Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.16.16 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 16th, 2016

We might as well call tomorrow Super Saturday because five of the games involving Big Ten teams are as intriguing of a slate as in recent memory. In addition to the always-enjoyable Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis involving Purdue and Indiana, three other league schools will face off against potential NCAA Tournament teams. This provides each team with a golden non-conference opportunity to a land a resume-enhancing win and build some momentum heading into league play the week after Christmas. Here’s the Weekend Look Ahead:

Caleb Swanigan has a chance to wreak havoc in the paint in the Crosstown Classic against a smaller Notre Dame team. (AP).

Caleb Swanigan has a chance to wreak havoc in the Crossroads Classic against a smaller Notre Dame team. (AP)

  • #21 Notre Dame vs. #15 Purdue (Saturday 2:00 PM ET, ESPN2). With all four teams ranked, the Crossroads Classic couldn’t ask for a better slate. The annual event tips off with Notre Dame’s high-powered offense facing off against Purdue. While the Boilermakers have been impressive all season, they’ve fallen just short in their two chances against elite competition – losing close games to #1 Villanova and #11 Louisville. If Matt Painter‘s group can establish its inside-out game between Caleb Swanigan and outside threats Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline, in addition to submitting a respectable defensive performance, the Boilermakers will walk out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse with their best win of the season.

  • #2 UCLA vs. Ohio State (Saturday 3:00 PM ET, CBS). The Buckeyes got a much needed win last Saturday over Connecticut, providing a modicum of relief after a head-scratching loss to Florida Atlantic prior to that. If Thad Matta’s squad wants to completely erase that memory, a win over the high-flying Bruins in Las Vegas will certainly do it. That’s a tall order given that UCLA has been among the most impressive teams in the country this season, thanks in large part to outstanding freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. The Buckeyes’ strength (as always) has been their defense, anchored by Trevor Thompson (77.8 Defensive Rtg, 1.9 BPG), and it will be tested by a UCLA group that leads the nation in three-point (45.3%) and two-point shooting (62.8 %). What does Ohio State have going for it? Low expectations means they’re playing with house money.
Coach Tom Crean gave his critics some ammunition after the Hoosiers lost two in Maui. (Getty)

Tom Crean has a big one coming up this weekend. (Getty)

  • #18 Butler vs. #9 Indiana (Saturday 5:00 PM ET, BTN). It’s strange to think what might have been had the Hoosiers not dropped that pre-Thanksgiving game at Fort Wayne. They might have walked into the second game of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday against Butler as the #1 or #2 team in the nation. One reason to explain the puzzling loss is that OG Anunoby could only play limited minutes in that contest due to illness. Indiana’s third-leading scorer has missed several games since with a hip injury, but he is expected to return on Saturday. That should give the Hoosiers a big emotional boost and set the table for their offense to run at full strength, which few teams in the country can keep up with.
  • Dayton vs. Northwestern (Saturday 7:00 PM ET, BTN). Archie Miller’s Flyers have made the NCAA Tournament for the last three years. [Insert joke about how that compares to Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament record here]. This therefore presents an opportunity for the Wildcats to earn a nice resume win against a team of comparable talent. To do so, Chris Collins‘ team will have to shake off whatever issue allowed a small Chicago State team (with only one contributor over 6’6”) to win the rebounding battle by seven against the Wildcats last week. Northwestern managed to eke out the win, but another lackadaisical effort like that will leave the team with a third non-conference loss and a steadily diminishing prospect of postseason play.
  • BYU vs. Illinois (Saturday 9:30 PM ET, BTN). Since their three-game skid late last month, the Illini have won four straight games that includes impressive victories over NC State and VCU. The turnaround has been on the strength of play from Malcolm Hill (18.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.1 APG), Leron Black (14.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and the ultra-efficient Tracy Abrams (12.5 PPG, 64.1% 3FG, 74.6% TS). But is hasn’t been solely an influx of scoring that has changed Illinois’ fortunes; rather, its defense – which looked disastrous earlier this season – has held the last four opponents to fewer than one point per possession. The challenge for the Illini on Saturday will be to defend without fouling the Cougars, who average two free throw attempts for every five field goal attempts (57th nationally).
Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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