Michigan State (8-6, 2-6) vs. #8 Iowa (12-4, 6-3):
Currently sitting second to last in the conference at 2-6, head coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State are in dire need of a signature win to put on their resume. They have been one of the most disappointing teams in the country, and have yet to find a way to replace the production left behind by former seniors Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman.
A road win against a top 10 opponent could go a long way in reassuring the Spartan faithful that this team is far better than their record may indicate.
As for 8th ranked Iowa, they have got to find a way to get more stops on the defensive end. They are far too dependent on the three-point shot, as they take the most of any Power 5 team (418).
They are led by senior Wooden Award finalist Luka Garza, as this upperclassmen-led team will be an extremely dangerous squad come tournament time.
Expect fireworks Tuesday night in Iowa City.
#19 Wisconsin (13-5, 7-4) vs #12 Illinois (11-5, 7-3)
Squaring off on Saturday will be the first of two meetings between the Badgers and the Illini.
Both teams are led by returning players, as Illinois’ Ayo Dosumnu and Kofi Cockburn have been among the best 1-2 punches in the country. Dosumnu is averaging 21.9 points to go along with 6.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists, while Cockburn is averaging a double-double (16.9 and 10.3).
So long as the Illini can slow down senior guard D’Mitrik Trice (14.1 ppg), they should be able to control the pace in this contest.
These two matchups will go a long way in determining the pecking order in the Big Ten, and expect a fun one in Urbana Champaign this Saturday.
#7 Ohio State (14-4, 8-4) vs #8 Iowa (12-4, 6-3)
Winners of six of the last seven, the 7th ranked Buckeyes are one of the country’s hottest teams right now, as they have seemingly played their way into a top 3 seeding come March.
Head coach Chris Holtmann has done a tremendous job with this group, as he’s helped transform sophomore EJ Liddell into one of the best two way forwards in college basketball.
I expect this to be a high scoring affair against an Iowa team that loves to push the basketball, and figure this line will slightly favor the Hawkeyes as we get closer to tip. Iowa’s 9-1 home record may deter bettors from taking the road team in this spot, but Ohio State has been playing much better basketball as of late, and I see that continuing once again on Thursday.
Other Games to Look Out For
Minnesota (11-6, 4-6) vs Rutgers (10-6, 6-6):
This will be the first meeting between the Golden Gophers and Scarlet Knights, as this contest will feature two teams with great guard play.
Averaging 20.0 points per game, Minnesota’s Marcus Carr has become one of the country’s most explosive guards. To go along with his elite scoring ability, he is also averaging 4.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists.
On the other side of the ball, Rutgers features three more than capable playmakers in Jacob Young, Ron Harper Jr., and Geo Baker. All three average over double figures, as they’ve led the Scarlet Knights to a modest 6-6 conference record
Both teams are jockeying for position in the crowded Big Ten, which should make for a fun matchup in Northern New Jersey.
Penn State (6-7, 3-6) vs. #19 Wisconsin (13-5, 7-4):
This will be the second of a back-to-back between these two teams, as Penn State won Saturday’s meeting by 81-71.
#24 Purdue (12-6, 7-4) vs. Maryland (9-8, 3-7):
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Purdue won the first meeting Christmas Day by a score of 83-80, and will look to build upon a home victory last Saturday vs. Minnesota. As for Maryland, they currently sit squarely on Joe Lunardi’s Bubble, and could use another win against a ranked opponent to bolster their resume.
#12 Illinois (11-5, 7-3) vs. Indiana (9-7, 4-5):
Illinois is coming off a massive home win vs. 8th ranked Iowa, as they currently sit in 2nd place in the Big Ten. Indiana, much like Maryland, is another bubble team in need of a big-time win.
Maryland (9-8, 3-7) vs. Penn State (6-7, 3-6):
This will be the first of two meetings between two teams clinging to their tournament hopes, as they both come in with sub .500 conference records (3-6 and 3-7)