Before we get to Northwestern and Big Ten related content, I'm going to rant about last nights' Villanova-Louisville game that I had the misfortune to watch. Just an incredibly sloppy game, as each team turned the ball over 21 times and committed 33 fouls. The Big Ten is often criticized for ugly games, but to me a 55-50 type game where teams are executing in the half court is a lot more entertaining than a 92-84 game like the one last night where every possession is either a turnover or a foul and it takes more than 2.5 hours to play 40 minutes.
Also, I have to cover Rick Pitino's coaching job last night. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Boston fan and can't stand Pitino for how badly he screwed up the Celtics, but he's normally a fantastic college coach. Not last night, as apparently he forgot he had a dominant big man in Samardo Samuels that no one on Villanova could guard. Samuels hardly got any touches, and didn't touch it once in the last 4 minutes with the game on the line as Villanova pulled away. Since Pitino had already wasted all his timeouts before crunch time, he couldn't even stop the clock and tell the players to force the ball inside, assuming he even knew that was the right move. Just awful Pitino, I guess maybe your mind was more focused on a late night dinner reservation.
- Joe Lunardi released his weekly Bracketology and Northwestern is nowhere on it, so obviously the 'Cats have a lot more work to do. He has Illinois just out of the tournament, which I found interesting. Both Northwestern and Illinois have similar RPIs (NU 68, Ill 70), so the edge for Illinois is coming from RPI Top 50 wins over Vanderbilt and Clemson, which are apparently enough to cancel out bad losses to Utah, Bradley and Georgia. Northwestern has no bad losses but also no wins against the RPI Top 50 and only one over the RPI Top 100 (Notre Dame). Since Joe Lunardi knows what he's talking about, and the only hole on NU's resume is wins over top teams, it's clear that the 'Cats will have to get a marquee win.
- Purdue fans continue to vigorously defend their team against all possible media slights. In fact, at this point it's unclear who plays more aggressive defense, the Purdue basketball team or the Purdue fan base. The latest war of words revolves around the question of how many future NBA players there are on Purdue's roster. I like BoilerTMill's passion for the game, and his near pathological hatred of Notre Dame is always amusing, but dude, you and your brethren need to chill out, enjoy your team's success, and embrace HatersGonnaHate.jpg and HatersGonnaHate.gif. Purdue is a legit Final Four contender, but since they're not a perennial title contender and don't have any mega-recruit types like John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, etc., you're not going to get respect from the national media until you make the Final Four, and no amount of complaining is going to change that. Take the advice of a Northwestern fan who'd give anything to see his team as good as yours, and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Onto the picks of Big Ten games tonight.
Season records against the spread:
Big Ten games: 6-3
Northwestern games: 7-0
Ohio State at Purdue (-9.5), 6 PM central, ESPN
I got burned last week by taking Minnesota and the points at Purdue, but I'm going to that well again. Ohio State is being underrated because of their poor play without Evan Turner, and the Buckeyes desperately need this game. I know Purdue will come out fired up after their loss to Wisconsin, but I think Ohio State keeps this one close, as long as Jon Diebler can shake off his bad shooting night at Minnesota.
Pick: Ohio State
Penn State at Illinois (-9), 8 PM central, BTN
After Penn State laid down at home against Michigan in their last game, I don't see why they'd show up on the road. Illinois has struggled vs. Penn State in recent years, but that will just make them all the more motivated. The Illini haven't lost at home all season, and that won't change tonight. This one could get really ugly in the 2nd half if Talor Battle disappears again.
Tennessee State at Iowa (-12.5), 8 PM central, BTN.com
It's unclear if anyone cares about this game, and that includes Iowa fans. Tennessee State is a really bad team (4-13 on the season), but they did come close to winning at Northwestern earlier this year. Regardless, I don't think Iowa should be giving 12.5 points to anyone in Division 1.
Pick: Tennessee State