This Week in Big Ten Men's Basketball 2/6

Standings (As of Monday, February, 6th)
#7 Wisconsin 20-3 (9-1)
#21 Maryland 20-3 (8-2
#16 Purdue 19-5 (8-3)
Northwestern 18-5 (7-3)
Michigan State 14-9 (6-4)
Iowa 14-10 (6-5)
Indiana 15-9 (5-6)
Michigan 14-9 (4-6)
Minnesota 16-7 (4-6)
Penn State 12-12 (4-7)
Ohio State 14-10 (4-7)
Nebraska 10-13 (4-7)
Illinois 13-11 (3-8)
Rutgers 13-11 (2-9)
Tuesday, February, 7th
9 PM, Michigan State @ Michigan, ESPN
Miles Bridges and company head down the road to battle in-state rival, the University of Michigan. The last time these two met, Nick Ward held down the post conjuring his inner Zach Randolph. Miles Bridges held Zak Irvin to 0, while Derrick Walton exploded taking charge of the Wolverine squad. The Spartans and Wolverines average nearly the same points per game and points allowed, but the Spartans hold a substantial edged on assists and rebounds. This young MSU team has been heating up at the right time and expect them to continue to build their resume by playing tenacious defense. If Michigan can hit their spot up threes consistently, they could pull off the win.
Prediction: Michigan State 77-69
6 PM, #21 Maryland @ Penn State, BTN
Maryland is coming off a tough loss to Purdue, but don’t expect them to repeat. Melo Trimble and the Terrapin squad of freshmen are good. Their ranking may not show it, but they are. The game will be played at the Bryce Jordan Center, where the last home game only got 10,202 people in attendance (67% of capacity). Maryland has a ten point differential to PSU’s one point. Expect Maryland to pour on the shots against the young Penn State team. Penn State can pull off the win if they are able to limit the points in the paint and if Maryland has an off shooting night.
Prediction: Maryland 82-72
8 PM, Illinois @ Northwestern, BTN
Northwestern saw their time while being ranked cut short by Purdue, but expect them to jump back. Northwestern has gotten the job done with their defense so far this year. Only allowing 64 points per game, close to 40 rebounds a game, 6 blocks, and 5.3 steals are all superior to Illinois. Malcolm Hill will be matched up with the likes of Bryant McIntosh, Sanjay Lumpkin, and Scottie Lindsey for the whole game. Illinois will find it hard to get their best playmaker the ball. In the last five, Illinois has failed to score 70 points, a bad sign in the Big Ten.
Prediction: Northwestern 75-66
Wednesday, February, 8th
7 PM, Rutgers @ Ohio State, BTN
Both of these teams are having off years. Ohio State is coming off an important win against Michigan and Rutgers is coming off a huge win at Penn State. Corey Sanders will need to be unstoppable against this Buckeyes team in Columbus if Rutgers wants another away win. Ohio State does not have to play spectacularly to win, but they need to take care of the ball. Jae’Sean Tate, JaQuan Lyle, and Trevor Thompson are all talents. If two of those three can get going from the field and Thompson and Tate are able to draw fouls, the game should be a big win.
Prediction: Ohio State 90-73
9 PM, Iowa @ Minnesota, BTN
Petr Jok is back and the Hawkeyes are trying to make a late-season push to get into any postseason tournament. Minnesota currently has the 23rd best RPI in the nation. As a comparison, Wisconsin is 19th, Maryland is 21st, and Purdue is 22nd. Minnesota has done a very good job at winning the games they are favored in and this is another. Minnesota is low scoring with a good defense, led by the likes of Jordan Murphy and Nate Mason. Iowa is a fast paced and high scoring team led by Jok’s Big Ten best 21 points per game. If Minnesota can score 80 points, then Iowa will not be able to match with their hard defense. Likewise, since Big Ten play has started, Iowa has only lost one game when scoring 80 or more. If Iowa jumps out and is able to maintain their fast-paced style, Minnesota will not have the offensive firepower to compete.
Prediction: Minnesota 80-75
Thursday, February, 9th
7 PM, #16 Purdue @ Indiana, ESPN2
Purdue has slowly proven their ability to be the best in the Big Ten. After a huge win against Maryland, they showed resiliency and star Caleb Swanigan took over. Indiana is injured big time! OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. are out, leaving a huge load on the shoulders of Thomas Bryant. If Purdue plays Haas and Swanigan at the same time, Bryant will likely take on Haas while Swanigan runs wild. I have no doubt that Bryant can contain either Haas or Swanigan, but both is a different story. Purdue’s defense is better than Indiana’s by 5 points, but that takes into account the Indiana-Penn State overtime game where they won 110-103. Still, we have forgotten one thing, this is a rivalry game, in Assembly Hall. Throw out all the stats, rivalries have a life of their own. Injuries play into Purdue’s favor, but the rivalry game and the venue helps out Indiana.
