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Big Ten Men’s Basketball Bracketology, Weekend Previews

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NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

witty intro

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Weekend Previews

Saturday, February 5

#18 Illinois Fighting Illini at Indiana Hoosiers

11am | ESPN | IU -1.5, Total 137

Buffkomodo: I’m not going to say this is a must win for Indiana. Far from it truthfully. The main goal all year has been to go to the NCAA tourney and going .500 in conference play will get you there. There’s 9 games left to get 3 wins so it’s not a must win.

That said, this is an up and down Illinois team fighting the elements getting to snowy Bloomington. A team coming off an emotional win vs Wisconsin. Indiana has had a week off and has been able rest up and game plan for this game. I’m not saying it’s a must win because Illinois is pretty damn good. I’m just saying if Indiana wants to be taken seriously in the B1G again, you should probably maybe think they gotta win this. Winning here will also make losing at Northwestern later next week easier to deal with too.

Northwestern Wildcats at Nebraska Cornhuskers

12pm | BTN | NU -3, Total 146

Jesse: I am 99% sure I have lost all of my writing privileges PLUS the right side of my keyboard on my laptop is intermittent at best right now.

Know what that sounds like? More or less how Nebraska basketball works. Sure, it looks competent and you can see how hard it wants to work, but lol in the end. On paper, we have the talent to win this but until I see one in the win column, my assumption is that everything is awful.

The fun things for me a this point are: Seeing Bryce McGowens until he gets drafted or transfers to get drafted, and watching Swaggy K be a generally Tasmanian Devil level player every time he gets minutes. If that turns into good things, awesome. If not, well, welcome to Nebraska basketball (and / or football) in the modern era.

BRT: Boy, these games for the Huskers are getting tough to predict! Just a wild guess here: the Huskers start strong, play hard, but watch the game slip away from them in the final moments. This is a tempting one to get hopes up for if you're on the side of scarlet and cream, but I refuse to be hurt again by Nebraska.

MNW: Not one single game is a given for this moribund Northwestern squad, but if you wanted to be optimistic for just a moment—Northwestern has snakebit Nebraska on the road this weekend, then Indiana at home next Tuesday. Take the ‘Cats at 12-10 (5-8) and...well, things don’t look AS terrible: Illinois and Purdue lurk, but @Minnesota-Nebraska-@Penn State-@Iowa-Minnesota to close is...well, it’s doable.

That’s only possible, though, if Northwestern can (1) bottle up the first half of the Rutgers showing—crisp ball movement on offense, swarming defense, strong rebounding on both ends—and (2) avoid the hands-around-throat approach to closing out games. I think you’ll see Northwestern force a lot of turnovers against Nebraska on Saturday, but can the ‘Cats use Ryan Young effectively inside to get the win? If NU wins the TO battle and Young goes for 15+, I think they could coast.

Of course, we know that’s not what’ll happen.

Michigan Wolverines at #4 Purdue Boilermakers

1:30pm | FOX | PUR -9, Total 145

BoilerUp89: Purdue is still traveling home from Minneapolis, having stayed in Minnesota on Wednesday night, flown back to Indianapolis (instead of the usual flight to West Lafayette) on Thursday, and then after being advised that I-65 from Indianapolis to Lafayette was not viable, spending Thursday night in Indianapolis.

Long story short, there is a decent chance they haven’t done their usual pregame film study for Michigan. Which is concerning as this Saturday’s game opens a three game stretch in six days that could very well define Purdue’s Big Ten season.

As for the game, the matchup between Dickinson and Edey/Williams will be interesting since Dickinson actually has the size to matchup with Purdue. If Dickinson doesn’t win the game on his own, Purdue just needs to contain Jones and Brooks from going supernova.

That, or just continue to outscore teams and pretend defense doesn’t exist.

#13 Michigan State Spartans at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

3pm | FS1 | MSU -2, Total 132.5

Green Akers: Avert your eyes, or at the very least wear appropriate PPE, and hammer the under. And sure, me saying so probably makes this a 90-88 shootout thriller, but come on. This is going to be some Soviet architecture on parquet. As far as I know, MSU comes in with their full complement, so the question is if enough guys are on today to scratch out 60 in the Offbrand Subway Arena.

