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Three weeks into the Big Ten season, and 12 of the 14 conference members have at least two league losses. The only teams with just one Big Ten defeat: Maryland (4-1) and Wisconsin (3-1). Five teams have two Big Ten losses; five teams have three conference losses.
What’s it all mean? This is going to be a crazy and unpredictable chase for the championship. Buckle up, and enjoy.
Get ready for the fourth week of the Big Ten season below.
Game of the week: Wisconsin at Minnesota, Saturday. Maybe it won’t be an upset if Wisconsin loses in Williams Arena, one of the Big Ten’s most intimidating venues. Still, keep your eyes on this big game in Dinkytown. The Badgers are a Top 25 team sitting atop the league standings with Maryland that is playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s only lost one game since November 23, falling at Purdue. The Golden Gophers have fallen from the rankings, losing two in row. Minnesota is desperate to get back on track and will have had a week to prep for the Badgers. Richard Pitino has an athletic and talented team led by veteran Nate Mason and freshman Amir Coffey. There is nothing the Gophers love more than to beat the Badgers—and vice versa.
Don’t overlook this game: Indiana at Penn State, Wednesday. The Hoosiers’ trip to Penn State is fascinating. This is a hot Nittany Lions squad that has won three of its last four games, including consecutive victories vs. Michigan State (in Philadelphia) and vs. then-No. 24 Minnesota. Now the Hoosiers come to State College, Pennsylvania, to face a fast-rising Penn State program that doesn’t have a senior on the roster and is led by Shep Garner and stud freshmen like Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr and Mike Watkins. Indiana is the defending Big Ten champ but has struggled of late, going 2-4 in its last six games. And the two wins came at home vs. Illinois and Rutgers. The Hoosiers could use a boost, but to topple Penn State they will need to play better defense. And Thomas Bryant needs to step up.
Must win: Northwestern at Ohio State, Sunday. If the Wildcats are truly going to experience a breakthrough to their first NCAA tourney, they probably need to win at Ohio State. The Buckeyes just showed they can be dangerous at home when they defeated Michigan State on Sunday. Still, this is an Ohio State club that’s struggling with 1-4 Big Ten record and has lost key player Keita Bates-Diop to a season-ending injury. Conversely, the Wildcats are hot, winners of three in a row including an 89-54 demolition of Iowa on Sunday night. This is NU’s only game of the week.
Best individual matchup: Bronson Koenig vs. Nate Mason, Saturday. As Koenig goes, it seems, so goes Wisconsin. If the senior’s shot is falling, good luck beating the Badgers. Koenig, who averages 2.8 triples a game, shoots 48 percent in victories, compared to 30 percent in losses. Mason is a go-go junior who averages 13.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He can win a game single-handily Whoever wins this encounter figures to lead their team to victory in what is the biggest game this week on the Big Ten docket.
Upset alert: Maryland at Iowa, Thursday. The first-place Terrrapins’ trip to Iowa City may be dangerous. Very dangerous. Yes, the Hawkeyes got thumped 89-54 at Northwestern on Sunday. Before that, Iowa took down a No. 17 Purdue squad at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Fran McCaffery has a young team that relies on freshmen like Tyler Cook, Cordell Pemsl and Jordan Bohannon, so it will be prone to peaks and valleys. The Hawkeyes also have a superstar in Peter Jok, who can win a game by himself. The Terps—who also have a raft of talented freshmen that includes Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson who play big roles—have to be careful.
Big week: Indiana. At one time, the Hoosiers ranked No. 3 in the nation, having taken down the likes of North Carolina and Kansas. But the Big Ten season hasn’t gone as expected, as the Hoosiers are 2-3 in conference play with a 12-6 overall record. This is a week that will tell us a lot about IU, as the Hoosiers play at Penn State on Wednesday and then welcome Michigan State on Saturday. Is it make-or-break time for Tom Crean’s crew?
Here’s a look at the Week 4 schedule:
Illinois at Purdue
Michigan at Wisconsin
Indiana at Penn State
Ohio State at Nebraska
Maryland at Iowa
Michigan State at Indiana
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Nebraska at Rutgers
Penn State at Purdue
Illinois at Michigan
Northwestern at Ohio State
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