Big Ten Game On: 02.11.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 11th, 2012

It was a quiet Friday night in the Big Ten (because, you know, there were no games), but the action certainly picks up on the court today as two of the top teams in the league face off.  Also, on Sunday we have some schools desperate for a win on the road against opponents who need a victory to keep pace within the conference.  It all bodes for a very interesting Big Ten weekend.

Nebraska at Penn State, 1 pm ET Saturday

  • Though these two teams currently sport the bottom two records in the league, don’t think for a second that this game doesn’t mean something. Nebraska desperately needs to get on the right track in their first season in the Big Ten, and a road win at Penn State would help get things moving in that direction. Meanwhile, Penn State has lost five straight and eight out of their last nine; and in no way do they want that streak to continue. It helps that the Nittany Lions will have the best player on the court in guard Tim Fraizer.

#12 Michigan State at #3 Ohio State, 6 pm ET Saturday

  • This is the biggest marquee game for the league so far this season and not just because it is between two teams that are within a game of each other at the top of the standings. Both teams have good size, tremendous guard play, and it will be strength-vs-strength when the Spartans and Buckeyes do battle on national television (ESPN). In the yesterday’s Big Ten Morning Five there was a link to an article talking about the headache Big Ten coaches have had in trying to figure out how to properly defend Jared Sullinger. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo probably is the best equipped to deal with the Buckeye big man, as beefy Derrick Nix and long-armed Adreian Payne can be used to slow Sullinger down. Draymond Green may also take his turn on Sullinger, but his foremost job will be to continue his Big Ten-best 10.6 RPG along with his 15 PPG. Green’s leadership will also be key for this road test as sophomore guard Keith Appling and freshman forward Branden Dawson will be the other Spartans expected to score. Look for Ohio State guard William Buford to try and loosen things up for Sullinger early on as the senior knows how important a win and two-game cushion over Michigan State would be.

Containing Jared Sullinger will be the top priority for Michign State. (Greg Shamus/Getty)

Illinois at #25 Michigan, 1 pm ET Sunday

  • Woe to the life of the Illinois fan. An 11-1 start has turned into the current 5-7 run despite the best efforts of Brandon Paul. The Illini continued their inconsistent run of conference play with an 84-71 loss to Indiana and now limp into Ann Arbor to face a Michigan team that had a fairly easy run of things against Nebraska their last time out. Tim Hardaway Jr had a nice second-half against the Cornhuskers, and Trey Burke was his usual stellar freshman point guard self.  But Illinois has something Michigan has very litte of–height. And there isn’t a Wolverine on John Beilein‘s roster that can match-up with Myers Leonard. Couple that with the scoring antics of Paul and you have a recipe for an interesting chess match in a very important game for both schools.

Northwestern at Purdue, 6 pm ET Sunday

  • The Wildcats are hot right now. They ripped off their third straight Big Ten victory with a 83-64 dismantling of Iowa, and are putting more pressure on the ever-burning-bubble question of whether or not they can make the NCAA tournament. Conference road wins are fun to point to in any resume, and Purdue has been much more susceptible at home this season.  John Shurna and his funky shot have been scorching opponents all year, and Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski have really stabalized things in the Northwestern backcourt. However, this game is a crossroads for the Boilermakers as well and coming off of two straight losses you know seniors like Lewis Jackson and Robbie Hummel will come to play.
Ryan Terpstra (28 Posts)

Ryan Terpstra is an on-air personality for ESPN 96.1 FM in Grand Rapids, MI. Follow him on Twitter @TerpHimself

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