me what you think of his game after this one.