This Week in Big Ten Men's Basketball 2/20 - 2/26

Standings (As of February, 20th, 2017)
#14 Purdue 11-3 (22-5)
#16 Wisconsin 11-3 (22-5)
#24 Maryland 10-4 (22-5)
RV Northwestern 9-5 (20-7)
Michigan State 8-6 (16-11)
RV Minnesota 8-6 (20-7)
Michigan 7-7 (17-10)
Iowa 6-8 (14-13)
Nebraska 6-8 (12-14)
Penn State 6-8 (14-13)
Indiana 5-9 (15-12)
Illinois 5-9 (15-12)
Ohio State 5-10 (15-13)
Rutgers 2-13 (13-15)
Tuesday, February 21st
6 PM, #14 Purdue @ Penn State, Big Ten Network
Purdue heads to Bryce Jordan with the thoughts of a conference title on their mind. Caleb Swanigan has been playing the best he has all year and the Boilermakers just need to show up and take care of business. How can underdogs Penn State pull it off? The same way they did against Maryland…drive into the paint getting free throws, force them to shoot the deep ball, and play stingy defense. Penn State shot 38 free throws in their win, while holding Maryland to 33.9% from the field. Maryland was 7-26 from three-point range and Penn State was forcing them to put up those shots. If they can repeat the effort they could win.
Prediction: Purdue 83-71
8 PM, RV Northwestern @ Illinois, Big Ten Network
The McIntosh versus Hill matchup will be one to watch. Both of these teams have been relying on defense, only scoring 73 points per game, but Northwestern is only letting 64 a game to Illinois’s 71. Rebounds, steals, and blocks all go to the Wildcats proving their late defensive dominance. If the Illini want to win this in-state rivalry, they are going to have to shoot. Last time they played, Illinois won because they shot more. Illinois went 24-56 to Northwestern’s 19-56. Maybe Northwestern had an off night, or maybe the rivalry brought life to the Illinois team. Will this one do it again?
Prediction: Northwestern 76-75
9 PM, Indiana @ Iowa, ESPN
Indiana has another road game, which they are 1-6 on the year (12th in the Big Ten). Iowa looks to increase their almost completely gone chances at the tournament by winning a game that they look poised to take on national television. Indiana’s injuries have forced them to take a major step back this year. Jok has been back for Iowa and is pouring in buckets. Iowa has a bad defense allowing 78 per game. If Indiana can hop on their bad defense, feed Thomas Bryant, and not turn it over, they will have a good chance. If Iowa can run the fastbreak, they will be able to outpace the Hoosiers. Iowa is 12-4 at home this year, expect to add one more.
Prediction: Iowa 85-79
Wednesday, February 22nd
6:30 PM, Michigan @ Rutgers, Big Ten Network
Michigan heads over to Rutgers for a must win. At their position in the Big Ten and the national outlook, losing to Rutgers is effectively a knockout punch. Rutgers has not had much to play for this year. Rutgers has gone 2-13 in their last 15 after starting the year off in the tournament discussion. Michigan is coming off a couple hot wins and Rutgers is coming off four losses. Michigan is offensively much better. Rutgers can win with good defense. They lead UofM in the categories of rebounds (41-29), steals (7-5.7), and blocks (5-2.7). If Rutgers holds them to a bad shooting night, they could run the boards.
Prediction: Michigan 88-73
8:30 PM, RV Minnesota @ #24 Maryland, Big Ten Network
Minnesota is finally getting back to their early season form as they received some votes in the most recent AP Poll. Maryland has taken a step back and is no longer looking to win the conference, but rather earn a high seed. Maryland just lost their center, Michal Cekovsky, a good role player lessening their depth. Minnesota will look for Lynch and Murphy to pound the ball down low with Maryland having a lack of depth. Another good point matchup will happen with Melo Trimble and Nate Mason. Both are All-Big Ten worthy and will let the matchup fuel their performance. Minnesota needs to play big and pound the rock, while Maryland needs fast buckets in the form of layups and threes.
