This Week in Big Ten Men's Basketball 1/19 to 1/25

Last week we saw the Big Ten have a shift in dominance. Michigan State was bullied at home by Michigan giving them their second Big Ten loss, Ohio State and Purdue stayed perfect and Indiana and Nebraska have held onto their near-the-top positions. Preseason locks for the tournament Northwestern, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are all in panic mode since the best conference record between those teams is 3-5. The Big Ten also saw love in the polls, Michigan and Ohio State both earned spots, Michigan State stayed in the top-10, and Purdue was third in both polls but earned their first number one votes.
Big Ten Men’s Basketball Standings (As of January, 19th, 2018)
AP Poll/Coaches Rankings (NA=Not Applicable; RV=Receiving Votes)
1. 3/3 Purdue (7-0) 18-2
2. 22/22 Ohio State (7-0) 6-4
3. 9/9 Michigan State (4-2) 16-3
4. Indiana (4-2) 11-7
5. 23/24 Michigan (5-3) 16-5
6. Nebraska (5-3) 14-7
7. Maryland (4-4) 15-6
8. Penn State (3-4) 13-7
9. Minnesota (3-5) 14-7
10. Wisconsin (2-4) 9-10
11. Rutgers (2-5) 12-8
12. Northwestern (2-5) 11-9
13. Iowa (1-6) 10-10
14. Illinois (0-6) 10-9
Friday, January 19th
7 PM, Indiana @ 9/9 Michigan State, Fox Sports 1
Michigan State is coming off their worse stretch of the season. They went 1-2 with the win being an overtime win at home against Rutgers. Indiana has rattled off three straight Big Ten wins, including a 20 point win over Northwestern. Michigan State owns the stat sheet compared to Indiana, only allowing 64 points per game and scoring 85. Indiana has allowed 70 and scored 74. This game is at home for MSU so it should not be too hard for them, but they have seemingly lost momentum. The Spartans need to regain their mojo to get the win because this Indiana team has now proven to be no pushover. Indiana needs to disrupt the flow and just slow down the Michigan State offense, something Ohio State and Michigan both did well.
Prediction: Michigan State 86-78 (A game closer than what most would expect)
9 PM, Illinois @ Wisconsin, Fox Sports 1
Illinois will head to Madison still without a Big Ten win. Wisconsin has not had the year they wanted and has not used Ethan Happ to his full potential. Happ and the Badgers need to snap their current 3 game losing streak and earn a win at home. Illinois is coming into this game as an underdog but if their offense hits on full cylinders, they should win. Wisconsin’s offense averages 68 points a game and is really limited by their scoring options. If Illinois is able to be efficient, Wisconsin may not have enough firepower to answer.
Prediction: Wisconsin 74-70 (Not the most glamorous game)
Saturday, January 20th
12 PM, 3/3 Purdue @ Iowa, ESPN
Purdue heading to Iowa City should not be too hard of a task for this team. Iowa has been very bad, going winless against the Big Ten with the exception of an OT win over Illinois. Purdue and Illinois actually have comparable offenses but the big difference is their defense. Purdue has allowed an outstanding 62 points per game, a stat near the top of the nation. Iowa has allowed at least 73 points against every major conference opponent they have played this season. Purdue looks dominant in this one but hopes they don’t go into the game overconfident and forget to play.
Prediction: Purdue 88-64 (Purdue puts on a show)
12 PM, 22/22 Ohio State @ Minnesota, Big Ten Network
Since losing to Clemson on November 29th, Ohio State has gone 11-1, with that loss to UNC. Minnesota is currently on a downward spiral and is 1-4 in in their last five with the one win in an OT win over Penn State. That is not convincing play for what was considered one of the top teams in the conference to start the year. Ohio State is heavily favored and for good reason. With the way they handled Michigan State earlier, they should be considered one of the top teams in the conference. Both of these offenses average less than 80 points per game and have defenses of around the low 70’s. Ohio State should ride their hot hand into this game and put up big numbers against a Minnesota team that appears to have lost their way. 
Prediction: Ohio State 86-79 (Minnesota went from panic to desperation)
2 PM, Penn State @ Northwestern, Big Ten Network
Northwestern was expected to build off their historic year last year and instead has floundered. Penn State was expected to finish near the bottom but has a chance to near the top half with a win. Both of these teams allow 67 points per game but Penn State’s defense has been more reliable at 77 points per game. This is a home game for Northwestern but at their temporary off-campus arena. Penn State is led by Tony Carr, while Northwestern has a slew of talent, but none have seemed to be firing on all cylinders as of late. This game will be close but I’m going to take Penn State in this one. Carr’s leadership and ability to score will lead the Nittany Lions to a win in Chicago.
Prediction: Penn State 76-71 (Northwestern went from panic to desperation)
Sunday, January 21st
12 PM, Rutgers @ 23/24 Michigan, Big Ten Network
Michigan has been playing out of this world, that is until they got blown out by 20 by Nebraska. The Wolverine squad proved they had what it takes to play with the best in the country with how they played against Purdue, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Rutgers record has not been something to brag about but they have had flashes of greatness. Both of these teams have a great defense, but for different reasons. Michigan plays more possessions and actually gets stops. Rutgers slows the game down to the point of where every possession matters and causing the end score to be in the low 70’s or even the 60’s for some games. Every game that Rutgers plays is a battle of pace of play. If Rutgers can control the pace of play they have a good shot at winning, but if their opponent runs past them they tend to be blown out.
