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Big Ten Conference Rundown

Several team adorn national rankings as calendar changes

The non-conference portion of the Big Ten schedule is concluding with the calendar. When the latter flips, the focus turns to conference play.

The conference is well represented in the rankings. Purdue is third, Michigan State is 10th, Ohio State No. 16 and Wisconsin No. 24 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota are among the teams also receiving votes, so there’s no lack of marquee matchups impacting both the conference and the nation.

Big Ten Conference Rundown
Michael Hickey/Getty Images/AFP

Purdue (+125) is tied with Duke for second in the latest odds to reach the Final Four, trailing only Gonzaga. Michigan (+600), Illinois (+800), Ohio State (+900) and Michigan State (+1000) are among the other conference teams showing up in the Final Four odds.

Here’s a look at the top games to watch with some information for those who bet online.

High Point Panthers at Michigan State Spartans

Date, time, TV: Wednesday, Dec. 29th, 3:00 p.m., Big Ten Network

Three of the Spartans’ best shooting performances this season have come during their current three-game winning streak. This included back-to-back games of 52.5 and 55.2%, respectively, from the field in wins over Penn State and Oakland. The Spartans (10-2) also have at least 20 assists in four in their last five games.

Michigan State’s only two losses this season are to No. 7 Kansas and No. 1 Baylor.

Michigan State’s last three games went over the total established by the Las Vegas odds.

High Point’s (6-6) leading scorer, John-Michael Wright, has seven 20-point games this season, but was held to single digits in the last game.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs at Indiana Hoosiers

Date, time, TV: Wednesday, Dec. 29th, 7 p.m. Big Ten Network

Although Indiana (10-2) has won their last three games, the ‘sloppy’ Hoosiers have committed eight more turnovers than assists during that span. Taking better care of the ball is a priority as Indiana prepares to return to Big Ten play. However, there’s one more non-conference game of 2021.

Trey Galloway (wrist) hasn’t played since a Nov, 17th game against St. John’s, but he’s close to returning and giving IU another player in a deep rotation.

Indiana failed to cover against the college basketball spreads in the final six games of the 2020-21 season, but hasn’t had back-to-back games when it failed to cover this season.

UNC Asheville (8-5) has been outrebounded in four of its five losses this season and by total of 22 boards this season.

Western Illinois Leathernecks at Iowa Hawkeyes

Date, time: Wednesday, Dec. 29th, 8:00 p.m. ET

Iowa (9-3) not only leads the Big Ten in scoring (87.6 points per game), but the Hawkeyes are second only to Nebraska in points allowed (70.1 ppg). The Hawkeyes average 65.3 field-goal attempts per game, leading the conference,

Sophomore Keegan Murray is the nation’s leading scorer at 23.2 points per game., far surpassing his 7.2 ppg of a season ago.

Each of Iowa’s last five games had a total of more than 150 with points scored, the Hawkeyes going 2-2-1 ATS in those contests.

Trenton Massner had 57 points in the last two games for Western Illinois (10-3) and his 16 made free throws in games against Denver and Omaha matched his total from the first 11 games of the season.

Michigan Wolverines at Central Florida Knights

Date, time, TV: Thursday, Dec. 30th, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Michigan (7-4) shot a season-high 56.3% from the field the last time out against Southern Utah, however it’s at the other end of the court where the Wolverines’ focus needs to be. In losses to Arizona, North Carolina and Minnesota, Michigan allowed the opponents to hit nearly half of its shots.

Michigan ranks seventh nationally in three-point defense, while UCF has at 10 three-pointers in four games this season.

Central Florida (10-2) has won its last four games (by an average of 19.8 points) since dropping back-to-back games to Oklahoma and Auburn. The Knights have shot over 50% in three of those four games.

Michigan State Spartans at Northwestern Wildcats

Date, time, TV: Sunday, Jan, 2nd, 2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

Michigan State junior guard Tyson Walker has 19 assists and only two turnovers in the last two games. He went for 20 points and six steals in games against Penn State and Oakland.

Ty Berry and Boo Buie have combined for 42 three-pointers for Northwestern (8-2).

