The Spartans won't play until Friday evening, but there are still a few interesting matches in today's first round Big Ten Tournament games.
12:00 PM Eastern - (8) INDIANA vs. (9) ILLINOIS - TV: BTN
Both of these teams have been playing better than their seeds indicate as of late. Illinois has won four of their last five, including wins at Minnesota, at Michigan State (UGH) and at Iowa. Indiana's won two of their last four. Not the most impressive resume to be sure, but they played Michigan tough in Ann Arbor in both teams' last game of the regular season. The Hoosiers and the Illini split the regular season series, with Illinois winning 83-80 in overtime in Champaign back on New Year's Eve, and the Hoosiers prevailing 56-46 in late January.
KENPOM PREDICTS: Indiana 64, Illinois 62 (57% chance of Hoosier win)
VEGAS HAS: Indiana from as low as -1.5 to as high as -3.
WE SAY: Illinois 58, Indiana 53. The Illini have really coalesced the last few games. This will surely please Michigan, who probably wants to avoid Indiana after a loss and a close win at home against the Hoosiers.
~ 2:30 PM Eastern - (5) OHIO STATE vs. (12) PURDUE - TV: BTN
One of the Big Ten favorites to start the season, the Buckeyes find themselves in the disappointing position of playing on Thursday. At least they dodged Penn State -- while OSU has lost to the Nittany Lions twice this season, the Scarlet and Gray have beaten the Boilermakers decisively twice this season (78-69 in West Lafayette on New Year's Eve, 67-49 in Columbus in early February). For Purdue, a swift end to the 2013-2014 season may not be that bad.
KENPOM PREDICTS: Ohio State 70, Purdue 62 (82% chance of Buckeye victory)
VEGAS HAS: Ohio State from -8 to -9, depending on the casino.
WE SAY: Ohio State 69, Purdue 54. It's setting up very nicely for OSU to make the semifinals - beat a Purdue team they've vanquished with relative ease twice already, then a Nebraska team which, although OSU split with during the regular season, their victory was by 31.
6:30 PM Eastern - (7) MINNESOTA vs. (10) PENN STATE - TV: ESPN2
Along with IU-UI, the other game that is predicted to be close today. The Golden Gophers and Nittany Lions will play each other for the second time in five days, and PSU will hope to fair a bit better than the 81-63 they suffered in Minneapolis last Sunday. The fightin' Tim Fraziers are going to need a bit of luck, but they did play Minnesota close in State College in early January, as the Golden Gophers needed a late run to win 68-65.
KENPOM PREDICTS: Minnesota 71, Penn State 69 (59% chance of a Minny winny)
VEGAS HAS: The Golden Gophers anywhere from -4 to -5.
WE SAY: Penn State 79, Minnesota 74. Something weird is going to happen on the first day of the tourney. Neither Indiana nor Illinois winning would count as weird, and I doubt either Purdue or Northwestern will beat OSU and Iowa respectively. That leaves PSU-Minnesota, and I think Tim Frazier has one last one-man show in him.
~9:00 PM Eastern - (6) IOWA vs. (11) NORTHWESTERN - TV: ESPN2
The prime candidate for the blowout of the day. Iowa has been in a free fall as of late (1-5 in their last six games); however the Wildcats had lost their last seven games before prevailing against the Boilermakers in West Lafayette in the regular season finale. Iowa's beaten Northwestern twice this year, each time by 26. Look for this game to give the Hawkeyes some momentum (but not too much - hopefully as little as possible, if at all) before a possible game against the Spartans on Friday.
KENPOM PREDICTS: Iowa 72, Northwestern 61 (86% chance of Hawkeye win)
VEGAS HAS: Iowa from -11.5 to -12.5.
WE SAY: Iowa 80, Northwestern 62. The Wildcats keep it a bit closer, but still go out in a reasonably successful start to the Chris Collins era.
This is your open thread to discuss the first round Big Ten Tournament games. Same rules as always: no links to illegal game streams, no slurs, and be cool to one another. Enjoy the games everyone.