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Thirsty B1G Thursday: What's your team got a hankering for?

Michigan State visits Iowa and Northwestern heads to Happy Valley on a Thursday night that will go a long way towards separating the pretenders from the contenders.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost the weekend in Big Ten land, and the four B1G teams playing tonight have a lot to prove. Here’s what each squad is thirsty for on Thursday night.

Iowa: RESPECT. The Hawkeyes have three super-talented freshmen in Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell, and Adam Woodbury. However, the commoners are not aware of these folk, because they’ve yet to knock a good team on its butt. So far on the national stage, Iowa has suffered a dreadful loss to Virginia Tech and come oh-so-close to upsetting Indiana. The "real" fans know that the Hawkeyes have serious potential, but they can really prove it to the nation by beating the perennially-contending Spartans on ESPN2 tonight.

Michigan State: FEAR. With Indiana and Michigan flexing their muscles early in the season, fans of other Big Ten teams have forgotten to be afraid of Tom Izzo’s physical squad. However, there’s no real reason for Michigan State to be any less scary than before. After a loss in the season opener to UConn (asterisk! It was in freaking Germany), the Spartans have only been felled in tough road games at Miami and Minnesota. Michigan State may not be the most talented team in the conference, but it’s still the biggest and the toughest, right? The Spartans can put their money where their mouth is with a win in Iowa City tonight.

Northwestern: HOPE. No, it didn’t all go away when Drew Crawford went down, did it? I think there’s still a little left at the bottom of the jar. Reggie Hearn has taken over as the team’s top scorer, and it seems the whole team can pour it in from long range. Plus, the Cats are actually pretty tough inside with Jared Swopshire and Alex Olah. With a sweet road win against Baylor to fall back on, Northwestern could afford to start the conference season with losses to Michigan and Minnesota, but now they can’t afford to lose to Penn State. Win in Happy Valley, and the Cats are back in the saddle. Lose, and it’s same old Northwestern.

Penn State: SHOTS. Because it’s becoming harder and harder to watch these games sober. Also, Penn State is a horrible field goal shooting team, and this needs to be amended quickly. Hustle and grit only go so far (far enough to beat Bucknell, apparently, but not to edge Boston College. That doesn’t make sense). Primary ball-handler D.J. Newbill showed his extreme athleticism with a pair of throwdowns against Wisconsin, but he needs to turn that burst into more free throw attempts. The Lions have only attempted 12 free throws in their first two Big Ten games. If Newbill can get to the line more often, it can create more space on the outside for freshman Brandon Taylor to unleash his surprisingly potent jumper.