This Week in Big Ten Men's Basketball 1/26 to 2/1

Illinois won! Ohio State lost! We have some change in the conference! Northwestern got a couple wins and made up some lost ground in the past week, while Minnesota and Indiana regressed. Michigan State and Purdue put on some dominant performances as MSU easily handled Indiana and Illinois and Purdue got a quality win over Michigan. Penn State proved that they can play with the best of them as they beat Ohio State. A couple more losses for the Buckeyes and the Feb 1st matchup between Michigan State and Purdue will have even more value. This next week will be important in solidifying the conference standings and hopefully give some clarity in who is a contender and who is a pretender.
Big Ten Men’s Basketball Standings (As of January, 15th, 2018)
AP Poll/Coaches Rankings (NA=Not Applicable; RV=Receiving Votes)
1. 3/3 Purdue (9-0) 20-2
2. 13/13 Ohio State (9-1) 18-5
3. 6/6 Michigan State (6-2) 18-3
4. 25/25 Michigan (6-4) 17-6
5. Nebraska (6-4) 15-8
6. Indiana (5-4) 12-9
7. Maryland (4-5) 15-7
8. Penn State (4-5) 13-8
9. Northwestern (4-5) 13-9
10. Wisconsin (3-5) 10-11
11. Minnesota (3-7) 14-9
12. Rutgers (2-7) 12-10
13. Iowa (2-7) 11-11
14. Illinois (1-8) 11-11
Friday, January 26th
8 PM, Wisconsin @ 6/6 Michigan State, Fox Sports 1
Michigan State is coming off a pair of dominant performances, while Wisconsin has hit a wall after they have gone 1-4 in their last five with their offense being held at or below 60 points for three of the games. The Spartans have gotten over their “slump” and are firing on all cylinders again. MSU has a 20 point advantage in scoring and a 1 point advantage in points allowed. I expect MSU to be dominant even if Happ is playing at his NBA potential level.
Prediction: Michigan State 89-60 (Wisconsin has a sad offense...)
Saturday, January 27th
4 PM, Rutgers @ Penn State, Big Ten Network
Rutgers will head to Penn State where two even teams will face off. Before Penn State beat Ohio State these two had very similar momentum but now the Nittany Lions have everything to play for. Beating Ohio State really proved that Penn State could compete with anyone in the Big Ten. Rutgers has held their own this season too, but momentum really matters in league play. Rutgers has a great defense at 62 points per game but has a terrible offense at 67 a game. Penn State’s defense can hold its own at 67 a game but their offense is much more credible at 77 a game. Penn State’s momentum and great play by Tony Carr should carry them past the Scarlet Knights.
Prediction: Penn State 76-69 (Penn State goes to 5-5 in the conference)
8 PM, Iowa @ Nebraska, Big Ten Network
Nebraska has surprised the Big Ten as they stand fifth in the conference, led by transfer James Palmer Jr. Iowa has gone 1-5 in their last 6 putting them right near the bottom of the Big Ten. Iowa’s offense is efficient at 80 points a game, but their defense has allowed 76 a game. Their defense has been their Achilles this whole season. Nebraska’s offense has not put up the numbers they are capable of with only averaging 72 points per game, but their defense has been holding teams to 68 a game. Nebraska has been my darkhorse team all season and I think they will continue their trend of surprising the conference.
Prediction: Nebraska 85-79 (Nebraska finishing in the top-4 could really happen)
Sunday, January 28th
1 PM, 6/6 Michigan State @ Maryland, CBS
Michigan State gets a quality opponent in Maryland, right? Maryland is now 15-7 with losses piling up as of late. Since losing Justin Jackson, the narrative of the season has changed to the goal going from competing for the conference title to making the NCAA Tournament in general. Michigan State looked hot against Illinois and Indiana and Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges have both got back into their possible All-American form. The Spartans are big-time favorites as they beat Maryland by 30 earlier in the year. Averaging 10 more points a game and three points better on defense, this game is MSU’s to lose.
Prediction: Michigan State 85-75 (Maryland is in panic mode)
3:30 PM, 3/3 Purdue @ Indiana, Fox
The Boilermakers head to Indiana for a big rivalry game. Unlike most years, this game is not looking to be as competitive. Purdue ranks third in the nation and has one of the longest active win streaks in the nation. After beating Michigan, Purdue has crafted one of the best resumes in the conference and is still perfect. Still...THIS IS A RIVALRY GAME. All the stats need to be thrown out as both teams will play with passion and sometimes this proves more important. IU got a huge win over rival Notre Dame earlier this year despite lacking statistically and in talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is evenly matched despite how either team has played before.
