This Week in Big Ten Men's Basketball 2/27 - 3/5

Standings (As of Monday, February 27th, 2017)
#16 Purdue 12-4 (23-6)
#22 Wisconsin 11-5 (22-7)
RV Maryland 10-6 (22-7)
RV Michigan State 10-6 (18-11)
RV Minnesota 10-6 (22-7)
Northwestern 9-7 (20-9)
RV Michigan 9-7 (19-10)
Iowa 8-8 (16-13)
Illinois 7-9 (17-12)
Nebraska 6-10 (12-16)
Indiana 6-10 (16-13)
Ohio State 6-10 (16-13)
Penn State 6-10 (14-15)
Rutger 2-14 (13-16)
Tuesday, February 28th, 2017
6:30 PM, RV Maryland @ Rutgers, Big Ten Network
A week ago, this matchup would be one that would undoubtedly be in favor of Maryland. In the last week, we saw top dogs, Maryland and Wisconsin, take a fall from grace and back into the middle of the pack. This game is a must win for Maryland if they want to maintain their status as a top 5 seed. Rutgers will have to shoot the lights out and maintain their crazy defense. Sure, these are some of the vaguest game plans, but what did Michigan do to Purdue and Michigan State to Wisconsin? They shot the lights out and played the defense we’ve seen of them this year. If Rutgers wants to add a positive light to their down year, they need to follow suit. Keys for Maryland to win? Melo Trimble needs to be Melo Trimble. If he returns to his star form, they will win.
Prediction: Maryland 74-66
7 PM, Indiana @ #16 Purdue, ESPN 2
A big rivalry game will go down in West Lafayette. IU has fallen from the sky this season. Once seen as one of the best teams in all of college basketball, Indiana has had its season hijacked by injuries. Purdue has seen Caleb Swanigan take over college basketball. Purdue is 4-1 in their last 5 and IU is 1-4, with both receiving that 1 in their last game. Purdue has looked dominant only allowing 66 points a game while IU has allowed 77 in their last four games. IU needs to play stellar defense and get to the line. Purdue needs to get Swanigan going down low early and force the point.
Prediction: Purdue 88-77
8:30, Ohio State @ Penn State, Big Ten Network
Ohio State really is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big Dance in a couple weeks. They will be much more talented than this Penn State team, but don’t put it past this team to upset. They average around the same in all categories. If OSU can play defense the way they are capable of, they should win. Penn State will need Carr to create floor space and for Mike Watkins to take over down low. If OSU gets into foul trouble, it is over.
Prediction: Ohio State 78-75
Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
7 PM, RV Michigan @ Northwestern, Big Ten Network
Michigan is playing their best ball of the year and Northwestern... the opposite. The Wolverines’ Derrick Walton Jr. and DJ Wilson have been playing off the wall in recent games. Northwestern saw Scottie Lindsey go down a while back and he has not returned to his all-conference form yet. If the Vic Law, Scottie Lindsey, and Bryant McIntosh trio can get going, then Northwestern really has a good chance at cementing their spot in the tournament.
Prediction: Michigan 88-85
9 PM, RV Michigan State @ Illinois, Big Ten Network
Michigan State has been heating up lately. Nick Ward and Miles Bridges are hot and they have been rolling through the conference. Illinois has not had the season many had hoped for them. Malcolm Hill has continued to have an incredible Illinois career with no big team results to show for it. Illinois will want this one to send Hill off on a good note. Michigan State will need to keep a good balance of Ward down low, Bridges driving, and their shooters making shots. When Michigan State has lost its balance, they have suffered greatly. Illinois needs Malcolm Hill to be him. He will be expected to carry the load of the team and if Cassius Winston or Tum Tum Nairn can slow him up, the Illini offense will sputter.
Prediction: Michigan State 78-69
Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
7 PM, Nebraska @ RV Minnesota, ESPN
Purdue may be the best team as of late, but there is no team hotter than Minnesota. They have crawled from the bubble to a possible top 6 seeding. Nate Mason has proven himself as a key player in the Big Ten. Nebraska has seen their own success. Tai Webster of Nebraska has been running on all cylinders all year. Much like Malcolm Hill, his team’s little success has left him out of the national spotlight. Tai Webster, also like Hill, will be expected to carry his team to success this week. ALSO like Hill, he will be facing a team that is having the right player stepping up at the right time and forcing their way into the national spotlight. Minnesota will run fast and force down low. Nebraska will look for shooters and second chance points. Good defense will win this game.
