As the new year approaches later this week, conference play in college basketball begins. Tonight opens up the first conference play in a major league with four games, all on ESPN2, in the Big Ten. A full Big Ten Preview will come later this week but here is a look at the four games today.
3pm, Northwestern at Penn State – Northwestern has only lost to Butler and Notre Dame and are looking for a win in their BIG opener for the third consecutive season as Penn State looks for their first win in their league opener since 2010. Should be a fun guard matchup to watch with Penn State’s Shep Garner and Payton Banks going against Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey. Prediction – Northwestern by double-digits in a high scoring game.
5pm, Illinois at Maryland – The best game of the opening night of Big Ten play brings a surging Illinois into College Park. The Fighting Illini have won six straight including wins over BYU, Missouri, NC State, and VCU. Malcolm Hill is a top five player in the conference and is going to be a tough matchup for Maryland. Melo Trimble is the key for the Terps as always and he has been on fire lately. But the Terps need someone else to step up and help out and that will probably be freshman Justin Jackson who is one of the more underrated players in the conference. Prediction – Maryland by 2 or 3.
7pm, Rutgers at #14 Wisconsin – The Badgers are nearly 20 point favorites in this rough opener for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are playing their best basketball in years but will need to dig very deep to win this one. But hey remember they did upset Wisconsin a few years ago in Piscataway when the Badgers were without an injured Frank Kaminsky. Prediction – Wisconsin by 25+.
9pm, Michigan State at Minnesota – Minnesota is quietly 12-1 with wins over Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and St. John’s. They are six point favorites tonight against Michigan State, who would have ever thought that in the beginning of the season. Sparty is this season’s biggest disappointment so far in all of college basketball, but Tom Izzo will turn it around of course and what better way to start than with a win in your conference opener. Prediction – Michigan State makes a statement and wins by double-digits.