Prediction: Michigan 73-65 (Michigan falls to Rutgers pace but pulls away late)
Monday, January 22nd
7 PM, Maryland @ Indiana, Fox Sports 1
Maryland comes into this game as the favorite but why? Indiana has been playing a much more solid and consistent brand of basketball as of late and it has taken them to fourth in the Big Ten. The two teams average around the same points allowed and scored and this is a home game for Indiana. I am going against the odds and saying Indiana gets the win at home. The loss will take Maryland to 4-5 in the conference and Indiana will have a legitimate shot of the tournament with their quality wins piling up.
Prediction: Indiana 77-74 (Maryland is almost in desperation mode)
8 PM, Nebraska @ 22/22 Ohio State, Big Ten Network
Nebraska has been a team all year that has given top teams trouble. They just routed Michigan, they handed Minnesota a loss while they were ranked, ran over Northwestern, and held their own against Kansas and Purdue. Ohio State likewise has had a dominant year in the Big Ten. Both teams come into this one with momentum. Ohio State is overall the better team with more talent and averaging both better numbers on offense and defense. Nebraska has an “it” factor though. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Nebraska came into Columbus and got a win, but I am putting my pick on Ohio State.
Prediction: Ohio State 79-63 (Ohio State stays in-line with Purdue)
9 PM, 9/9 Michigan State @ Illinois, Fox Sports 1
Michigan State will head to Illinois to pick up what should be an easy win. Michigan State has struggled against some lower opponents this year, i.e. Rutgers. Still, Michigan State will head into this game as many people’s favorites to win the title and will face off with the worst team in the Big Ten. Michigan State’s high flying offense needs to regroup after a bad week and it’ll have the perfect opportunity against this poor Illinois defense. I expect Illinois to make it close in the first half and then for State to pull away until the Illini are no longer within striking distance.
Prediction: Michigan State 89-75 (Illinois is winless...)
Tuesday, January 23rd
7 PM, Wisconsin @ Iowa, ESPN 2
Two of the Big Ten’s streakiest teams will face off. Both teams have been the victims of some bad streaks and without much momentum of stopping. Iowa sits at second to last in the conference and Wisconsin is not far behind. For Wisconsin this game is important as Greg Gard’s job has been under scrutiny within the last few weeks. Iowa lacks talent and Wisconsin have not impressed, but Ethan Happ has the ability to take over games. This will be a low scoring contest of two stagnant offenses with long possessions. On the national stage, I think Wisconsin gets the win but the pressure on Gard will definitely not go away.
Prediction: Purdue 87-69 (Purdue struggles out of the gates, but gets things going)
9 PM, Northwestern @ Minnesota, Big Ten Network
Northwestern will head up to the Barn and take on the Golden Gophers, the team that has perhaps let people down the most this year in the conference. The Gophers are allowing 72 points per game which is nothing to be bragging about but Northwestern has only scored 72 per game, an even worse mark. Minnesota will have the talent to win at home, but it will be a mental battle. Minnesota has struggled to finish games all year and Northwestern could take advantage of this flaw with their veteran leadership.
Prediction: Minnesota 73-69 (Minnesota finishes the game)
Wednesday, January 24th
7 PM, Nebraska @ Rutgers, Big Ten Network
Nebraska and Rutgers are both interesting because both are underrated. Rutgers started off the year hot but since has stumbled. Nebraska has held their own in the conference and sits in the top 6. Both of these teams have some of the better players in the conference. Palmer Jr. for Nebraska can fill the stat sheet and Corey Sanders for Rutgers can score in bunches. This game will be close and could change the outlooks of both seasons. If Rutgers win, they move up out of the lower tier of the conference. If Nebraska wins, they stay in the top-6 and could possibly go higher.
Prediction: Rutgers 75-74 (SO CLOSE)
9 PM, Indiana @ Illinois, Big Ten Network
Indiana will come into this game having surpassed many expectations. Illinois has not performed well this year and will look to add their first quality conference win. This game is big for Indiana because winning it keeps them in the race for a quality seed in the tournament and losing would be a huge flaw on their resume come March. Illinois averages more points than Indiana, while their defenses are equal. This game will be close and the edge should go to Illinois.
Prediction: Illinois 77-76 (Illinois gets win #1)
Thursday, January 18th
7 PM, 23/24 Michigan @ 3/3 Purdue, ESPN
Michigan will want to take their hot hand to Purdue. Purdue has been absolutely dominant in Big Ten play averaging 85 points per game and allowing 62, both marks are better than Michigan. Overall, Purdue is solid all around, has the stats to back it up, and the game is at home. This would be one of the best wins on either teams’ resumes and Michigan has a legitimate shot. Michigan has a big game factor (an example is dominating Michigan State at home) and it will show in this game. This game will be really close and I would not be surprised if Michigan pulled off what many think is unbelievable.
Prediction: Purdue 89-87
8 PM, Penn State @ Ohio State, Big Ten Network
Ohio State could possibly be the king of the Big Ten by end of this night. With their mind on what is happening with Purdue and Michigan, they will need to focus on their matchup at home against Penn State. Penn State will come into this game with one of the best scorers in the conference and Ohio State with momentum only equal to that of Purdue. Penn State will come in and want to run fast and as of late, Ohio State will want to too. This will be a high scoring game with Bates-Diop and Carr both getting their respective numbers.
Prediction: Ohio State 87-77 (Ohio State stake sole possession of first place?)