(Each weekend we’ll give you the information on all the games (dates, times, TV, etc), give you a look at the most important games and potential upsets to watch here on our B1G Weekend Primer)
Another week, another set of head-scratching results in Big Ten play. I believe we’ve got a pattern forming in front of us. So, with six games on the slate for this weekend what is in store for the Big Ten?
There’s a classic matchup and one newcomer taking on the conference’s top dog, Wisconsin. Oh, and an Illini team flying high after a huge win over No. 11 Maryland.
So, there is plenty to take in during this weekend of Big Ten action, but let’s take a look at the whole weekend ahead.
Weekend of Jan. 9th games (all times ET):
Saturday, Jan. 10
No. 22 Ohio State at Indiana, Noon……… ESPN
Minnesota at Michigan, 1 p.m…………….ESPNU
No. 11 Maryland at Purdue, 2:30 p.m……… BTN
Sunday, Jan. 11
Northwestern at Michigan State, Noon…… BTN
No. 4 Wisconsin at Rutgers, 6 p.m…………… BTN
Illinois at Nebraska, 8:30 p.m. ……………….. BTN
Best TV Viewing: No. 22 Ohio State at Indiana
If feels like there’s a weekly exercise for who is the mythical “third best team” in the Big Ten after Wisconsin and Maryland have had a virtual lock on the 1st and 2nd spots. Many thought it could be Minnesota, but an 0-3 start has negated that thinking. Enter Ohio State and Indiana.
[quote_right]”This league is obviously very unforgiving. They could care less what you did the last game,” coach Tom Crean said. “When you’re playing really good teams, you can’t get discouraged, you have to keep coming.”[/quote_right]
While the Buckeyes are the only other ranked Big Ten team, they still have a lot to prove on the court. A win in Assembly Hall would certainly do a lot to cement their claim to the third spot in the league.
The same could be said of the Hoosiers, who have impressed a lot as of late. With a lot of youth on the floor for Indiana this team likely has it’s best basketball ahead of it, but a win over Ohio State would go a long way towards building some major confidence moving forward.
Lock of the Weekend: No. 4 Wisconsin at Rutgers
If ever there was a lock in Big Ten play it would be this matchup. While Rutgers has a win in conference play and Minnesota and Penn State don’t, it’s hard not to see the Scarlet Knights as the worst team in the Big Ten. Add in that Wisconsin is clearly the best team in the conference and you have a complete mismatch.
About the only thing Rutgers has going for it in this matchup is that this game comes at the RAC and not at the Kohl Center. Look for the Badgers to win this game going away after maybe a struggle in the first few minutes. Wisconsin is 3-0 all-time against the Scarlet Knights heading in to this contest, it won’t make it 3-1 that’s for sure.
Sleeper Game: Illinois at Nebraska
This game has the potential to be the most important game of the weekend, as both teams desperately need this one in order to get some serious momentum going in Big Ten play. Illinois has some momentum going for it after a mid-week win over Maryland, but that was at home and coming off the emotion of the news that star guard Rayvonte Rice is out.
Nebraska is also coming in to this game with a win, beating Rutgers at home on Thursday for its first in conference play. Most importantly for the Huskers, that game saw the return of injured centers Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham. It allows for stars Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields more space to work with and gives the Huskers many more options to work with on both ends of the court.
Someone has to win and someone has to lose, but with these two teams adjusting their play due to injuries and return from injuries this game is a must-win, even if it is still early in conference play.
The winner gains some serious momentum heading in to the second half of January play, while the loser runs the risk of killing its NCAA tournament hopes…no pressure at all.
Upset Alert: No. 11 Maryland at Purdue
The Boilermakers have made Mackey Arena in to a place no Big Ten team wants to play at so far this season with wins over both Minnesota and Michigan so far this season. However, this will be a very different test as the first ranked opponent comes a calling.
Purdue fared pretty well on Wednesday in its travels to Madison, keeping pace all game long and nearly pulling off a major upset. What that game showed is that the Boilermakers are starting to figure out a rotation that works up front and being able to sub one 7-footer for another is a major advantage.
Yet, the question will be if Purdue has enough on the perimeter to deal with Dez Wells and Melo Trimble, who form perhaps the best backcourt duo in the Big Ten. If Purdue can use its size advantage up front, this could be a really good opportunity for an upset.