2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball
Big Ten Weekend Preview: Spartans and Buckeyes highlight the docket
Bubbly Game #1: Illinois at 23 Michigan, Sunday, 1pm ET, CBS
After losing again on Thursday, this time at Indiana, the Illini are starting to get into desperation mode. Now 16-8 (5-6 in the Big Ten) Illinois is squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, with a brutal stretch ahead of them to finish the season. This game is looking more and more like a must win for Bruce Weber`s squad, so it`s probably not great that Michigan is a perfect 13-0 at home this year.
Michigan needs to get their supposed go-to-guy Tim Hardaway Jr. out of his elongated slump. The sophomore swingman is shooting an abysmal 13-47over his last four contests, a trend that needs to be turned around for the Wolverines to have a shot at garnering a high NCAA Tournament seed.
While the Illini might have more raw talent in their line-up with the likes of Brandon Paul, DJ Richardson, and Meyers Leonard, this is a tough spot for them to go in and get a win. Freshman sensation Trey Burke (14 ppg, 4.9 apg) will eat up whoever is guarding him, creating easy opportunities both down low for big man Jordan Morgan, and outside for senior sharpshooters Stu Douglass and Zack Novak. Illinois can and probably will keep it close, but Michigan will ultimately prevail in a tight one. Michigan 65 Illinois 58.
Bubbly Game #2: Northwestern at Purdue, Sunday, 6pm ET, BTN
Later on Sunday evening, the Wildcats and Boilermakers will matchup in a game that will have massive NCAA Tournament implications for both squads. Each team is 5-6 in the league and both did little to impress the selection committee in the non conference parts of their schedule.
Northwestern has been playing well lately, having won three in a row to balance out the three game skid that preceded it. John Shurna and Drew Crawford continue to be one of the Big Ten`s best scoring tandems, averaging a combined 36.4 ppg. Freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski has been a welcomed addition to Bill Carmody’s starting line-up, contributing 9 ppg while sporting a very impressive 3.2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
After giving Ohio State all they could handle in an 87-84 nail-biter on Tuesday, Purdue needs to hold serve at home and win this game. DJ Byrd and Kelsey Barlow combined for 38 points in the near-upset of the Buckeyes, which was a great sign as secondary scoring has been a huge issue for the Boilers all year. Fifth year senior forward Robbie Hummel (15 ppg) has had to shoulder much of the offensive load, so the duo of Byrd and Barlow stepping up must have been very encouraging to Matt Painter.
While Mackey Arena is an extremely difficult place to get a win, this just feels like a place Northwestern can sneak in and steal one over a fellow Big Ten bubble team, thus improving their chances of making The Big Dance for the first time in school history. Northwestern 69 Purdue 65
Another interesting matchup: Nebraska at Penn State, Saturday, 1pm ET, ESPNU
I lied. To say this is an interesting matchup is like calling the battle between my sisters picking what to watch on TV is interesting. In both cases, nobody wins.
While neither of these teams were picked to do much damage in the Big Ten, (and are holding up their end of the bargain) they both have very solid point guards: Penn State’s Tim Frazier and Nebraska’s Bo Spencer.
Frazier has quietly had a great year, averaging a gaudy 18.3 ppg, 6.3 apg, and 4.8 rpg. While Spencer is the engine that fuels the Cornhuskers, putting up 15.3 ppg, 3.4 apg, and 2.7 rpg including a clutch 23 points in an upset win over then-No 13. Indiana.
In the Battle of the Big Ten Basement, I think Frazier steps up and has a big game, giving the Nittany Lions only their third conference win of the year. Penn State 70 Nebraska 62
By Scott Capron
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