Prediction: Purdue 90-89
9 PM, #7 Wisconsin @ Nebraska, BTN
Wisconsin, one of the most well-rounded teams in the country, will head out to play a dismal Nebraska squad. Tai Webster has done all he can to let Nebraska compete in the rough Big Ten, but the other teams are just better. A veteran-led and experienced Wisconsin won’t be scared of the road challenge and should not miss a beat. How can the Cornhuskers win? In Wisconsin’s losses, they have shot between 38-41%. In Nebraska’s Big Ten wins, they have shot between 42-48%. If the Cornhuskers defense is able to force late shot clock possessions and run an up tempo offense getting a lot of nice looks, they will have a very good chance. Wisconsin ranks 322nd in the nation in number of possession a game at 67.22, while Nebraska ranks 168th at 72. If Wisconsin shoots poorly on their limited possessions, the Cornhuskers will have a chance.
Prediction: Wisconsin 63-54
Saturday, February, 11th
12 PM, Minnesota @ Rutgers, ESPNU
Rutgers is not having the year they wanted, and Minnesota knows if they want to make the tournament they need to finish strong. Statistics aside, each team’s motivation is going to be key. The Golden Gophers know, win out and we are in. A loss to Rutgesr would ruin their RPI and effectively end their hopes. Rutgers is playing for pride. The Gophers are more talented and if they come out with this game being a must-win rather than an easy win, they should get the victory. A lackadaisical Minnesota squad could see Corey Sanders drop dimes on them, being the knockout blow for the tournament hopes of Minnesota.
Prediction: Minnesota 87-70
2 PM, Penn State @ Illinois, BTN
Illinois is putting up 76 per game at home while Penn State is putting up 69 on the road. For teams whose total point differential, scoring, and defense are the same, this home court advantage is big. These two lower Big Ten teams, who are not having the best season, are equal statistically, besides in the home/away. Illinois allows 69 a game at home and Penn State lets up 75 on the road. The more we look into these home/away stats, the more and more we see that all signs point to Illinois.
Predictions: Illinois 76-69
4 PM, Ohio State @ #21 Maryland, ESPN
This game is a repeat of an earlier year matchup that saw Ohio State take a home loss at 77-71. Now in the pumped up Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland is ready to pour on the points. Maryland actually averages 6 more points a game on the road than at home, but their defense steps up dramatically. Ohio State has relied on second-chance points and hitting threes for their wins this year. Against a good team like Maryland, OSU will need to do just that. For Maryland to win, they need to get the OSU bigs into foul trouble and then rely on Trimble to take care of the ball.
Prediction: Maryland 79-70
6 PM, Iowa @ Michigan State, BTN
Jok vs. Bridges will be the matchup to watch. Bridges has fared well so far against the best in Big Ten. Some of his best defensive performances have come against stars such as Caleb Swanigan and Zak Irvin. If MSU gets the win against Michigan on Tuesday, this game will be a win for sure. That would mean Izzo’s late season magic, team maturity, and their freshmen’s long process of understanding the Big Ten has finally occurred. If MSU drops their game on Tuesday, this is much different. Michigan State has had ups and downs fueled by player emotion all year that has largely affected their play. If MSU loses on Tuesday, Iowa can get boards, and Jok can produce, then Iowa should win.
Prediction: Michigan State 77-70
Sunday, February, 12th
1 PM, Michigan @ Indiana, CBS
Michigan will head into one of the hardest venues in the nation when they venture to Assembly Hall. Michigan will have lost to Michigan State (possibly twice), Ohio State, and now head to Indiana. Indiana was completely dismantled earlier this year at Michigan where they had 10 more turnovers than their opponents. Since then, Blackmon has been out, and Indiana has focused on a hard grind it out type of game. Michigan is still having trouble establishing a reliable and dominant post and will find the Thomas Bryant matchup a tough one. If Michigan can take care of the ball and let Indiana make the mistakes with key players out, they will win. If Indiana goes into this game playing for the possibility of missing out on the tournament and Bryant establishes himself, they should win.
Prediction: Indiana 85-84
6:30 PM, Northwestern @ #7 Wisconsin, BTN
Wisconsin is somewhere you do not want to play. Expect to see the Kohl Center packed, loud, and ready to make life hard on the Wildcats. McIntosh will match up well with Koenig, Hayes will matchup with both Lindsey and Lumpkin, but no one will be able to handle Ethan Happ down low. The National Player of the Year candidate will wreak havoc on the Northwestern squad as he has done all year in the Big Ten. If Northwestern is able to carry this out to an overtime, like Minnesota and Rutgers, they will have a good chance of pulling off the upset.
Prediction: Wisconsin 69-62