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2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball

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Big Ten Weekend Preview: Ohio State and Michigan set to do battle in Primetime


Two archrivals will meet Saturday night with Big Ten title implications on the line when Ohio State travels to Michigan.

The middle tier of the league looks to sort itself out after matchups in Lincoln, West Lafayette, and Evanston.

To cap it off, Indiana will try to stay hot as it heads to Iowa on Sunday evening.

Here’s the Big Ten Weekend Preview.


Top Match-up: 6 Ohio State @ 17 Michigan, 9pm ET, ESPN

While it might lack the same level of absolute hatred that gets conjured up each and every November when these two meet on the football field, no matter how you slice it, this is still Michigan-Ohio State. I’ve seen a charity sand-castle building contest between these two schools got needlessly nasty. Expect more of the same when they meet on the hardwood for the second time this season.

Throughout Ohio State’s 64-49 win over Michigan on January 29 th, Jared Sullinger was noticeably frustrated. John Beilein mixed up both his defensive schemes and personnel to try to keep the future lottery pick guessing. Sullinger tallied a very pedestrian 13 points and 5 rebounds in 28 foul-plagued minutes for the Bucks, with two of his baskets coming after the game had been decided. Luckily for Thad Matta, his team played outstanding defensively. Ohio State held the Wolverines to a paltry 49 points while also finishing with a impressive +15 margin on the glass. Michigan’s backcourt combo of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway combined for a solid (yet somehow quiet) 29 points, but the usual suspects of William Buford and DeShaun Thomas (12 points each) and a not-so-usual suspect in Lenzelle Smith Jr. (17 points) were able to off-set the Wolverine duo handily.

If Michigan has a chance to pull off the upset, they will need considerably more production than the 7 points the perimeter trio of Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz combined for in the teams’ first meeting. Smotrycz took the first step in coming out of his midseason slump, having his best game in weeks last Sunday against Illinois. The sophomore forward had 13 points on only six shots while also adding three rebound and two assists.

Ultimately, though, this game might come down to the referees. Fouls seem to follow Michigan center Jordan Morgan around as much as bad press follows the Indianapolis Colts lately. If he can’t stay on the court to man-up on Sullinger, it could be a long night for the Maize and Blue, as Sullinger has the ability to dominate down low or make the extra pass to a wide open shooter. On the flipside, Michigan should – and I think they will – go after Sullinger on the offensive end to try to force him taking a seat on the bench with foul trouble of his own. The Wolverines shot only four free throw attempts (all in the last four minutes of the game) in the first meeting, a number they’d like to get in the 16-18 range considering how well they shoot it from the charity stripe (72 per cent as a team.)

Will the excitement of Gameday and the Maize-out at Crisler Arena be enough to rattle the youthful bunch from Columbus? We’ll find out Saturday night. My (out of shape, embarrassing) gut says it just might. Michigan 69 Ohio State 64


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The rest of Saturday

Illinois at Nebraska

Illinois will look to hold onto its slim (and I mean slim) NCAA Tournament hopes when it travels to Nebraska on Saturday.

The Illini are an absolute train wreck right now having lost four in a row and seven of its past eight. A lock for the Tournament at the start of 2012, selfish guard play and the contention of super-soph Meyers Leonard to not demand the ball on the block has Bruce Weber doomed to both the NIT and, on a far more real-world level, the unemployment line.

Since Nebraksa fans have been counting down the days to the start of spring football for about three months now, they’ve probably failed to notice that their hoops squad is in the midst of a four game losing streak by an average of 12.5 points per game. Simply put, the Cornhuskers are struggling. Badly.

While Doc Sadler’s team has a few nice pieces in Bo Spencer and Tony McCray, I just think Illinois has to win this game, and ultimately goes to a tough environment and plays well for the first time in weeks. Illinois 75 Nebraska 63


Minnesota at Northwestern

It looks like this will be another must-win game for two Big Ten bubble teams when Minnesota heads to Welsh-Ryan Arena to tangle with Northwestern on Saturday.

While bracketologists seem to be torn on whether or not to put either squad in their projected field of 68, the simple fact remains the same: both need more wins, especially over fellow bubble teams that reside in the same conference.

Northwestern is coming off of a tough two game road trip through the Hoosier state where they had a shot to win both at Purdue and Indiana. John Shurna was fantastic, pouring in a combined 59 points in the two contests, the Wildcats weren't able to pick up a victory in either spot. Minnesota is also struggling, having lost two in a row themselves. In a gotta-have game between two mediocre, relatively evenly matched clubs, take the guys at home. Northwestern 70 Minnesota 60



Michigan State at Purdue:

The Boilermakers will look to avenge the 83-58 face-smashing they took at the hands of Michigan State earlier in the year when the teams meet on Sunday.

Purdue is coming off arguably its best three game stretch of the year with a close loss at Ohio State and two great wins at home over Northwestern and on the road at Illinois, putting them on the right side of the NCAA fence for now.

Tom Izzo as his Spartans peaking at the perfect time, as Michigan State is playing just about as well as anyone in the country right now. Four consecutive double digit wins including at Ohio State and at home over Michigan and Wisconsin has put this team firmly in the discussion for a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Two predictions for this one: 1- Purdue forward Robbie Hummel does not shoot 0-11 from the floor like he did in the first game (pretty bold, I know) and 2- Though it won’t be the 25 point seal-clubbing it was in the first game, Michigan State still comes out on top. Michigan State 67 Purdue 60


Penn State at Wisconsin

Penn State will travel to Wisconsin to try to even up the season series with the Badgers on Sunday.

Guard Tim Frazier has been the only bright spot in a season that could be very generously tabbed as a re-building year for first year coach Pat Chambers' Lions. The junior is averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 assists, and 5 rebounds per game all while being the focal point of every defence he goes up against. He has absolutely been first team All Big Ten calibre despite getting little to no help night in and night out.

Wisconsin continues to do what everyone has come to expect from Bo Ryan’s teams, and that is flat-out win basketball games. The Badgers are 19-7 overall and once again still in the hunt for a Big Ten title. While not living up to his Preseason All-American hype, senior point guard Jordan Taylor is still one of the best in the business at running a team, proven by the fact that Wisconsin will once again be a trendy pick to make a deep run in March.

Penn State put a scare in Wisconsin when they played in State College, losing by only six. There will be no such scare when they play this weekend. Wisconsin 68 Penn State 51


Indiana at Iowa

In battle of schools whose states’ landscapes are only slightly less picturesque than my feet, Indiana will go to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes on Sunday.

The Hoosiers appear to have calmed the doubters that were questioning their legitimacy after setbacks to un-ranked Minnesota and Nebraska earlier in conference play. With a three game winning streak powered by a balanced scoring attack and the sensational play of freshman forward Cozy Zeller, Indiana has run their record to 20-6 and 8-6 in the Big Ten, all but assuring they’ll be dancing when the field gets chosen in March.

Fran McCaffery has quietly done a commendable job with this improving group of Hawkeyes this season. Sure, they’re only 13-13 overall with some shocking non conference losses (Campbell, at home? Really?) and a 5-8 record in conference, but he has gotten his teams to hang with (Iowa State, Purdue) and beat (Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota) some teams with far superior talent then what he has at his disposal.

I would love to predict the upset and say Iowa comes up big and gets one, but I just think Indiana is playing too well and has a few too many weapons for McCaffery’s guys to handle. Tyler Indiana 80 Iowa 71


By Scott Capron
DFN Sports Staff Writer



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