Michigan State had won 12 in a row against Northwestern-including nine victories by at least 10 points-before a 79-65 Wildcat win Dec. 20th, 2020, when the visiting Spartans were listed by the college basketball odds as 7½-point favorites.

Seven of the last eight games in the series have gone under the total.

Indiana Hoosiers at Penn State Nittany Lions

Date, time, TV: Sunday, Jan. 2nd, 4:00 p.m. Big Ten Network

Indiana’s leading scorer, Trayce Jackson-Davis, has made at least 50% of his shots in each of the last three games, including a 9-of-11 effort against Northern Kentucky in the final pre-Christmas game. He had 21 points against Penn State last December.

Indiana (10-2) has won six of the last seven games, but lost by 15 points the last time playing at Penn State. Indiana ranks second in Division I in field-goal percentage defense, allowing just 35% shooting.

Sam Sessoms and Jalen Pickett, both transfers from mid-major programs, have combined for 25.2 points and 7.9 assists per game for the 5-5 Nittany Lions.

The Nittany Lions haven’t played since a loss at Michigan State Dec. 11th. Non-conference games against Virginia Commonwealth and Quinnipiac were canceled. Penn State concludes the non-conference portion of their schedule against Delaware State before this return to conference wars.

Illinois Fighting Illini at Minnesota Golden Gophers

Date, time, TV: Sunday, Jan. 2nd, 6:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

Junior center Kofi Cockburn has five straight double-doubles and seven in nine games this season. He only has one game this season when he missed more shots than he made. Cockburn has the fifth-best odds to win the national player of the year award.

The Fighting Illini’s (9-3) final non-conference game against Florida A&M was called off due to COVID issues, so Illinois plays nothing but conference opposition the rest of the regular season.

Illinois has won the last three meetings with Minnesota and scored 186 points in the last two games against the Golden Gophers. Four of the last five games in the series have gone over the total, aided by the fact the Fighting Illini have topped 90 points in three of those games.

Minnesota’s Jamison Battle and Payton Willis form one of the top scoring tandems in the Big Ten and neither rarely rests. Battle is averaging 37.3 minutes per game and Willis 36 minutes per game for the 10-1 Golden Gophers.

Wisconsin Badgers at Purdue Boilermakers

Date, time, TV: Monday, Jan. 3rd, 7:00 p.m. ET

Going on the road to face the third-ranked Boilermakers is quite the way to kick off the new year for Wisconsin. The Badgers will need to get the offense going after shooting just 35% in a win over Indiana and loss to Ohio State to begin their conference schedule.

Wisconsin has been outrebounded in six of the last nine games-including the last three-and now get to play a Purdue team that is second nationally in rebounding margin.

Jaden Ivey has nine straight double-digit scoring games and was perfect (6-for-6) from three-point range in a recent win over Butler.

The last four games in the series have gone over the total.

Purdue is 5-0 against Wisconsin in its last five games when scoring at least 70 points and has covered in each of those contests.

Maryland Terrapins at Iowa Hawkeyes

Date, time: Monday, Jan. 3rd, 9:00 p.m. ET

Maryland’s leading scorer, Eric Ayala, has 29 points and five three-pointers in the last two games.

Iowa leads the Big Ten (fourth in Division I) in turnover margin. Ahron Ulis leads the way with 38 assists and just 13 turnovers.

Five of the last six meetings between Maryland (6-4) and Iowa have been decided by at least 10 points, home team winning four of those games. The total has gone under three of the last four times Minnesota has played at Iowa.

Michigan Wolverines at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Date, time, TV: Tuesday, Jan. 4th, 7:00 p.m. ET

Sophomore Hunter Dickinson is averaging 19.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in the four games since Michigan lost to North Carolina.

Michigan is 9-0 against Rutgers since the Knights entered the Big Ten, though six of those games (including the last four) have been decided by single digits.

Rutgers is struggling from three-point range, connecting on just 29% of their shots. That number went down when the Knights were 4-of-18 in a recent loss to Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights (5-5) do average 7.3 steals per game.

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