The NFL Playoffs start tomorrow and I’m going to be at work, so I’m probably going to forget that Penn State has a huge Big Ten game against Iowa on Big Ten Network at 2:00 p.m. That would be unfortunate, because 2020 is a make-or-break year for Pat Chambers at the Nittany Lions. With everything going right for the team, it might as well disband if it doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament this season. They have two star players in the frontcourt with Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, as well as a few guards who can hit three-point shots and even some bench scoring.
Plus, Penn State got off to a strong start in the non-conference season by scoring quality wins over Georgetown, Syracuse, and Alabama. There’s a couple more if Yale contends for the Ivy League title and if Wake Forest doesn’t get totally destroyed by the ACC slate. This is a big deal for a PSU program that has had previous Tournament bids torn to shreds because of a lousy non-conference resume.
There should be a big crowd at The Palestra in Philly, so I’m calling for a win over Iowa, although Luke Garza has the potential to cause major problems with his ability to both rebound and score from outside. Watkins will have his hands full.
Last night I nailed both Big Ten games with Minnesota suffering a close loss in double overtime at Purdue and Michigan State murdering Illinois in East Lansing. Tonight’s schedule features Wisconsin visiting Ohio State and Rutgers heading to Nebraska.
The Buckeyes got off to a 9-0 start this season with impressive wins over Villanova, North Carolina, and Penn State, but recently they’ve dropped games to Minnesota and West Virginia. They ought to get back on track tonight against a Wisconsin team that is still trying to figure out life without Ethan Happ. Nate Reuvers has done a nice job stepping into the scoring big man role, but Brad Davison has been disappointing. I figured the junior guard would be a great scorer by now, but after averaging 12.1 points per game in his freshman season, he scored just 10.5 PPG in 2018-19 and 9.3 PPG this season.
It’s been a bumpy ride for Badgers fans so far, as they’ve balanced wins over Marquette, Indiana, and Tennessee with losses to Richmond, New Mexico, and Rutgers. They have a lot of work to do in Big Ten play, but I think Ohio State wins by double digits tonight.
Rutgers vs. Nebraska won’t get national attention, but it’s intriguing for Big Ten junkies like you and me. The Scarlet Knights are riding high after back-to-back wins over Wisconsin and Seton Hall. The guard combo of Geo Baker and Ron Harper is a potent one, while Stony Brook transfer Akwasi Yeboah has been a great find by Steve Pikiell. Meanwhile, Nebraska in Fred Hoiberg first year at the helm is a team made up almost entirely of transfer students. Cam Mack front junior college has been key with his 12.8 points and 6.5 assists per game, but the Huskers are still a bit of a mess. They’ve lost four games to team outside of the KenPom top 100, but they are also very close to being 2-0 in the Big Ten because they clobbered Purdue at home and lost at Indiana in overtime.
Nebraska is impossible to figure out right now, so you have to just take the points. I think the Huskers win a close game at home.
I am obligated by marriage to root for Buffalo on Saturday, but even if I wasn’t, I like the Bills to win outright. They have a solid defense, and I don’t like how Houston’s offense has played recently. Bill O’Brien’s team was lucky to get out of Tampa Bay with a win and it also lost to Denver by two touchdowns this month. Deshaun Watson has throw five interceptions in his last three starts. Buffalo is a more fun story anyway because of it being an underdog city with lunatic fans.
If you go strictly by how the teams are playing lately (like I’m doing with Buffalo vs. Houston), you’d be crazy not to take Tennessee and the 4.5 points they are getting at New England. On the other hand, we’re still talking about a 12-4 Patriots team with a great defense and legendary quarterback. We know from the past that the Pats play their best when they think that people are doubting them, and now people are really doubting them. New England will win by a touchdown.