Prediction: Minnesota 82-74
9 PM, Iowa @ #22 Wisconsin, ESPN
Iowa will head to a Wisconsin team that saw the worst time to take a step back. Iowa has been known in the Big Ten as the team no one wants to face. With wins over Maryland and Purdue, they play at a whole new level when facing the top competition in the conference. Iowa will look for Peter Jok to get going early and often. Wisconsin, although having a sensational starting lineup, has been putting Nigel Hayes on an island as of late. Wisconsin needs to rally and return to their slow, defense-first style of game. Iowa needs to force the tempo of the game and make the Badgers play uncomfortable.
Prediction: Wisconsin 73-72
Saturday, March 4th, 2017
12 PM, Illinois @ Rutgers, ESPNU
Rutgers and Illinois will dual on national television in their last regular season game of the year. Rutgers will not be in any tournament, but they can at last get a final win and send their seniors off in good fashion. Rutgers allows 0.8 more points than they score, both of which are below 70. Rutgers will need to rely on their defense to take the win.
Prediction: Rutgers 61-59
12 PM, Indiana @ Ohio State, ESPN
Indiana and Ohio State will face off in their last game of the year. Ohio State is going to need their best players to shine. Tate, Lyle, and Thompson will need to shine as IU tries to take one on the road to end the year. Watching both of these teams, they have looked defeated. OSU changed their look with the mighty win over Wisconsin. I am expecting OSU to play lights out basketball on their senior night against a struggling IU team.
Prediction: Ohio State 75-69
2 PM, RV Michigan State @ RV Maryland, Big Ten Network
This game has more on the line. For both teams, it will be a signature win, for both teams they need the momentum, and for both teams, they need the bye in the Big Ten tournament. MSU is playing the Izzo brand of basketball and Maryland has walked off a cliff. There is no better time to turn the tide than on senior night. Both teams are in the Big Dance, but this game will go far in their seeding. Maryland doesn’t have enough signature wins and Michigan State needs this to strengthen their case. The guard matchups will be great to watch. Although Tum Tum Nairn has been starting for the Spartans, the real matchup will be Cassius Winston vs. Melo Trimble. They will both be looking to generate a floor space and create opportunities for the bigs. Whoever is able to get to the line more and turnover the ball over less, will win.
Prediction: Michigan State 78-76
Sunday, March 5th, 2017
1 PM, Penn State @ Iowa, Big Ten Network
Penn State and Iowa both will be looking to take a win going into the Big Ten tournament. Iowa has a much stronger offense, but Penn State’s defense is top notch. This will be a good matchup. Iowa’s arena is very underrated and it will be ready for the matchup. Peter Jok will be looking to heat up and Mike Watkins will be looking to cool him down. This game could go either way.
Prediction: Iowa 70-69
4:30 PM, #16 Purdue @ Northwestern
Purdue will take on a Northwestern team fighting to break the curse. Both teams will be playing like it’s their last. If Purdue has already claimed the Big Ten title, expect them to rest and possibly play subs more often. Northwestern will be playing like it’s their last. The signature win would get them in the Big Dance for the first time ever. Whoever controls the pace of play will get the win.
Prediction: Northwestern 71-70
6 PM, RV Minnesota @ #22 Wisconsin
This game is a much bigger matchup now than a few weeks ago. Minnesota is the hottest team in the conference and perhaps the nation. If Nate Mason can take Koenig like MSU did last week, they will have a very real chance. Wisconsin will need to return to their ways of old, a slow grind it out game with good defense and low scoring. Minnesota has depth down low and at the point. If they are able to control the speed and outrun the Badgers, the woes will continue.
Prediction: Minnesota 82-79
8 PM, RV Michigan @ Nebraska
Michigan has made its late season push for the tournament. They have been winning the big ones and solidifying their spot. Nebraska may not have had the same success, but it is their senior night. With it being Tai Webster’s senior night and lack of defense played by the Wolverine squad, I expect him to go off. Nebraska, who usually relies on defense, will need to attack Michigan fast and often to win. Michigan will need to step up their defense to win.
Prediction: Michigan 88-84