Prediction: Minnesota 83-81
Thursday, February 23rd
7 PM, Nebraska @ Michigan State, ESPNU
Nebraska has not seen their season go according to plan and many would say neither has Michigan State. MSU recently lost Eron Harris. Expect freshman Cassius Winston to get the start and play much more. Nebraska is playing for pride at the Breslin. Michigan State will be playing for tournament seeding. Izzo needs the Spartans to up their game following the loss to Purdue and another big loss like that to Nebraska could knock them out.
Prediction: Michigan State 77-71
9 PM, #16 Wisconsin @ Ohio State, ESPN
Wisconsin may have had a mind slip in their loss to Michigan or they may be slipping in skill. This Ohio State game will be a true test of both teams. Ohio State’s hopes for the tournament are all but gone, but a win against a good Wisconsin team will get the team back in the right direction. Another loss for the Badgers could leave them outside the top 25. Wisconsin just needs to get back to basics and Ohio State needs to keep up their good defense.
Prediction: Wisconsin 70-67
Saturday, February 25th
3 PM, Penn State @ RV Minnesota, Big Ten Network
Penn State will head to the Barn to take on a hot Golden Gophers squad. Tony Carr and Mike Watkins of Penn State will need to step up their game against this good Minnesota team. Minnesota averages more points and allows less. Penn State’s ability to force teams to make bad turnovers and a lot of them have been the decider in many of their wins. A lot of pressure will be on Nate Mason to handle the ball and Penn State will do all they can to make it a nightmare for him.
Prediction: Minnesota 74-67
4 PM, #14 Purdue @ Michigan, ESPN2
This game is like a rivalry game in a sense. Purdue will be going all out for a Big Ten championship and Michigan will be firing on all cylinders to get into the tournament. If Michigan wins, they are effectively in. Purdue losing really opens the door for any other team to jump into the driver's seat of the tournament. Michigan will be shooting the deep ball and Purdue will force it inside, nothing new here. Whoever controls pace and possession style will win the game.
Prediction: Purdue 88-87
6 PM, Iowa @ #24 Maryland, ESPN2
Iowa will go into Maryland and Maryland will be ready. Last time these two met, Maryland shot the lights out of the gym. They turned it over more and had fewer rebounds, but Maryland could not miss. Trimble and Jok will go head to head and both will be high scoring. Iowa will be looking to push the pace of play and drive. Maryland will be looking to push the play and shoot. This, with Maryland’s home court advantage and their title hopes still on the line, will push them.
Prediction: Maryland 82-79
8 PM, RV Northwestern @ Indiana, Big Ten Network
Northwestern will continue their final push for the highest seed possible as they head to Assembly Hall. At this point, Indiana, the best team in the Big Ten at one point, has seen their season wave goodbye. They are still capable of pulling this win off. Northwestern will have no answer for IU’s bigs. Northwestern will be pushed by school history finishing this season up and want to change the nature of their program. Whichever team can find the charity stripe more often and win the turnover margin will have the win.
Prediction: Northwestern 80-79
Sunday, February 26th
4PM, #16 Wisconsin @ Michigan State, CBS
This game is interesting like the Purdue/Michigan game. Everything these teams have done to this point is off the table. They are both motivated by more than just the win. Sparty is looking for a signature win to add to their resume and Wisconsin is looking to continue their chances of winning the conference championship. This matchup offers a lot of good things to watch. Nick Ward vs Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig vs Cassius Winston, and Miles Bridges vs Nigel Hayes all make for good matchups. This game is at the Breslin Center and on the weekend meaning it will be full of crazy Spartan fans. Will the tournament streak stay alive for MSU or will Wisconsin win the Big Ten?
Prediction: Michigan State 77-76
7:30 PM, Illinois @ Nebraska, Big Ten Network
This matchup goes a lot into Illinois’ favor. They average more points per game, shoot better, assist better, have the better record, but the game is in Nebraska. Illinois is 2-5 on the road to this point and has gotten blown out multiple times. If Tai Webster can score and Nebraska is able to play some good defense, they got the win. If Illinois’ powerful offense comes through despite the road game, they will have a great night.
Prediction: Nebraska 76-73