Prediction: Indiana 85-84 (Purdue FALLLLLLLLS!!!)
Monday, January 29th
7 PM, Northwestern @ 25/25 Michigan, Fox Sports 1
Northwestern is coming into this game having underperformed all year, but made up for some lost ground in the past week. Michigan surpassed expectations but just dropped a game to Purdue. Michigan has the talent and the home court advantage, but Northwestern has momentum. Both offenses are on the lower scoring side but Michigan’s defense is much better at only allowing 62 points a game. I’d bet on Michigan, but I wouldn’t put it past Northwestern to let their momentum ride as they look to enter the tournament conversation. 
Prediction: Michigan 77-74 (Michigan gets the job done at home)
9 PM, Nebraska @ Wisconsin, Big Ten Network
Nebraska has been a team all year that has given top teams trouble. They have routed Michigan, they handed Minnesota a loss while they were ranked, ran over Northwestern, and held their own against Kansas and Purdue. Wisconsin has struggled and is 1-4 in the last 5, possibly 1-5 if they lose to Michigan State. Nebraska looks legit as Palmer, Jr. has proven himself to be one of the best players in the Big Ten. This will be an interesting game because Wisconsin has been great at home over for the past decade but with this season’s team underperforming, it’s hard to think they will carry their home winning ways on.
Prediction: Nebraska 79-63 (Wisconsin’s offense struggles)
Tuesday, January 23rd
7 PM, Indiana @ 13/13 Ohio State, ESPN 2
Ohio State is coming off a close loss but still is one of the top teams in the Big Ten. Indiana will either be coming off a loss or their biggest win of the season. Either way, Ohio State has proven themselves this year and have been almost perfect at home. Ohio State has advantages in both defense and offense. It is really concerning that Indiana’s point differential is 2 compared to Ohio State’s 12. Ohio State should get it done at home and remain in the conference title conversation.
Prediction: Ohio State 87-73 (Ohio State makes up ground for Penn State loss)
7 PM, Rutgers @ Illinois, Big Ten Network
This is one of the first games in a long time where I am confident in Illinois. Illinois comes into this game owning one of the worst records in the conference and Rutgers is not far behind. The Illini average 10 more points a game than Rutgers and if Illinois is allowed to run the court like they want, it will be hard for Rutgers to compete. Rutgers will want to slow the game down and, if they achieve this, they may pull off a nice road win.
Prediction: Illinois 73-69 (Pace of play will be the key)
9 PM, Minnesota @ Iowa, Big Ten Network
Iowa has had a very bad season and has not defended their home court well. Minnesota has had a better season but very disappointing compared to the lofty expectations placed on them early on. Like Wisconsin earlier, Iowa has been lethal at home over the past few years but with this current team, it is hard to even make that an advantage. This game will be really even as Iowa looks for respect and Minnesota looks to salvage their season.
Prediction: Minnesota 71-69 (A close game that comes down to the wire)
Wednesday, January 31st
6:30 PM, Penn State @ 6/6 Michigan State, Big Ten Network
Michigan State looks to defend their home court against Penn State. Michigan State has the talent, the home court, and the stats. They average 86 points a game and allow 64. Penn State averages 77 a game and allows 67. Overall, all signs point to Michigan State getting the win behind the big play of Miles Bridges.
Prediction: Michigan State 89-74 (State continues to roll)
8:30 PM, Maryland @ 3/3 Purdue, Big Ten Network
Okay, this may sound familiar. Purdue looks to defend their home court against Maryland. Purdue has the talent, the home court, and the stats. They average 84 points a game and allow 62. Maryland averages 76 a game and allows 66. Overall, all signs point to Purdue getting the win behind the big play of their veteran players.
Prediction: Purdue 87-73 Purdue continues to roll)
Thursday, February 1st
8:30 PM, Northwestern @ Wisconsin, Fox Sports 1
Northwestern and Wisconsin have both heavily disappointed this season. Northwestern was in the process of making up lost ground, while Wisconsin continued their fall this past week. This is a battle of two very low scoring offenses and will be settled with post play and nose to the grindstone basketball. The x-factor will be Bryant McIntosh and Ethan Happ. Both teams will rely heavily on their stars to get a much-needed win.
Prediction: Wisconsin 63-62