Penn State Nittany Lions at #11 Wisconsin Badgers

5pm | BTN | WIS -8.5, Total 130.5

misdreavus79: One team is 349th in Adjusted Tempo. The other team is 191st. In any other season, you would have guessed Wisconsin to be the former, and Penn State to be the latter. Furthermore, if I told you one team is better than the other at shooting the three, your guess of Wisconsin to be the better team would be right.

In this bizarro of a year for the two teams, the Nittany Lions are playing the Wisconsin role of slow, plodding team that takes every single second of the play clock to try and make a shot, using the little inside presence they have to try and find open shots from outside (and sometimes, as Iowa would attest to, not-so-open shots). Meanwhile, Wisconsin is the team that is not that great at shooting the ball from outside, but will run up and down the court with its potential conference player of the year candidate leading the charge.

I’d normally say this is enough of a recipe to make the game close, but, unfortunately for the Lions, Wisconsin is yet another team in the string of “road games against teams who are coming of one of their worst shooting performances of the season” trend Penn State seems to find themselves in. The first of such was against Ohio State, who went 3-of-19 from three, as they simply couldn’t keep up with Wisconsin. Then it was Iowa, as the the Hawkeyes scored 48 points, a season low, against Rutgers the game before. After that, Indiana, who wasted all the momentum of the Purdue win against Michigan before playing Penn State. Now, the Lions go to Wisconsin, who just got done shooting 12.5% from three against Illinois.

Penn State will be lucky if the margin of defeat is in the teens, if previous iterations of this phenomenon are any indication. Of the three games above, only one was decided by fewer than 15 points.

Sunday, February 6

Maryland Terrapins at #16 Ohio State Buckeyes

12pm | CBS | Line, Total TBA

MaximumSam: Hopefully the snow plows get things cleared up by Sunday. I still haven’t left my house after Columbus got a deluge of ice and snow. Work and school have been cancelled for two days, leading me to catch up on the latest season of Cobra Kai. It’s good! I am amazed that a show that started as a joke on How I Met Your Mother is a legitimately good show that will now have a fifth season. Johnny Lawrence is a legend.

Also good, The Peacemaker. Episode 6 dropped this week, and it’s the best one yet. Holy hell, being turned by the butterflies does not look to be a favorable experience. This show may set a record for batshit crazy stuff happening per minute. Kind of like Maryland basketball this season. Hopefully John Cena doesn’t just up and quit the show like Mark Turgeon.

Minnesota Gophers at Iowa Hawkeyes

3:30pm | BTN | Line, Total TBA

Stew: This is a bad game against not great teams. Fran will be out due to COVID. I will be in attendance, rolling my eyes at Bohannon still starting and playing despite bringing very little when he’s not shooting well, which he really isn’t anymore. At least there may not be two foul jail in the first half with Fran not in the sidelines.

The Murrays should be enough to get by the gophers.

WSR: So here we are again, huh? Last time we had a game that probably shouldn’t have been played or delayed a few days, but Minnesota isn’t a precious snowflake like Illinois so the show must go on. And after looking so bad in the 1st half that I thought about walking into the other half of the building to watch the wrestling dual, the Gophers decided to look...competent in the 2nd half? Now we get the return leg in Ferentzistan, and with Fran out I probably feel worse about our chances than I normally would. Not that I really have high expectations because we’re really not that good of a basketball team. We’re just a good team that plays fun games to watch and sometimes we sneak past teams. Hopefully tomorrow is one of those days, but I doubt it.


Bracketology

  • Pretty wild that Purdue could be anywhere from a 1-seed to a 3-seed based on some estimations. Seems like they’ll settle into a 2-seed unless they win the Big Ten Tournament, but...
  • Dear God, please just put wisconsin on a 4-line and let us stop thinking about it.
  • What’s surprising about it for me is that you haven’t seen Michigan State catch the badgers in the Bracket Matrix totals yet—I think Lunardi’s closest to correct on this one.
  • That includes Illinois, who’s shown where, how, and why teams should be able to handle the badgers in March.
  • Ohio State as a 5 still feels weird, but I am making a point of it to watch as little Buckeyes basketball as possible.
  • Weird to talk about Indiana as a potential win for the ‘Cats next week, then also say “Wow, yeah, a 7-seed!” So who knows. But who do you think it’d be funnier for them to lose to: the Dons or the Ramblers?
  • Iowa is in. Apparently. Take care of that, Minnesota.

Open thread for the weekend’s hoops. Go nuts.